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.
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.
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.).
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.
For the most part, gas fireplaces are pretty similar to wood-burning ones and, quite possibly, the next best thing.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
If so, subscribe now for tips on home, money, and life delivered straight to your inbox.