Electric Fireplaces vs Wood vs Gas

electric fireplace with cozy pillows and blanket

Last summer we decided that we wanted to put a fireplace in our living room. We live in a very cold area of the country where we run our heater for almost half of the year.

The insulation in the floor in our home has been worn down over the years, so the floors get very cold on the first level of the house. Adding a fireplace was the aesthetic solution to our heating problem.

Fireplaces not only serve a very practical purpose—keeping your space warm, but they can greatly enhance the look and feel of your space.

Instantly cozy, warm, and inviting—a fireplace can be a great addition to your space to help you achieve your desired design aesthetic and improve the value of your home.

Wood-Burning Fireplace

wood burning in fireplace

Wood-burning fireplaces are exactly what they sound like: fireplaces that burn real wood to produce heat.

Wood-burning fireplaces start with a box installed into your wall or an entire wood-burning fireplace apparatus installed into your house, made of heat and flame-resistant material.

Wood-burning fireplaces are considered to be traditional, as they have been around for quite some time. If you're looking to achieve an ultra-cozy experience in your house, this may be the route for you to go.

Aside from making your home feel warm and cozy, there are many benefits to a wood-burning fireplace.

If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, a wood-burning fireplace can help you do that. making you less reliant on electricity, this type of heating means you rely less on electricity and gas.

Burning real wood, as opposed to wood waste logs, can also decrease your greenhouse gas emissions.

Another benefit to wood-burning fireplaces comes with the technological advancements made in the past decade or so. The wood-burning fireplaces of today are not your grandma's fireplaces.

Today, burn boxes are crafted from different materials that help reduce what your fireplace emits significantly. These boxes also improve heating and are overall significantly more efficient.

Wood-burning fireplaces also heat up a space very quickly. Even a large room can be warmed faster than you would imagine with a wood-burning fireplace.

There are some downsides to wood-burning fireplaces, though.

A wood-burning fireplace does require more maintenance than other types of fireplaces. While initial installation may be easier, there is more overall maintenance.

And though it may go without saying, you will also have to regularly replace the logs that are burned up in your fireplace.

You can't just sit back and enjoy the fire for days on end without replacing the wood. It's not a huge task, but it's also not nothing.

Finally, burning actual wood in your home can have negative health effects. They may not be especially acute, but small dangers like this can add up over time, especially if anyone in your home sometimes has trouble breathing.

Overall, we love wood-burning fireplaces for the ambiance—the sound of crackling wood as the fire burns—and that alone may just make the extra work and maintenance worth it for us.

Electric Fireplaces

smiling dog in room with electric fireplace

Electric fireplaces are probably the most common fireplaces these days, and for good reason. there are thousands of options available for aesthetics, and they're pretty easy to install.

Several models of electric fireplaces are considered ventless, which means that you don't need a chimney or a ventilation system installed in your home in order to install this type of fireplace.

One of the big benefits of an electric fireplace is that you don't have to keep a stock of wood on hand, and that actually cuts down on costs more than you may think.

Not burning real wood also means that you don't ever need to clean out a chimney. Electric fireplaces, overall, are much cleaner forms of fireplace heat.

Many electric fireplaces pushy out through vents, similar to the ones around your home that are used by your central heating and air system. This means that the glass front on most electric fireplaces does not get too hot.

Why is that important?

For families with little kids and pets, it's scary to think about what could happen if your child or pet got too close to a fire. Electric fireplaces are much safer for young families and four-legged friends.

Another major benefit of electric fireplaces is the low cost. you can buy a fireplace insert for under $300 on the low end.

Now, of course, you can get very high-end electric fireplaces ranging up to several thousand dollars, but there's a wide variety of budget options as well.

And while the very expensive electric fireplaces are made to last a lifetime, don't think that a cheaper electric fireplace won't last a very long time, as well. Especially with new technologies, these fireplaces are made to last.

And even though these fireplaces are running on electricity, they can actually help you save on your electric bill. By heating just the area of the home that you're in, you'll save a little bit on your electric bill every month.

We have an electric fireplace in our game room, and when we know we'll be in there playing quite a bit, we turn on the fireplace and turn the heater down in the rest of the home.

There are, of course, some drawbacks to electric fireplaces. The main one being they lack the ambiance of an actual fireplace. There's no crackling, because there's no real fire.

And because electric fireplaces aren't using real fire, they aren't going to heat your room as well as a real fireplace. you can think of an electric fireplace as having similar power to a very nice space heater.

Gas Fireplaces

gas fireplace

Gas fireplaces are essentially the best of both worlds, combining popular elements from traditional fireplaces and electric fireplaces.

Essentially, gas fireplaces use some form of propane or gas to burn a real flame in a fireplace box.

