Fireplaces are a popular feature many homebuyers include on their house-hunting wish list. But is gas or wood better? Here are some factors to consider as you compare gas and wood-burning fireplaces.
When it comes to energy-efficiency, gas is the way to go, because gas fireplaces produce fewer and cleaner emissions than wood-burning fireplaces do. Comparing cost-effectiveness is not as cut and dry, though. Operating costs will vary from location to location. For example: if you live in the city, a wood fireplace will be more expensive because you’ll probably be paying for wood, but if you live in the suburbs or in the country, wood is typically plentiful and cheap (if not free!). On the other hand, wood-burning fireplaces tend to lose more heat up the chimney than gas fireplaces, which raises the cost of your energy bill. You have to look at all the facets of efficiency when you’re comparing gas vs. wood.
Don’t have a lot of time to take care of your fireplace? Gas fireplaces are easier to maintain than wood-burning ones are. Their chimneys don’t require annual cleanings and you don’t have to clear out the ashes and dead coals or be cautious of getting soot everywhere (as you do with wood-burning fireplaces).
“One afternoon, when I was four years old, my father came home, and he found me in the living room in front of a roaring fire, which made him very angry. Because we didn’t have a fireplace.”
― Victor Borge
While gas fireplaces tend to dominate in every other category, wood-burning fireplaces are hands-down more romantic. The smell of wood burning, the sound of the crackling fire, even being able to watch as the flame slowly reduces to coals — there’s something therapeutic about a wood-burning fireplace. Many homebuyers like the idea of being able to physically build a fire, roast some marshmallows over it, and snuggle up next to the warm flicker with a blanket or a book. Gas fireplaces tend to have a more “cold” feel to them, despite the fact that they still contain a flame.
How to decide
As you weigh the pros and cons of gas and wood fireplaces, ask your realtor to show you some homes with gas fireplaces and some with wood-burning fireplaces. Sometimes seeing a fireplace within a space helps simplify the decision-making process. And at the end of the day, it’s all about what matters most to you and what you want to get out of your fireplace.