Going along with the theme of “no single point of failure”, I really like fireplaces and there are a lot of great types of fireplaces available for both heat and aesthetics. There are 3 kinds that pop into mind:
- Traditional wood-burning fireplaces
- Gas-powered fireplaces
- Electric-powered fireplaces
The traditional wood-burning fireplace would be both for comfortable fireplace usage and for an emergency heat source. I’ve had good luck with Duraflame firelogs in my current log fireplace, which are sealed in a wrapper and are much nicer to work with than real wood logs.
The next type is gas-powered fireplaces (available in vented and vent-free), which typically work off a natural gas line that goes into your house (propane also works), similar to a gas cooktop. These are nice because although you have a fake wood display, you get real flame as well as heat output. Napolean Fireplaces makes some really nice gas fireplaces, including ones that have electric ignitions (with battery-backup for power outages) and wireless remote controls.
The last type is the electric-powered kind. Although they do come in heat-free versions (for display purposes only, like artwork), there are forced-air models. Dimplex makes some really nice models. My only complaint is that most of the models have really fake-looking fire.
Outdoor fireplaces are also pretty cool…they have enclosed patio models, fire pits, and actual outdoor mantles if you’re so inclined. Check out Green Scene Landscaping for lots of cool ideas.