Fireplaces: Gas or Traditional?

Around the holidays and colder times in the year, nothing is better than snuggling up next to a warm fire. However, when you're considering installing a fireplace you have two main options to choose from. Determining whether to go with a gas or traditional fireplace can be a big decision that homeowners must mull over, ultimately choosing the option that will best serve their needs. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of gas and traditional fireplaces:

Going Traditional

Many homes have traditional wood-burning fireplaces, which are popular selling points for new homebuyers. One advantage of this model is that it's relatively cheap to fuel. Firewood can be found in a home improvement store or by chopping your own logs. By comparison, natural gas is more expensive to run.

Another major advantage of a wood-burning fireplace is the overall experience it provides, and that's the main reason so many people choose this option. The aroma, along with the snap and crackle of the logs, are what most homeowners expect out of a fireplace. The wood-burning fireplace provides the atmosphere of a cozy or romantic night in, and this fact alone makes it significantly more appealing over gas, which just doesn't have the same feel to it.

Wood burning fireplaces provide ample atmosphere.Wood-burning fireplaces provide ample atmosphere.

While traditional fireplaces can be appealing to many homeowners, they also have some pretty big flaws. For one, they require some maintenance, including cleaning after every use to remove the ashes. You'll also need to check the catalytic combustor three times annually to ensure that it's breaking down the logs safely and efficiently. The inspection may reveal the need for a chimney cleaning or repairs, which can mount in cost if not handled right away. A standard chimney inspection can cost between $100 and $250, while a basic sweep has a price tag between $125 and $250. The expense will depend on accessibility, the type of chimney you have and the condition it's in. If you do not complete this maintenance, creosote can build up within the chimney, causing a fire.

In addition, wood fireplaces release the highest amount of emissions over any other option. They also let heat escape through the chimney and suck out around 10 percent of indoor air, potentially costing more in utility payments each month for the home. While traditional fireplaces may provide the atmosphere you desire, they take a bit of work and simply may not be economical for efficiently heating your home.

Putting on the Gas

Gas fireplaces are extremely easy to use, requiring only the push of a button to start and stop.

Gas fireplaces are put into many newer homes due to their efficiency and ease of use. These models only require small steps for maintenance that homeowners can do on their own. It's important to check that venting pipes aren't clogged or leaking, and that any ceramic logs are cleaned from time to time. There's no mess from ash, soot, creosote or coal-raking to worry about. Gas fireplaces are also extremely easy to use, requiring only the push of a button to start and stop them. The hassle of a wood-burning option is taken out for better convenience while still producing similar or minimal heat, depending on the design. For people with asthma and other health issues, gas fireplaces can be a good option, as wood-burning fixtures can cause these conditions to flare up.

In addition, gas fireplaces can be installed nearly anywhere in the home, as the flue gases can be vented through PVC pipe run through the walls. You can design your house the way you want without being concerned about a huge chimney, while still taking ventilation into account. Gas fireplaces also produce up to 99 percent fewer particulate emissions per MMBtus of heat output when compared to wood-burning fireplaces. For homeowners looking to be more eco-friendly and pursue green and efficient living, gas fireplaces are the best option.

Although gas fireplaces have a number of advantages, they can be expensive to run. Propane is mostly used for these models, and it can be expensive, especially if you like to have multiple fires in a year. Possibly one of the biggest downfalls of a gas fireplace is that it simply doesn't have the same experience as a wood-burning model. You don't get the same smells and crackles, even though you get the same amount of heat, if not more. Many people will choose wood burning for the atmosphere and nostalgia that it provides.

Making Your Choice

Deciding on a fireplace is an investment that will stick with your home forever. The feature can make your house more appealing to buyers in the future and serve as a comfortable spot for loved ones to gather around. It's important for homeowners to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each option, but this comparison can help them make the most informed decision for their particular home situation.