Fire has an energy all its own and before things were nuked and deep-fried this element was essential to human life.

Building a fire has gone from a necessity to a luxury and over the years fire has proved to have an enduring quality that most people can't explain. Though most of us never consider throwing an animal carcass on a raging fire, there is something relaxing and soothing about sitting in front of warm blazing flames. For this reason fire is rarely referred to as a caveman's cook-top and almost always thought of as a quaint and sophisticated amenity.

Since the Victorian era fireplaces have been used to add a hint of class and sophistication to the home, but ambience is not the only thing that fire can lend a home, it's also an incredibly cost effective method of heating, especially in places that are ravaged by harsh, cold winters.

Because the fireplace has become such a coveted amenity, homes that contain this elegant accent often have considerably better resale value than homes that are without. In fact, more than three quarters of prospective homebuyers look for a fireplace when it comes time to invest in a new home.

There are many different types of fireplaces available to suit every living space.

Types of Fireplaces:

- Masonry

- Gas

- Electric

- Pre-fabricated

- Custom

- Woodstoves

The type of fireplace best suited for a small condominium living room will not necessarily be the same type that is ideal for a large house.

Masonry fireplaces are often found in large, older houses. In this type of fireplace natural wood is burned while the chimney damper remains wide open to let air in and smoke out. The masonry is usually designed to absorb the heat of the fire and then radiate it back into the room.

The masonry fireplace has a certain old world charm, but with the ever-evolving fireplace design some people feel that the masonry fireplace, while beautiful, is not an effective means by which to heat the home because it allows to much heat to escape via the chimney. Regardless of this fact, few people rely solely on their fireplace for heat these days and the masonry fireplace is the kind of unique touch that can really set a home apart from the rest and significantly improve resale value. Usually these fireplaces have large mantles and elaborate stone or brickwork that act as a stunning focal point in the home.

Gas fireplaces are undoubtedly the most common these days, mostly because they are convenient, easy to use and they can be installed just about anywhere. There is no need for a chimney, wood or even matches with this type of fireplace and there is no mess to clean up either. The best part about this sort of fireplace is that turning it on and off can be as easy as flipping a switch and then poof-instant ambience.

Gas fireplaces are typically enclosed in a metal casing inside which ceramic logs appear to burn using a propane or natural gas-powered flame. These fireplaces come in several varieties including top-vent, direct vent and vent-free models.

The top-vent gas fireplace is usually installed in place of an existing wood-burning fireplace. This type of gas fireplace uses the existing chimney as an exhaust vent.

The direct-vent gas fireplace has two pipes that lead from the fireplace to the outside of the house. One pipe pulls in combustion air from outside while the pushes out the exhaust gas. This type of gas fireplace is often thought to be both the safest and the most efficient.

Vent-free gas fireplaces, unlike the top-vent and direct-vent models, do not require chimneys or pipes leading from the fireplace to outside the home for ventilation. Some people believe that this model is best for both heating and cost efficiency because all of the heat produced by the fire stays inside instead of partially escaping through a vent.

In some parts of the country there is skepticism when it comes to the safety of vent-free gas fireplaces so before purchasing a home with this type of fireplace, or having one installed to improve resale value, ensure that it is permissible within your state.

Like gas fireplaces, electric fireplaces can give people who live in smaller spaces the opportunity to conveniently warm and brighten their home's without the chimney or the mess. Electric fireplaces have always been a popular option for people who live in condominiums and apartments because they are convenient, easy to use and they can cut down heating costs significantly. Most electric fireplaces just need to be plugged into an outlet and they are ready to go so there is no fussing with logs, newspaper, matches and smoke.

If you live in a home without a fireplace and are thinking of adding one to improve resale value, the electric fireplace can be a good option because this type of fireplace is often the least expensive to purchase and install. People with small children often appreciate the electric fireplace because it is a safe way to add ambience to the home. This type of fireplace doesn't get hot on the outside so if a curious child happens to touch it they will not be scalded, which might be the case with other types of fireplaces.