Two people by the fireplace

There’s nothing cozier than snuggling up by the fireplace on a crisp, cool fall night. Before you think about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, make sure you choose the right fireplace for your home.

We’ll discuss the pros and cons of various fireplace options.

Wood-Burning Fireplace

When I think of a wood fireplace, I think of simpler times: sitting by a warm fire on a cold, dark night, drinking hot chocolate.

Pros

Aside from the sheer nostalgia that a wood-burning fireplace offers, there are actually quite a few pros of having this type of fire in your home:

  • Since firewood is a renewable resource, a wood-burning fireplace is considered more environmentally friendly than a gas log fireplace.
  • Should the power go out, you have a source of heat and light.
  • You can choose the type of firewood you burn (long-burning, quick-burning, aromatic, etc.).

Cons

Of course, as pleasant as the ambiance of a wood-burning fireplace is, there are a few more items of upkeep that come along with it.

  • If improperly sealed, wood-burning fireplaces can cause drafts, resulting in higher utility bills.
  • Annual inspections are required, or your home insurance could possibly be affected.
  • You need to maintain a steady supply of firewood in order to use it.

The end verdict: If you’re looking to put in a little extra effort, a wood-burning fireplace can be pleasant and homey, bringing the scents and sounds of an outdoor fire into your home.

Turning a Wood-Burning Fireplace into a Gas Fireplace

Since a wood-burning fireplace requires a little more maintenance than most homeowners are willing to do, many consider turning their wood-burning fireplace into gas versions.

However, before you call a professional fireplace installer, Angie’s List has broken down the cost that goes into converting to a gas fireplace.

First and foremost, you’ll want to consider chimney, fireplace and gas-line professionals who are licensed and insured. This isn’t a project that you’ll want to DIY!

Start with a chimney inspection to ensure it’s clean, fully functional and able to accommodate a gas unit.

After you choose the type of gas fireplace that works for your home, you’re looking at a bill that’s likely to be between $500 and $2,500, assuming that no issues arise during the process of getting a gas line installed in your fireplace.

Angie’s List adds that homeowners should also expect a yearly maintenance and inspection cost of about $100.

Gas Fireplace

For the most part, gas fireplaces are pretty similar to wood-burning ones and, quite possibly, the next best thing.

Pros

Gas fireplaces, while less maintenance than wood-burning versions, do a great job of simulating a genuine fire, but without the hassle of starting and maintaining a real fire.

  • You can turn on your gas fireplace with the touch of a button, flip of a switch or tap of a remote control.
  • While the logs are ceramic, they emit real flames, without much maintenance or ash and soot cleanup.
  • Since they burn real fire, electricity isn’t needed for operation, making them a more reliable source of heat compared to an electric fireplace.

Cons

Even with all the pros of a gas fireplace, there are a few striking cons that make it less desirable as a fireplace alternative.

  • If your house didn’t come with a gas fireplace, they can be pretty pricey to install, requiring gas lines and a venting system.
  • They aren’t very efficient at heating a room.
  • Since gas fireplaces burn natural gas or liquid propane, they aren’t very environmentally friendly. Additionally, they’re known to contribute to indoor air pollution, so they aren’t recommended for people with asthma or other respiratory problems.

If you’re looking for a fireplace that requires minimal maintenance yet still simulates a real fireplace experience, a gas fireplace may be good for your home. Should you choose to go with this option, be sure to use caution when relighting your gas fireplace.

Turning a Gas Fireplace into a Wood-Burning Fireplace

If your home came with a gas fireplace previously installed yet you yearn for the smoky aroma and crackle that a wood-burning fireplace offers, Angie’s List also breaks down the conversion from gas to wood-burning fireplaces.

Unfortunately, the process isn’t as cost-effective as going from wood to gas. According to Angie’s List, your contractor would need to completely replace the fireplace rather than do a simple conversion. In fact, the cost of conversion is likely to be somewhere between $2,000 and $5,500.

You’ll need to get your flue and chimney inspected by a chimney sweep beforehand. You’ll also need a damper (a vent that opens and closes) and a properly working venting system installed.

