A custom fireplace can add charm and a cozy feeling to your home. Rather than lighting your fireplace only to give the room a warm glow, there are several useful things you can do with it. Here are three ways you can put your fireplace to use this winter and get a little more out of it than you normally would.

Emergency Preparedness

The forecast this winter includes a lot of high snow levels and record low temperatures for several parts of the United States. During a winter that brings a snow storm or two, the heat and power can get cut off when power lines break. Without power you won't be able to heat your home. And, when the roads are impassable with ice and heavy snowfall, you can't get to the store to buy a portable heat source, if any are still available in local stores. 

As in any emergency preparedness situation, it is important to keep plenty of firewood available to heat your home for several days. When power gets knocked out from a bad storm, it can be many days before the utility companies can get the power and gas running again. With a fireplace and plenty of wood to burn, you will be ready to keep your family warm.

A fireplace in your home can be set up to heat your entire home when there is no power, although you do need to have pass through vents in the floors between the levels of your home so that heat can get from your downstairs fireplace to all the rooms above. 

If your home is not set up to allow heat to spread through your entire home, heating only the main living area is enough to make sure your family stays warm enough to survive. Besides, it is a good idea to gather in one or two heated rooms to conserve your fire wood. When the temperature outside is in the single digits, a warm living room and kitchen can be the ideal place for your family to sleep and live until the power is restored.

Cook Food

Along with warming your home, a fireplace can be used to cook and heat food. When you have no electricity in your home, it can be pretty difficult to cook a warm meal, except when you have a fireplace.

You should buy a cooking grate to sit over your fire or install a metal swinging arm attached to the side of your fireplace that will hold a cooking pot over the fire. These items will allow you to cook or boil most any meal for your family. With either of these and a cast iron dutch oven you can make a variety of delicious meals.

Besides just cooking your meals, you can use the fire to make some yummy s'mores for dessert.

Drying Wet Clothes

An extra convenience that you may not want to go without during a power outage is being able to dry wet clothes quickly. Depending on the severity of the storm and the length of the time without power, you may need to wash and dry clothing items, or wet towels. Using a fireplace to dry items will speed up the drying time considerably. 

Set up a foldable clothing drying rack in front of your fireplace to hang several items of clothing or towels to dry them in the fire's heat. Besides being dry, the clothing and towels will be warm.

These three uses will make your fireplace more valuable to you as it will help you out in the event of a winter storm power outage this season.