If you’ve been trying to decide between a wood vs gas fireplace, this article may be just what you’ve been looking for to tip the scales one way or the other and come away with the best option for you and your family’s needs.

photo showing wood vs gas fireplaces for an article on wood burning vs gas fireplaces
Today’s wood-burning fireplaces vs. natural gas fireplaces

By answering the 10 questions below you’ll have a clearer understanding of what type of fireplace will warm your heart and soul.

The answer may surprise you!

Why can you trust us?

As a property owner with a passion for country living, I’ve covered a variety of topics and written several articles on everything from best firewood practices, and wood stoves, to DIY construction projects. This guide combines my years of hands-on experience, together with extensive research from experts on the topic to help ensure a well-rounded perspective.

Let’s get into it!

Wood vs Gas Fireplaces – Which Is Better?

Deciding between a wood vs. gas fireplace often comes down to choosing the convenience of a gas fireplace vs. the authentic charm of a real wood-burning fireplace. Today’s gas fireplaces can produce tremendous heat (Btu’s) at the flick of a switch. But for people wanting freedom from fossil fuels and don’t mind sourcing, stacking, seasoning, and loading wood, then a wood-burning fireplace offers the ultimate rustic, cozy charm.

In the past, typical gas fireplaces have been known for their decorative appeal, offering modest only heat output. But with today’s gas fireplaces capable of providing over 60,000 BTUs (see below for a 1-million BTU gas fireplace), they have become viable options for heating homes. 

So, now that gas fireplaces are catching up to the heat available through wood-burning stoves and fireplaces (wood still reins champion in BTUs), the wood vs. gas debate has become that much tougher. 

But fear not, the research team here at Today’s Cottage Living has created a list of 10 questions to help you uncover the best solution for your needs. 

  1. Do you foresee any installation issues for locating a chimney?

For new fireplace installations, depending on where the fireplace is to be located, it is important to understand wood-burning chimneys must exit your home vertically, and follow strict guidelines for roof setbacks and clearances.

However, most gas furnaces offer direct venting whereby the chimney can exit the home at 90 degrees on the exterior face of the wall. This convenience can be a make-or-break feature for many people installing fireplaces in basements or rooms without access to run a vertical chimney. 

A direct venting gas chimney is a much easier and less expensive installation.  

Image Courtesy of My Fireplace Blower
  1. Is convenience more important than an authentic fire?
Gas fireplaces turn ON at the flick of a switch

It’s impossible to beat the convenience of gas fireplaces when it comes to the ability to have an instant fire available at the flick of a switch. 

A wood-burning fire takes time, preparation, and a bit of patience to gather the necessary kindling wood and paper to get the fire started, and a little TLC to create a sustaining fire.      

  1. Is the fireplace to be a primary, or supplementary, source of heat? 

If you’re looking for the maximum heat output from a fireplace or stove, the BTUs available from today’s wood burners are unbeatable. You can see from the tables below how 99,000 BTUs are available from high-efficiency wood stoves and fireplaces. 

Like many gas fireplaces, another benefit of some wood-burning fireplaces is the option to add an air duct kit to vent warm air from the fireplace to other spaces within your home. 

air distribution in a wood-burning fireplace

BTUs from EPA Certified Fireplaces & Wood Stoves

Fireplaces

Fireplace SizeHeating CapacityBTUHHVEmission
Small – 1.6 cu. ft.less than 500 sq. ft.70,00068%1.4 gm/hr.
Medium – 2.1 cu. ft.500 – 1,000 sq. ft.85,00072%1.4 gm/hr.
Large – 3.0 cu. ft.1,000 – 2,200 sq. ft.99,00076.8%1.7 gm/hr.
BTUs from high-efficiency wood-burning fireplaces

Wood Stoves

Wood Stove SizeHeating CapacityBTU*HHVEmission
Small – 1.6 cu. ft.less than 500 sq. ft.56,00072%1.9 gm/hr.
Medium – 2.1 cu. ft.500 – 1,000 sq. ft.72,00071.3%1.8 gm/hr.
Large – 3.0 cu. ft.1,000 – 2,200 sq. ft.99,00074%1.8 gm/hr.
BTUs from high-efficiency wood-burning wood stoves

Related Article: If you’d like some help choosing between the most popular types of wood-burning appliances, we have an article called How To Choose A Wood-Burning Fireplace (2022).

Today’s gas fireplaces have come a long way from older generations that were more decorative, rather than serious contenders for heat. With gas fireplaces such as Travis Industries’ Ember-Glo Deluxe series, now generating 60,000 BTUs,       

  1. Is the cost of fuel important?

Depending on many factors including location, a cord of firewood (8’x4’x16”) tends to range from $150 to $550, with the average price in the U.S. at $300. For example, the price for a cord of wood in Southern California ranges from $230-$480 per cord; in the Bay Area, $150-$400; and in the Central Valley, $100-$275.

