Difference Between Gas and Wood Burning Fireplace

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When it comes to creating a cozy ambiance in our homes, the choice between a gas burning fireplace vs wood burning fireplace often arises. Both come with their unique sets of advantages and considerations, making the decision crucial for homeowners. This article delves deep into the characteristics, pros, and cons of each, providing you with an informative guide to make an informed choice.


What is a Gas Burning Fireplace and What is a Wood Burning Fireplace?

A gas burning fireplace is a type of heating system that uses natural gas or propane as fuel. These fireplaces often come with ceramic logs or other decorative elements to mimic the look of a traditional fireplace. They are ignited either manually or with a remote control, providing instant heat and ambiance without the mess of wood or ash.

On the other hand, a wood burning fireplace is the traditional fireplace that many people are familiar with. This type of fireplace uses wood logs as its primary fuel. The burning of wood produces heat and a distinct crackling sound, offering a classic and cozy ambiance. However, they require a chimney for proper ventilation and periodic cleaning to ensure safety.

What is The Main Difference Between Gas and Wood Burning Fireplace?

The main difference between gas and wood burning fireplaces lies in their fuel source and the consequent user experience:

Gas Burning Fireplace:

  • Fuel Source: Uses natural gas or propane.
  • User Experience: Provides consistent heat with the convenience of turning it on or off with a switch or remote. There’s no need to manually kindle a fire, and there’s an absence of the crackling sound and aroma associated with wood burning. Maintenance is typically easier since there’s no ash or soot to clean.

Wood Burning Fireplace:

  • Fuel Source: Uses wood logs or wood pellets.
  • User Experience: Offers an authentic ambiance with the crackling sound of logs and the distinct aroma of burning wood. It requires manual effort to start and maintain the fire and regular cleaning due to ash and creosote buildup.

While there are numerous other differences in terms of installation, maintenance, environmental impact, and aesthetics, the fuel source and the resulting experience are the most fundamental distinctions.

Key Differences Between Gas Burning Fireplace and Wood Burning Fireplace

  1. Fuel Type: Gas burning fireplaces use natural gas or propane, while wood burning fireplaces use wood logs or wood pellets.
  2. Ignition: Gas fireplaces can often be ignited with the push of a button or a remote control, while wood burning fireplaces require manual ignition using kindling or a fire starter.
  3. Maintenance: Gas fireplaces typically require less maintenance compared to wood burning fireplaces which need regular cleaning to remove ash and soot.
  4. Aesthetics: While gas fireplaces can mimic the look of a traditional fireplace, wood burning fireplaces offer the authentic experience with the characteristic crackling sound and wood aroma.
  5. Ventilation: Wood burning fireplaces require a chimney for proper ventilation, whereas some gas fireplaces can be vent-less.
  6. Efficiency: Gas fireplaces are generally more energy efficient as they can produce consistent heat, whereas the efficiency of wood burning fireplaces can vary based on the type of wood used.
  7. Installation Cost: Gas fireplaces might have a higher initial installation cost, especially if a gas line needs to be run to the location. However, wood burning fireplaces often come with higher installation costs due to chimney requirements.
  8. Running Cost: The cost of natural gas or propane might be more predictable and stable compared to the fluctuating costs of wood, especially in areas where wood is scarce.
  9. Environmental Impact: Burning wood releases more particulates into the atmosphere compared to burning gas, which can contribute to air pollution.

Key Similarities Between Gas Burning Fireplace and Wood Burning Fireplace

  1. Purpose: Both types of fireplaces aim to provide heat and ambiance to a living space.
  2. Safety Precautions: Both require certain safety precautions, like keeping flammable materials away, having proper ventilation, and using fire guards.
  3. Decorative Element: Both gas and wood burning fireplaces can serve as a decorative centerpiece in a room, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
  4. Heat Control: Both types of fireplaces have some form of heat control, whether adjusting the gas flow or controlling the amount of wood burned.
  5. Installation: Both fireplaces require professional installation to ensure safety and proper functioning.
  6. Regular Inspection: Both types of fireplaces should be inspected regularly to ensure they are functioning safely and efficiently.

