Entry-Level vs. Specialty Fireplaces: Making the Right Choice

Megan Edwards

Written by: Megan Edwards

Published on:

When choosing a fireplace for your home, it is important to have a clear understanding of the distinctions between the  builder-grade or entry-level models that come with your home and the custom-grade products that we offer. 

Builder-grade fireplaces are designed to be cost-effective and functional, while the specialty heath fireplaces offer superior craftsmanship, advanced features, and aesthetic appeal that can elevate your living space. This article will explore these differences in detail, empowering you to make a decision that suits your needs, preferences, and budget perfectly. 

Whether you’re aiming to enhance your home’s atmosphere or invest in a standout piece that adds value, grasping these differences will steer you toward the ideal fireplace selection.

What is a ‘Builder-Grade’ or ‘Entry-Level’ Appliance?

When we talk about builder-grade or entry-level appliances, particularly in the context of gas fireplaces, we refer to basic models that builders often install in homes to add the visual appeal and perceived value of having a fireplace. These appliances are typically more affordable and designed to be cost-effective, with limited features and lower performance compared to higher-end models.

While we do provide entry-level fireplaces, our primary focus is on offering and installing top-tier appliances that boast exceptional quality, advanced features, and long-lasting performance. We are committed to ensuring the longevity and optimal functioning of these specialty fireplaces, which is why we also offer comprehensive maintenance services, including on-site inspections, troubleshooting, and repairs.

What to expect when upgrading your fireplace

First, you can expect better heating efficiency. For example, an entry-level fireplace use’s tempered glass on it’s front, while a higher-tier fireplace uses ceramic. The heat transfer from a ceramic faceplate is dramatically improved versus tempered glass.  If you intend to use your fireplace frequently, ceramic is a superior choice as it is much stronger.

When it comes to gas fireplaces, builder-grade flames can look like a strip of cigarette lighters. A custom-grade fireplace offers a much better burner/flame presentation. The log set will also look much more realistic.

The specialty fireplaces we offer, also provide a wider range of options to achieve the desired aesthetic. For example, you can choose from a broader selection of front colors and styles. Additionally, there are various brick refractory choices, including herringbone, charcoal brick, masonry, and black glass panels. The finishing is exceptional, with cleaner applications to your chosen facade material (brick, stone, tile), ensuring a higher glass-to-metal ratio for a refined look. Do not worry about being overwhelmed with options; we will help you every step of the way!

Additionally, the control systems on specialty fireplaces are vastly superior, offering features such as remote controls with electronic ignition, built-in thermostats, and advanced fan systems. Entry-level appliances typically only have an on/off wall switch.

What We Recommend

Our recommendations usually start at a step up from builder-grade. We explain to our clientele that with builder-grade, you lose much of the flame presentation and end up with a lot of black metal housing that makes the fireplace look industrial. Additionally, and most importantly, they don’t provide much heat value! 

The Kozy Heat SP34 and SP41 are a step up from builder-grade. They will have an increased flame presentation and heat value and come with a remote and thermostat. 

The Kozy Heat SP34 is designed for smaller spaces, balancing efficiency and style. Capable of outputs of Up to 20,500 BTU/hr with great efficiency, the SP34 can use natural gas or LP (Liquefied petroleum gas.)

BTU: Up to 20,500 – Efficiency: 74%

Kozy Heat SP34

The Kozy Heat SP34 fireplace offers a perfect blend of efficiency and elegance. Designed for both aesthetics and performance, it features a realistic flame presentation and a variety of front screen options to match any décor. The SP34 comes equipped with an advanced burner system, electronic ignition, and a high-low regulator, ensuring precise control over the heat output.

View The SP34

Browse Our Kozy Heat Fireplaces

The Kozy Heat SP41 is ideal for larger spaces, offering higher heating capacity and more extensive customization options. Its impressive output of up to 28,000 BTU/hr provides plenty of heat value on an efficient platform for even the largest rooms.

BTU: Up to 28,000 – Efficiency: 71%

Kozy Heat SP41

The model can be customized to accommodate various specifications. A significant design benefit is the front screen, which is available in either a standard arched format or an optional rectangular format, both offering ample viewing space. The Komfort Kontrol remote allows for precise temperature adjustments. Additional features of the SP41 include a high-low regulator, a burner system designed by engineers, and electronic ignition.

View The SP41

Browse Our Kozy Heat Fireplaces

You may want to add a blower to the SP34 or SP41 to help distribute warm air more effectively and enhance heat penetration throughout the room. A fireplace blower is a fan installed either on the fireplace’s exterior or within the unit but outside the firebox. It will draw air in, circulate it around the fireplace’s hot exterior, and then expel the warmed air back into the room. 

A Step Above

Clients looking for an even cleaner finish might consider the Valor H3. The Valor H3 is an even further step up. It will provide excellent radiant heat, have a lovely log and flame presentation, and finish neat and tidy with your masonry. The H3 has an output of 25,000  BTU/hr and does not have or need a blower. It is designed to maximize radiant heat with features like the V-Class burner system and a built-in secondary heat exchanger.​ 

The H3 is highly customizable with three fuel bed options, seven liners, and four front styles, allowing for extensive personalization to match your home decor. We can also convert your H3 to an outdoor fireplace!

The H3 fireplace is equipped with the Valorstat Max Remote control, allowing advanced features such as adjusting the flame and programming heat cycles. Additionally, it includes a wall switch for straightforward adjustments and is designed to function without relying on external power, ensuring it remains operational during power outages.

BTU: Up to 19,000 – Efficiency: 73%


The H3 offers a slim engine design that is engineered for new construction installs or the growing trend to remove and replace outdated and inefficient wood and gas fireplaces. The relaxing, radiant firebox flames create a beautiful ambiance in any living space.

With three unique fuel beds, seven liners, and four fronts, the H3 can accommodate any design style while providing efficient, radiant warmth.

View The H3

Browse Our Valor Fireplaces


If you are looking to upgrade the builder-grade fireplace your home came with or upgrade an entry-level fireplace you purchased in the past and you own a home in the surrounding areas of Harrisonburg, Virginia, feel free to contact us, request an estimate, or even see us at our large showroom, complete with floor models of the appliances mentioned in this article!


Megan Edwards is the Granddaughter of Wesley Edwards, founder of Edward's paving Contractor.