Green FireplacesDec 22, 2023 11:33AM ● By Tamsen Butler
Photo from Unsplash.
Dan Claxton knows fireplaces. He started Claxton Fireplace Center nearly three decades ago. “We started it back in ‘94, so we’ve been in business 29 years, going on 30 next year,” he said. “I’ve been in the industry since ‘86, so going on 38 years.” In that time, he’s watched trends come and go as people swayed in their preferences for fireplaces in their homes and office spaces.
But the latest trend in fireplaces has taken an environmentally conscious route as people look for the cleanest way to enjoy a warm, crackling fire. He said that many people nowadays are seeking the opportunity to convert their fireplaces to gas instead of wood-burning, although there are outliers. “We have a few people who are purists and want to burn wood or live out on an acreage and have access to wood.”
But mostly, people these days approach Claxton about ways to make their fireplaces burn cleaner, with fewer pollutants and allergens being released into the air. Traditional fireplaces that burn wood can release pollutants that make the air difficult to breathe for people with asthma or other respiratory issues. Wood-burning fireplaces aren’t very energy efficient either, as they tend to pull more heat out of a room than add to it.
In fact, according to the environmental Protection Agency, "A wood-burning fireplace is a very inefficient way to heat your home. Fireplace drafts can pull the warm air up the chimney, causing other rooms to be cooler. If you use central heat while burning in a fireplace, your heater will work harder to maintain constant temperatures throughout the house."
Instead, the EPA recommends options like gas-burning fireplaces to maximize efficiency.
Client Brenda Christensen didn’t go into her fireplace purchase with the intention of making her home more energy efficient, but she was pleased when she discovered her new fireplace was much more high-performing than the one she replaced.
“Claxton Fireplace tore out my existing fireplace, mantel, and over-mantel for a complete renovation and update of my main area fireplace that was original to my home, which was built in 2003,” Christensen shared. “A beautiful, custom, precast stone mantel, hearth, and over-mantel was installed. The new fireplace remodel definitely updated and re-energized the room!”
The energy efficiency of the new fireplace was a pleasant surprise for Christensen. “It was a wonderful bonus!” she enthused. “Our new fireplace definitely provides heat that we didn’t have before and has reduced our monthly heating bills.”
Claxton has a trusted network of architects and designers, who frequently consult with him to find out if he can create the fireplaces of their clients’ dreams, especially green, energy-efficient fireplaces. “Those guys are always dreaming up things for their clients that are difficult, so they’ll use us as a resource. They’ll call us up and say they have this project, this is what we envision, how can we do it?”
Usually, Claxton and his team can figure out just about any fireplace, sometimes creating custom products for special projects. He especially enjoys joining a project after someone else has declared, “This can’t be done,” especially when it’s a question of making a fireplace more energy-efficient.
“So, we figure out a way to get it done,” he laughed. “We’re out-of-the-box thinkers; the way our company works is we’re a turnkey company. If somebody wants to remodel a fireplace or they want to add one they don’t have, I go out and evaluate the situation, and then we come up with a plan and our company does the whole job.”
For more information on energy-efficient fireplace options, visit www.epa.gov/burnwise/ and
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.