Warming Up the Hills

Mountain Life

While traditional wood-burning fireplaces may be romantic, they are also illegal in many ski towns. Towns located in steep, narrow valleys where smoke can linger for days-such as Aspen and Telluride in Colorado-have banned conventional fireplaces for new construction and require that all devices be gas burning. That's why gas fireplace inserts are now de rigueur for many properties in ski country. Not only is the air cleaner as a result, you won't have to chop and haul wood up stairs or worry about sparks burning the carpet.

So how do they work? Gas fireplace inserts circulate heat through an exchange system that takes in cool air, heats it from the firebox and blows warm air back into the room through a vent. And because most have sealed glass fronts, they don't take warm air from the room.

Inserts are not only cleaner and more environmentally friendly than traditional fireplaces, they also are energy efficient and easy to install.

With a variety of brands and styles available-from cast iron with brass trim to 24 carat gold panel sets and doors-you can achieve just the right look. Glowing flames of gas log fires look authentic, while speed blowers warm rooms more quickly than wood-burning counterparts. With simple slide-in installation, inserts can fit pre-existing fireplaces or be made for new construction.

To get you started in your search for a gas insert, we recommend the following four brands. All of these models have high burning efficiency ratings. Prices range from $1,300 to $2,399 depending on style and features.

With a large bay view ceramic window, gold door and gold trivet, Earthstove's BayFire XL model sells for $2,399. For more information, call (503) 692-3991.

Reflecting fine Norwegian craftsmanship, Jotul features decorative side panels and a blue-black porcelain enamel finish. The DV45 Spirit costs from $1,699 to $2,199 depending on added features. For more information, call (207) 797-5912.

A family owned company, Kozy Heat is best known for its bay-window design and its removable control boards. Pictured is the 961 model, which can be installed either in a corner or on a flat wall and costs $2,300. For more information, call (800) 253-4904.

Inexpensive and simple to install, Mendota inserts come with brass trim options. The Seabrook-Gold Grills TIF model costs approximately $1,300. For more information, call (800) 553-5422.