There’s something quite special about the sight, smell, and sound of a crackling wood fire on a cold evening. But these days, more homeowners are choosing alternative kinds of fireplaces that do not use wood for fuel. One common type is a gas fireplace, which uses natural gas to make fire instead of using logs. Additionally, many new builds lack the capacity to have a chimney, thus eliminating the need for a traditional wood burner.
It is important to note that both gas and wood-burning fireplaces offer their own sets of pros and cons. Also, different families might have different needs when it comes to their fireplaces. If you’re currently choosing between the two types for your home, there are several factors you need to consider.
Ambiance and efficiency
For starters, wood-burning fireplaces are typically the first choice for people looking to add aesthetic value. Gas fireplaces cannot produce the same effect that dancing yellow flames, orange hot coals, and the occasional spark naturally can. Wooden stoves, like those featured previously here on My Unique Home, can also lend a certain rustic chic style to any room. Granted, some gas fireplaces are designed to depict burning logs complete with charring. But for anyone who’s seen both gas and wood fireplaces in action, they don’t really produce the same experience.
In terms of efficiency, however, gas types have the edge. For example, the gas fireplaces featured on Screwfix, for the most part, have heat efficiency levels ranging from 55% to 90%. In contrast, wood-burning fireplaces are less effective in converting fuel to heat, with older models ranging from 15% efficiency levels, and modern ones achieving 75%.
Ease of use
Because gas fireplaces can be controlled by the push of a button or flip of a switch, they tend to be easier to use than wood-burning fireplaces. Good Homes Magazine explains that automatic ignitions in gas fireplaces eliminate the need to kindle the fire and feed logs into the flames, while also offering more flexibility. For instance, if a fire gets too hot, gas fireplaces can be instantly lowered in terms of temperature and you can adjust the flame size. On the other hand, wood-burning fireplaces do not have the same adjustability, with homeowners needing to use a poker and flue to regulate heat.
Installation, fuel, and maintenance
Installation costs for gas and wood-burning fireplaces vary, depending on the size of the fireplace, type of materials, and whether or not the work is on a new or existing house. In fact, property expert Steve Horswill tells Saltscapes Magazine that gas fireplaces are becoming an increasingly popular choice over traditional wood-burners, particularly among developers. Because gas fireplaces require less surrounding structures, they are cheaper and quicker to install.
Meanwhile, fuel costs depend on the availability of wood. While fireplace wood can be expensive when bought from a shop, they can also be procured for free if your neighbourhood has them. However, the wood needs to be dried and seasoned properly and should be free from any chemical treatments.
In terms of maintenance, wood-burning fireplaces tend to cost more because of the soot, ash, and creosote that come with burning wood. On top of regular home cleaning, Home Building Magazine specified that these need to be removed by a professional twice a year to avoid chimney fires. Meanwhile, gas fireplaces must be inspected annually by licensed professionals to check the inlets and flues. One advantage it has over wood-burning fireplaces is the absence of soot and ash, which limits home cleaning to no more than a light dusting from time to time.
Last but not least, it’s important to look into the implications of gas and wood-burning fireplaces on the environment and your health. The BMJ reports that domestic wood burning produces 2.4 times more pollution than traffic in the UK. This raises concerns, considering that a single stove wood-burning fireplace can be more harmful than 1,000 petrol cars. Estimated health costs amount to thousands of pounds per year. For this reason alone, gas fireplaces are cleaner and less risky for your health.
What’s important is to read up on good safety and maintenance practices to ensure your family’s health, safety, and satisfaction when considering which fireplace suits your specific needs.