Related Article: To learn more about tips on buying firewood, we have an article called How Many Face Cords In A Cord of Wood

On the other hand, natural gas prices are always fluctuating. At the time of writing, natural gas is priced at $6.2/MMBtu, up 19% YTD. The United States is the biggest natural gas producer followed by Russia, accounting for almost a quarter of the United States’ energy consumption. 

Except for cutting your own (free) firewood supply, to compare the cost of purchased firewood, to the cost of natural gas, the difference is inconsequential for the average homeowner. 

  1. Is the lowest possible maintenance a factor? 

Gas fireplaces are very low maintenance. Wood-burning fireplaces require emptying ashes regularly, and chimney cleaning is recommended annually. 

Tip: burning seasoned hardwoods vs. softer woods like hemlock, will reduce ash and creosote build-up. In fact, with today’s EPA Certified, high-efficiency, low emission,  wood stoves, and fireplaces, very little creosote is generated from fires.      

  1. How important is an authentic wood-burning ambiance? 

If the sound and smell of a cracking fire are what you’re after, there’s no substitute for a wood-burning fireplace. Sure, gas fireplace log kits are looking more and more authentic, but for true wood burners that demand the cozy warmth, feel, and smell of a fire, the choice is clear.  

  1. How important is the fireplace design and style within your decor? 

Gas fireplaces are available in a greater variety of shapes and sizes. Today’s manufacturers offer a wide variety of styles, sizes, and shapes to give consumer and commercial customers the look their after.   

From long and skinny, to modern, contemporary, and traditional designs, you can find gas fireplaces that are able to blend into almost any decor. Even the fireplace interiors can be outfitted with a variety of log set options, back panel interior options, and flame styles.  

The ultimate example of what can be manufactured by custom manufacturers such as Travis Industries DaVinci custom fireplaces, the short video below shows a custom 66-foot long gas fireplace with 1 million BTUs.

  1. Are environmental emissions, or burning non-renewable resources a factor?

Although gas fireplaces produce very low emissions, they are burning non-renewable fossil fuels. As such, both propane and natural gas fireplaces do have an impact on the environment, but much less than a traditional, open-style wood fireplace. 

In 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented strict new emission standards for wood-burning appliances.

As a result, today’s high-efficiency wood stoves and fireplaces meet emission standards, measured in grams of particles per hour (g/hr) of no more than 2 g/hr.

But when comparing wood-burning fireplaces it is important to recognize the differences between high-efficiency fireplaces and traditional open hearth fireplaces. 

In 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released strict new guidelines for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. As a result, today’s high-efficiency (sealed) fireplaces are eco-friendly, emitting no more than 2 grams of particles per hour.

So in the end, both gas and (high-efficiency) wood-burning fireplaces are eco-friendly options.   

  1. How important is being able to quickly adjust the temperature and controls?

Gas fireplaces offer far greater control over the heat output and consistency of heat levels through thermostatic controllers that maintain your desired room temperature. 

It’s impossible to beat the convenience of gas fireplaces when it comes to the ability to have an instant fire available at the flick of a switch. 

A wood-burning fire takes time, preparation, and a bit of patience to gather the necessary kindling wood and paper to get the fire started, and a little TLC to create a sustaining fire.      

Most newer models include a remote control unit to adjust the flame’s intensity and fan speed. Some models even include the ability to shut down the rear burner to save 50% on fuel and heat and turn down the front burner for 75% to 77% in savings. 

Wood-burning fireplaces offer limited control by limiting or increasing airflow into the firebox. 

  1. Is being off-grid and fully independent from suppliers important?

Although today’s gas fireplaces will keep working without power as long as the gas supply remains, they are not fully off-grid.

So if being 100% off-grid is your goal, wood-burning fireplaces are the way to go.

FAQs

Is a gas fireplace safer than a wood fireplace?

A gas fireplace is safer than a traditional open-hearth fireplace. However, today’s high-efficiency fireplaces, inserts, and wood stoves are also safer than traditional fireplaces because the wood stove’s firebox has a sealed glass door to keep the stove air-tight and prevent sparks and smoke from escaping the stove.

Gas fireplaces are the safest fireplaces since they remain closed (sealed) during burn times, including igniting the flames with a spark or pilot light.

Regency-Alterra Wood-Insert

YouTube Video

The video (2:57 minute) below from Northline Express offers a nice summary of the key differences between wood vs gas fireplaces.



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Greg Jones

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