Fireplace…or not?

We wanted a fireplace in our house.  Unfortunately LEED rules didn’t allow it.  We knew that a big, traditional fireplace wouldn’t have fit into our modern home, but we also knew that an open wood-burning fireplace was out of the question in a Green Home.  So, we looked at a couple of options, the most promising was the ecosmart fireplace.

They are beautiful and, at first look, Green!  They basically consist of an open flame burner that utilizes denatured alcohol (aka ethanol) as the fuel.  We were going to use ethanol from corn to make the fireplace even Greener.  Our architect designed an ecosmart fireplace into our living area.  It was going to be spectacularly beautiful.

Then we met with our LEED Home Provider that I mentioned in earlier blogs.  He quickly cited the LEED category EQ2 prerequisite that says “all fireplaces and woodstoves must have doors”.  EQ2 also states that space heating equipment that involves combusion must meet one of the following:

  1. “…be designed and installed with closed combustion (i.e., sealed supply air and exhaust ducting.”
  2. “…be designed and installed with power-vented exhaust.”
  3. “…be located in a detached utility building or open-air facility.”

Obviously our idea of a sleek, modern ecosmart fireplace didn’t fit with these restrictions.  The whole point of these tremendously beautiful fireplaces is that they are freestanding and open.

Ecosmart touts their fireplaces as Green and clean, which they are – compared to a traditional wood-burning fireplace.  However, when we read the fine print, we saw that even ecosmart had a caveat that supported the LEED position.  In this page of their website, you’ll see the disclaimer about ventilation.  Their smallest burner shouldn’t be installed in (1) a house that is tightly sealed – which most LEED houses are, and (2) in a room less than 1000 square feet large – and that’s a pretty darn big room!  Our house is going to be sealed with icynene insulation, so strike three:  no fireplace.

One last note.  If you look at this website that showcases the first LEED Platinum home, you’ll see that it features an ecosmart fireplace (click on #s 4 & 8 in the diagram to see the fireplace).  Here’s the deal:  this home was built to the LEED for Homes pilot standards which were tightened up when the final regulations were published in January 2008.  The prerequisites in the Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) section that did us in were added with the final regs.  Don’t think we didn’t fight our Home Provider over this!