Pros of Gas Burning Fireplace Over Wood Burning Fireplace

  1. Convenience: Gas fireplaces are easy to ignite, often with just the push of a button, eliminating the need for manual kindling or fire starters.
  2. Maintenance: They generally require less upkeep as there’s no ash or soot to clean, making them less labor-intensive.
  3. Consistent Heat Output: Gas fireplaces offer a steady heat source, allowing users to control the temperature more precisely than wood burning fireplaces.
  4. Cost-Effective: Over time, depending on regional gas prices, using a gas fireplace can be more cost-effective than purchasing and storing wood.
  5. No Chimney Required: Some gas fireplaces can be vent-less, removing the necessity for a chimney and making them suitable for more homes.
  6. Environmentally Friendly: Burning gas emits fewer pollutants and particulates into the atmosphere compared to wood.
  7. Safety: With no flying sparks or embers, gas fireplaces can pose less of a fire hazard compared to their wood-burning counterparts.

Cons of Gas Burning Fireplace Compared to Wood Burning Fireplace

  1. Aesthetic Limitation: While gas fireplaces can mimic traditional ones, they don’t offer the authentic experience of crackling sounds and the aroma of burning wood.
  2. Installation Cost: Initial installation of a gas fireplace, especially if a gas line needs to be introduced, can be higher.
  3. Dependency on Gas Supply: If there’s a disruption in the gas supply, the fireplace cannot be used, whereas wood can be stored and used anytime.
  4. Less Heat: While gas fireplaces produce consistent heat, they often do not emit as much warmth as a roaring wood fire.
  5. Potential Gas Leaks: Gas fireplaces carry the risk of potential gas leaks, which can be dangerous if not detected early.
  6. Less Traditional Feel: For those who cherish traditions, gas fireplaces might not provide the same nostalgic value as wood burning ones.
  7. Energy Source: If the gas is derived from non-renewable sources, it may not be the most sustainable choice in the long run.

Pros of Wood Burning Fireplace Over Gas Burning Fireplace

  1. Authentic Experience: Wood burning fireplaces provide the genuine ambiance of crackling logs and the distinct aroma that many people cherish.
  2. Radiant Heat: A wood burning fireplace often emits a warmth that feels different from other heat sources, providing a cozy environment on cold days.
  3. Aesthetic Appeal: The visual appeal of real flames, glowing embers, and logs in a wood fireplace can be more visually satisfying for some users compared to artificial gas flames.
  4. Independence: No reliance on external gas supply. As long as you have wood, you can have a fire, even during power outages or supply interruptions.
  5. Sustainable Fuel: When sourced responsibly, wood is a renewable resource, unlike natural gas or propane which are finite.
  6. Multifunctional: Some wood burning fireplaces can be used for cooking or roasting, adding to their utility.
  7. Traditional Value: For many, a wood burning fireplace holds nostalgic value, evoking memories of family gatherings, holidays, or stories shared by the hearth.

Cons of Wood Burning Fireplace Compared to Gas Burning Fireplace

  1. Maintenance: Wood burning fireplaces require regular cleaning to remove ash, soot, and creosote, which can be labor-intensive.
  2. Environmental Impact: Burning wood releases more particulates and pollutants into the atmosphere compared to burning gas.
  3. Fuel Storage: Wood requires significant storage space and needs to be kept dry, posing challenges for those with limited space.
  4. Safety Concerns: Flying sparks, embers, and creosote buildup in chimneys can pose fire hazards if not properly managed.
  5. Inconsistent Heat: The heat output from a wood burning fireplace can be less consistent and harder to control than a gas fireplace.
  6. Chimney Requirement: A chimney, with regular inspections and cleanings, is necessary for proper ventilation, adding to maintenance needs and costs.
  7. Fuel Costs: In some areas, wood can be expensive, and its prices can fluctuate based on demand, season, and availability.

Situations When Gas Burning Fireplace is Better Than Wood Burning Fireplace

  1. Urban Living: In densely populated areas or cities where wood storage can be challenging or wood burning may be restricted due to air quality concerns.
  2. Ease of Use: For those who want instant heat without the effort of gathering, stacking, and lighting wood.
  3. Health Concerns: In homes where residents have allergies or respiratory issues, and the particulates from wood burning could exacerbate their conditions.
  4. Frequent Usage: For households where the fireplace would be used daily, a gas fireplace might offer more convenience and less maintenance.
  5. No Chimney: In homes without a chimney or where a chimney installation is impractical, ventless gas fireplaces might be a viable option.
  6. Energy Efficiency: For those who prioritize energy efficiency and consistent heating, especially in colder climates.
  7. Safety Concerns: In settings where there’s a need to minimize fire hazards, such as homes with small children or pets.

