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Heating Up: Wood, Gas, and Electric Fireplaces

Deciding on what type of fireplace you want to put in your home requires that you think carefully about what things are important to you: convenience, safety, heat, cost, ambiance, or availability of fuel. You will also need to consider how and where it will be installed in your home, especially if your home is already built. Here are the three most common types of fireplaces in terms of what they use for fuel.  

 

Wood Burning Fireplaces 

 

Fireplaces designed to use real wood logs provide the greatest satisfaction of a real fire. You can enjoy the sight of the flames, the crackling sound, and the smell of the wood burning. These fireplaces aren’t reliant on outside energy sources like gas or electricity, so they can be a reliable source of heat even when there are utility outages. 

 

Installing a wood burning fireplace in your home requires a significant amount of infrastructure to your home. It can be difficult and costly to add to an existing home; however, if your goal is only something functional and you aren’t worried about looks, it can greatly reduce the cost of installation.  

 

The cost to purchase firewood and have it delivered can be high, especially in areas where it isn’t naturally found. You might be lucky enough to have a source of firewood on your own property or a friend or family member’s, but the cost of equipment and the time required to cut and split firewood can be prohibitive as well. Some people really enjoy the process of collecting and preparing wood to use in their fireplace. The time spent outdoors in nature and the physical work required is satisfying and relaxing to some. 

 

You will need to have a space to store the firewood until you need it, and it needs to keep the wood dry, but still have plenty of ventilation to allow air to move freely through wood. Stacked firewood is attractive to critters so that needs to be a consideration as well. Firewood tends to be dirty and since you will be bringing it into the house, it will require additional cleaning.  

 

Wood burning fireplaces are quite safe, but require regular cleaning and maintenance. If neglected, these fireplaces can be a hazard to life and property.  Depending on how your fireplace is designed, it could be a challenge if you have children in the home. There are ways to make them safer for children, though.  

 

Gas Fireplaces 

 

Fireplaces using gas, either natural or propane, are very safe, efficient, clean, and convenient. You can arrive home and have a fire going immediately. They do provide heat, and you will enjoy watching the flames dancing around the fake firewood, minus the crackling sound and smell of real wood burning.  

 

Most modern gas fireplaces are sealed on the interior side and use direct venting instead of a chimney on the exterior, meaning the exhaust is vented directly out the back of the unit to the outdoors. A direct vent gas fireplace will be completely modular and very easy to install on an exterior wall of your home. They require a gas supply, which will probably be the hardest part of the installation, and electricity to power the ignitor and the air circulating fan.  

 

The gas fireplace is usually controlled by a light switch on the wall that turns it on and off. You can come home and get a fire going immediately, and then it can be quickly extinguished when you are done.  

 

Electric Fireplaces 

 

Like gas fireplaces, an electric fireplace is very safe, efficient, clean, and convenient. Since there is no exhaust, they can be installed about anywhere, and portable designs can be easily moved as desired. They do produce heat, but require a source of electricity to operate, so they wouldn’t be useful in the event of a power outage.  

 

Unlike wood or gas fireplaces, there are no real flames, and the synthetic flames on many models look pretty fake. Some models provide settings that allow you to change the look of the display and even add colors. You are even able to control the temperature on these, making them comfortable to use anytime. 

 

Poll Results 

 

In my newsletter last week, I asked subscribers which type of fireplace they would prefer. Here were the results:  

 

9% Woodburning 

64% Gas 

27% Electric 

 

My Experience 

 

I lived in our previous home for 25 years and it was built with a woodburning fireplace in the family room. It was a large brick structure with a beautiful wood mantle. I was able to harvest enough wood right on the property so I never had to purchase wood. We enjoyed fires regularly and loved sitting in front of a real fire.  

 

We raised three children and never had an issue with them and the fireplace. They all eventually earned the right to be able to start fires in the fireplace, with supervision of course. We would clean the ashes from the firebox after every use and have the chimney cleaned and inspected every other year. Carrying wood from the front door to the fireplace would bring extra dirt into the house, but could be managed using a tote.  

 

Our new home was not built with a fireplace and we do not plan to add one. We do miss the fire, but the house is significantly smaller than the previous one and knowing that a fireplace will take up precious space, we are content to do without. Living in town, I would not consider a woodburning fireplace, and if I had to chose between gas and electric, I would probably go with a gas fireplace, only because it has real flames.  

 

Norwalk IA Real Estate – Jon Niemeyer, Broker/Owner/REALTOR® at EXIT Realty North Star. I list and sell real estate in Central Iowa including Norwalk, Des Moines, West Des Moines, Cumming, Indianola, Carlisle, Waukee, Urbandale, Grimes, Clive, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, and Pleasant Hill in the Counties of Warren, Polk, Dallas, and Madison. Call Jon Niemeyer at 515-490-4675.

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