As the weather begins to get colder and the snow begins to fall outside, there are few things more enjoyable than curling up and getting cozy next to a fireplace.
Unfortunately, for many people living in New York City—a city that has an average January temp of about 33 degrees Fahrenheit—installing a typical brick fireplace in their home simply isn’t an option. Whether they are restricted by their landlord or the physical structure of their building, people across the city spend their winters hoping for a fireplace that is simply out of reach.
Luckily, there are still quite a few options available for anyone who still wants the warmth and comfort of a fire in their home. Below, we will discuss the important things to know about installing a fireplace in New York, including some of the most viable options that are currently available.
Are You Allowed to Have a Fireplace in New York City?
A quick peruse of any detailed New York City History book will reveal that the city has had both an extremely productive and extremely hazardous relationship with fire. The city’s incredibly high population density—higher than nearly every other location in the United States—means that the consequences of accidentally starting a fire can be devastating.
Because of this, among other factors, New York is pretty strict when it comes to installing fireplaces. Recently, the City decided to ban the installment of new wood-burning fireplaces, though already existing fireplaces were grandfathered in as exceptions. Still, even these fireplaces are strictly regulated regarding their structural and usage requirements, far more than fireplaces in most other cities.
What is Local Law 152 in New York?
New York passed a law, referred to Local Law 152 which, among other things, regulates gas lines and related structures. The law mandates that all buildings in New York must have their gas lines inspected every five years. The purpose of the law is to reduce gas-related accidents and improve citizen health. This means that if you do decide to install a gas-burning fireplace, you will need to alert the City and comply with all scheduled inspections.
Alternatives to Wood-Burning and Gas-Burning Fireplaces
The bottom line is that if you do want a wood-burning fireplace, you will need to purchase or rent one of the few (often rather expensive, especially in Manhattan) properties in New York that is currently allowed to have one. And if you want to have a gas-burning fireplace in New York, you will need to be willing to jump through some hoops with the city and also prepare for somewhat frequently gas-line inspections.
Keeping this in mind, it can become very discouraging for New Yorkers who hope to have a functional fireplace in their home. However, luckily, there are at least a few different options currently available.
Though electric fireplaces might not, in some people’s view, provide a “real flame”, they are a relatively easy and affordable way to install a fireplace in your home. The visual image of the flame, which is at least somewhat visually accurate, is generated by LED lighting and requires surprisingly limited electricity. And though the flame may not be entirely real, the fireplaces due generate heat—these structures are essentially visually appealing heat generators.
Furthermore, with an electric fireplace, you can control the temperature and intensity of the heat, meaning you won’t be limited to only using it during the coldest months. There are many different styles available, ranging from very traditional to incredibly modern. On the lower end, you can expect to pay about $1,000 for an electric fireplace, while on the higher end, you might end up paying $5,000 or more.
Alternative Fuel Fireplaces
In addition to electric fireplaces, there are many “alternative fuel” options available as well. One of the most popular alternative options is an alcohol (ethanol and isopropyl) fueled fireplace. When compared to an electric fireplace, the flame generated by an alcohol fireplace is much more realistic (though sometimes bluer), while still burning an incredibly clean source of fuel. These fireplaces do have real open flames, meaning they will typically require a depth of 12 or more inches. However, while very realistic, they do cost about three times as much as their electric counterparts.
Other Alternative Fireplaces
Other alternative fuels, which are allowed in New York City, include fireplaces powered by agricultural byproducts, such as grain or corn. Using an alternative fuel can help you minimize the environmental impact of fueling a fire while still being compliant with the City’s relatively strict limitations. Many of these fireplaces have also begun to utilize smart technology and can be controlled directly from your smartphone.
New York, despite its somewhat cold winters, is certainly not a city where it is easy to own a fireplace. However, it is important to note that you are not without options. If you are looking for an alternative to the traditional wood-burning or gas-burning fireplace, consider using one that is powered by ethanol, or some other alternative fuel source.
Andrew is a freelance writer that primarily focuses on real estate and finance topics. He graduated from the University of Colorado with degrees in Finance and Political Science and has since worked in the real estate, life insurance, and digital marketing industries. When he is not writing, Andrew enjoys skiing, playing piano, painting, and spending time with his wife (Maggie) and cat (Crow).