Situations When Wood Burning Fireplace is Better Than Gas Burning Fireplace

  1. Traditional Ambiance: For those who value the authentic experience, including the sounds, smells, and sights of a real wood fire.
  2. Sustainable Living: In regions where sustainably sourced wood is readily available, making it an eco-friendly fuel option.
  3. Power Outages: In areas prone to power outages, where having a heat source independent of electricity is essential.
  4. Cooking Capabilities: For people who enjoy the possibility of occasionally cooking or roasting over an open flame.
  5. Rural Living: In countryside homes where wood is abundant, and there’s plenty of space for storage.
  6. Cost-Effective: In regions where wood is cheaper than gas, and the household can benefit from long-term savings.
  7. Romantic or Nostalgic Value: For homes where the fireplace serves not just as a heat source but also as a focal point for gatherings, stories, and memories.
  8. Heating Preference: For those who prefer the radiant heat of a wood fire, which can permeate a room differently than the heat from a gas fireplace.

Gas Burning vs Wood Burning Fireplace Summary

In the battle of gas burning fireplace vs wood burning fireplace, each has its own place and purpose. While gas fireplaces offer convenience and consistent heat, wood-burning fireplaces provide an unmatched traditional experience. Ultimately, the right choice hinges on individual preferences, living situations, and desired outcomes. Armed with the insights from this article, homeowners can confidently choose the fireplace that aligns best with their needs and lifestyle.

AspectGas Burning FireplaceWood Burning Fireplace
Fuel TypeNatural gas or propaneWood logs or wood pellets
IgnitionPush of a button or remote controlManual ignition with kindling/fire starter
MaintenanceLess frequent (no ash/soot)Regular cleaning of ash, soot, and creosote
AestheticsMimics traditional, no authentic cracklingGenuine crackling and wood aroma
VentilationSome can be vent-lessRequires chimney
EfficiencyHigh and consistentVaries based on wood type
Installation CostPotentially higher initial costChimney can increase cost
Environmental ImpactFewer pollutantsMore particulates and pollutants
ProsConvenience, Efficiency, SafetyAuthentic experience, Radiant heat, Tradition
ConsPotential gas leaks, Less traditional feelHigher maintenance, Environmental concerns
Situation – Urban LivingMore suitableLess suitable
Situation – Traditional ValueLess suitableMore suitable
SimilaritiesHeat provision, Aesthetics, Safety precautionsHeat provision, Aesthetics, Safety precautions
Gas Burning vs Wood Burning Fireplace Summary


How long does the average gas burning fireplace last compared to a wood burning fireplace?

Gas burning fireplaces typically last between 20 to 25 years with proper maintenance, while wood burning fireplaces can last up to 30 years or more, but require more rigorous upkeep due to ash and potential creosote build-up.

Are there any specific building regulations or codes to consider when installing these fireplaces?

Yes, both types of fireplaces come with building codes and standards to ensure safety. It’s vital to consult local building regulations or a professional before installation, as codes can vary by region.

Can both fireplaces be used as primary heating sources for a home?

While both can serve as heating sources, a gas burning fireplace is more consistent in heat output, making it suitable as a primary heat source. Wood burning fireplaces, on the other hand, provide radiant heat which can be more localized, and might not serve as efficiently as a primary heating system.

Is it possible to convert a wood burning fireplace to a gas burning one or vice versa?

Yes, many homeowners opt to convert wood burning fireplaces to gas for convenience. This usually involves installing a gas log set or insert. Conversely, converting a gas fireplace back to wood burning is more complex and might require significant modifications.

How do the running costs of both fireplaces compare in the long run?

This largely depends on regional fuel costs. In some areas, natural gas may be cheaper, making gas fireplaces more economical in the long run. In contrast, if you have access to free or cheap wood, a wood burning fireplace might be more cost-effective.

How often should each type of fireplace be serviced or cleaned?

Gas fireplaces should be serviced annually to check for any issues and ensure clean combustion. Wood burning fireplaces require more frequent cleaning due to ash build-up, and their chimneys should be inspected and cleaned annually to prevent creosote accumulation, which can be a fire hazard.

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