By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The warmth and glow of a fireplace can really make your home feel cozy. Adding a fireplace is also a good way to increase your home’s appeal. In this week’s Angie’s List, 3 On Your Sides’ Jim Donovan shows you some things you should consider whether you’re installing one for the first time or upgrading and maintaining the one you have.

Whether you like the crackle and pop of a wood burning fireplace, or a gas fireplace that turns on with the flick of a switch one thing is certain, you need to check with your city before you decide to have one installed.

“Because a lot of times there might be codes related to fire hazards obviously and you want to make sure you are in compliance,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.

For those that already have fireplaces this is a popular time of year for cleanings and inspections.

“When you’re thinking about that you want to research the company. If you find someone that sounds like they are selling something that sounds too good to be true, you want to do a little more research. A typical chimney sweep inspection and cleaning costs between $140 and $180. . The chimney sweep should be part of the Chimney Safety Institute of America as well. Those are all signs that you are getting a reputable company,” said Hicks.

And experts say cleanings are crucial because flammable material can build up in your chimney which could catch fire.

More Advice from Angie:

Fireplace Options:

· Wood: A standard wood-burning fireplace loses most heat through the chimney. But, by installing a wood-burning insert in a fireplace, heat blows into the room instead.

· Gas: Vent-free gas logs for a gas fireplace are efficient because 99 percent of its energy is heat and sent into the room.

· Electric: Consider electric if gas is not an option. Electric fireplaces cost pennies per hour to run.

Shopping for a Fireplace:

· Check with your local government center to ensure there are no restrictions or requirements before adding a fireplace to your home.

· There are a number of options for homeowners to choose from, including low-cost prefabricated wood-burning units, personally designed masonry fireplaces and high-efficiency gas fireplaces.

· The main thing you should think of first is what purpose the fireplace is going to serve.

· Ask about installation. Many manufacturers state that a fireplace needs to be installed by a professional.

· With wood-burning fireplaces, you have to build or install a flue pipe going up through the height of the house and out the roof. With gas you have some gas fireplaces you can vent out the wall or that are completely unvented.

Maintaining Your Chimney:

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 house fires each year start in chimneys or fireplaces of homes.

Creosote buildup, the byproduct of incomplete combustion, can lead to a chimney fire, which could easily spread to the rest of the house. Cleaning the chimney will remove those deposits.

Angie’s List tips for maintaining your chimney:

· It’s important to have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned at least every two years, especially if you burn two short fires a week in the winter. The average inspection and cleaning runs between $140 and $180.

· A professional chimney cleaning will remove deposits of creosote and an inspection will help catch other problems that would otherwise go unnoticed such as the structural integrity of a chimney and what to look for inside the firebox.

· Never let a fire burn for more than a few hours at a time. Burning only dry, well-seasoned hardwoods will help reduce creosote build-up in a wood-burning chimney system.

· Though they don’t produce creosote, gas fireplaces should also be inspected regularly, to ensure they’re functioning properly and not leaking gas. Homeowners should install a carbon monoxide detector to warn of harmful gases.

· Beware of companies that offer cleaning pricing that seems too good to be true. Fly-by-night contractors tend to come out this time of year. Before hiring, look for individual certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. The National Chimney Sweep Guild also offers a company credential in which the company agrees to abide by its code of ethics.

· Many home improvement stores sell inexpensive cleaning logs, but highly-rated chimney sweeps on Angie’s List tell us their effectiveness is limited and they can’t substitute for an inspection.

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