Is there anything more comfortable in a cold environment than sitting around a fireplace? Correct answer: no. So, it really threw us off when we found out fireplaces are not necessary in a passive house, and are somewhat frowned upon. While it looks like there are wood burning stoves that are sealed, we’re more in the market for a “flip a light switch and fire” type of situation. Then, consider that a geothermal unit may be best for heating and cooling in our climate, and the fireplace becomes pure decoration.
Bioethanol fireplaces seem like a good compromise. They don’t directly vent to the outside. The produce less heat. They still look like a natural flame. They are easier to install. They say the run clean, but I have my doubts. However, if we vent near fireplace through our ERV, or with an open window nearby, that may solve the potential air quality issues. Newer models have fuel tanks and bluetooth capabilities, so they can be tied to a switch. This all deserves a bit more research, but it may be a decent solution for a fireplace that is run for an hour here and there.