While the price is high, the conversion process is relatively simple, with a professional removing the gas logs and capping off the gas line.

Like the gas fireplace, all that’s left after installation is a yearly inspection and maintenance fee that usually runs between $100 and $150.

Environmentally Friendly Fireplace Alternatives

In addition to gas and wood-burning fireplaces, there are certain alternatives that have made strides toward being particularly “green.”

Electric Fireplace

If homeowners don’t have a wood-burning fireplace built into their home, they usually have to opt for an alternative. An electric fireplace is one option, and it’s pretty environmentally friendly.

Pros

There are tons of electric fireplace options available to meet the needs of virtually any homeowner.

  • Electric fireplaces are the least expensive alternative, able to replicate both the heat and light of a real fire.
  • They’re portable, able to be plugged into any outlet, and they start with a push of a button.
  • They’re environmentally friendly.

Cons

While the easy plug-in features of an electric fireplace may seem convenient, there are some less-than-convenient points as well.

  • If there’s an electrical outage, electric fireplaces cannot be used, unlike their gas and wood-burning relatives.
  • The heat is a little more costly, since they’re essentially space heaters that pose as a fireplace.
  • While they can simulate heat and light, they cannot simulate the smoky smell of a genuine wood-burning fireplace.

All things considered, however, if your home didn’t come with a wood-burning fireplace, an electric fireplace can still be a cozy alternative that’s good for the environment.

Alcohol Gel Fireplace

Alcohol gel fireplaces are relatively new and pretty cool, considering they appear to have normal-working flames.

Pros

Appearing as a normal fire, complete with that sweet crackly noise we’ve all come to associate with cozy flames, alcohol gel fireplaces have a few good qualities.

  • Self-contained and fueled by alcohol gel, these fireplaces are pretty portable, able to move anywhere in the room where you want heat.
  • They are reasonably warm, able to heat an entire room, without the need for venting or installation.
  • They make a real fire, complete with crackling but without smoke (which might be even more convenient if you don’t have great ventilation in your home).

Cons

However, like the other alternatives, alcohol gel fireplaces also come with a list of shortcomings.

  • They’re the most expensive fireplace alternative.
  • The alcohol fuel must be purchased separately and replaced frequently.
  • They only burn for two or three hours before they have to be refueled.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Of course, if you’re looking for a fireplace alternative with absolutely no maintenance, consider a visual simulation from YouTube or any online outlet that hosts video footage of a fireplace.

Whichever fireplace option you choose, use caution when dealing with open flames of any kind.

Do you have a fireplace of some kind in your home? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Although you can’t roast chestnuts on them, pellet stoves provide all the cheery warmth of a wood-burning stove or fireplace with almost no maintenance hassles!

  2. I have a gas fireplace in my basement with a direct vent system. Double vent system. Inner vent removes fumes and outer vent brings in fresh air for the fireplace. The fireplace is enclosed with glass front and when it gets hot their is a blower the turns on and blows warm air into the room, much like a forced air furnace. My basement if finished and insulated and the fireplace makes it very warm in mid winter.
    With my big screen tv downstairs its great for watching the super bowl in my T-Shirt. I love it!

  3. Another option is a pellet stove. These have an auger that feeds pellets to the fire as needed. They also have a blower to blow heat out into the room. Pellet stoves can be simply vented through a wall requiring only about a 4 inch hole and no chimney. They produce a warm, cozy heat without all of the mess of a regular fireplace.
    Pellets cost about three dollars for a 20 pound bag.

    1. Hi Roy:

      Thanks for sharing! It looks like we have some pellet stove fans in this comment section. 🙂

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  4. Good info, but what about pellet stoves, wood stoves, and wood stove inserts? They come in a variety of models, from cast iron to soapstone, and have very high efficiency ratings as well as put out a good amount of heat compared with a traditional wood fireplace. Gas or electric can’t even compete. Many can be used to heat a whole house and save you money on your electric bill!! You go through wood slower than with a fireplace as well since they are so efficient.

  5. This was a nice presentation of different fireplace alternatives. And when it comes to electric fireplaces I would also like to add the model with the media center/media console integrated.
    – Jack

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