The real flame makes it look like a traditional fireplace, and feel more like a traditional fireplace, but the gas element makes it so that you never have to put in wood, giving it the ease of an electric fireplace.

One of the biggest benefits of gas fireplaces is that they are incredibly convenient. These fireplaces add lots of warmth and depth to a space without a lot of hassle.

Like electric fireplaces, there are thousands of options available when it comes to the design and aesthetic of a gas fireplace. You have no shortage of options that will fit the style of your home.

Gas fireplaces are also less expensive than many electric fireplaces and most wood-burning fireplaces.

You, of course, can find a fireplace in many budget ranges, but overall gas fireplaces are heralded as very affordable.

And like electric fireplaces, gas fireplaces are safer for pets and children. with new technology, the front of gas fireplaces do not get as hot, and thus are not as dangerous as typical fireplaces.

Unlike electric fireplaces though, gas fireplaces are going to have much more heating power. With the real flame comes more powerful heat.

Gas fireplaces will also leave your air quality intact, whereas other forms of fireplaces like wood-burning fireplaces, can decrease the air quality in your home slightly.

Some of the drawbacks of a gas fireplace are, once again, that this fireplace is not going to give you the same look and feel as a real fire. It's closer than an electric fireplace, but it is definitely not the real thing.

Another drawback is that the glass is completely sealed on the front of your gas fireplace, which means you're not going to feel the full intensity of the flame, and the heat is going to be a little bit less because of that.

If you're like us, and you like to put your feet up right next to a fire and get them nice and toasty, you're not going to have the same effect putting your feet up by an electric fireplace or gas fireplace as you would a real fireplace.

Another small drawback to this type of fireplace is that the log position in the fireplace is there to stay. Whatever the faux logs in your fireplace look like the day you get them is what they're going to look like forever.

You want to be really careful when you're selecting your fireplace because of this. If not being able to change the log position around is going to bug you, we recommend finding a different fireplace model or using a traditional wood-burning fireplace.

And another thing worth mentioning with this fireplace is you will need to call a professional if something happens or if maintenance is required.

Selecting the Right Fireplace For You

fireplace in glass walls

No one fireplace is without tons of pros and a few drawbacks, so it's about weighing which options work best for you and your family.

First, consider the budget. There are fireplaces of each kind in every budget, but the quality is going to vary. it's important to invest in a fireplace that's going to last a long time.

Why? Investing in a fireplace that's going to last not only makes your money go a long way, but it makes practical sense because your fireplace will be installed in your home.

A broken fireplace isn't something that you can just toss out. You have to uninstall it or bring in a whole new fireplace system if you want to get rid of it. That's why investing and spending a little bit more is usually worth it.

If you're having a hard time figuring out how much you should be spending on a fireplace, we recommend calculating the cost per use over the first five years the fireplace is in your home.

This number doesn't have to be exact, but it will give you a good idea of what it will actually cost in the long run.

Take the estimated number of days that you'll use it each year and times that number by five. Then take the cost of the fireplace and divide it by the number of times you'll use the fireplace in five years.

For example, if I plan to use the fireplace a hundred times a year over the course of five years, that would be five hundred uses. If the fireplace I am considering costs a thousand dollars, that would be a two-dollar cost per use in the first five years.

The cost per use would obviously continue to go down over time from that point the more that the fireplace was used, but that would give you a good gauge to decide if the fireplace you're considering is too expensive for you or if you have a little more wiggle room in your budget.

After you've considered the budget, make sure that you know which features are very important to you and which features you're fine to pass on.

If the ambiance is important to you, you can't beat a traditional wood-burning fireplace.

If the safety of kids and pets in the home is most important to you, a gas or electric fireplace is going to be a better fit for your family.

You'll also want to consider the look of potential fireplaces that you're considering and see if they blend well with the design aesthetic already in your home.

A fireplace can be enhanced with mantles and hearths, and there are ways to blend any type of fireplace into any design aesthetic.

Once you are able to narrow down the type of fireplace that you'd like, we recommend reading lots and lots of reviews or talking to a fireplace salesman about models that stand the test of time.

Next Steps

After you have selected a fireplace comes the most fun part, incorporating it into your home. We love the design challenge of bringing a new item into a space and making everything feel cohesive.

If you have a traditional design style, consider using a hearth and wood or plaster mantel in your home around your fireplace.

If you have a more modern home, try a sleek-shaped fireplace with no mantel or hearth.

And if you have a transitional, boho, or farmhouse design style, opt for a floating mantel and no hearth.

Once you have your fireplace fully incorporated, brew yourself a cup of something warm and toasty and curl up and enjoy the evening.