When you think about the ultimate hearth experience, do the crackling sounds and rich aromas of wood burning come to mind? Wood is such a mainstay fuel and has been for thousands of years. But what other options do you have? What about gas, pellets or electricity?
When deciding which fuel is right for you, consider two things: fuel availability in your area, and the amount of hands-on time you want to spend with your fireplace.
- Availability: Where do you live? If your home isn’t connected to natural gas or a propane source, a gas fireplace isn’t in the cards for you. If wood is abundant in your area, a wood-burning hearth is a great option. Just make sure it’s EPA certified so you have efficient fires that don’t fill the environment with harmful smoke and byproducts. Wood pellets, which are available in many areas, are renewable, will heat your home for many hours and burn very cleanly. Electricity is also an option if you are looking for an inexpensive hearth alternative.
- Interaction: How much time and effort do you want to spend fueling your fireplace? Hearth products that burn solid fuel like wood and pellets require the most interaction and maintenance. On the other hand, gas and electric models require little to no effort, aside from operating the controls.
Here’s a breakdown of fireplace fuels, including their benefits and qualities.
Fuel Choice Matrix
|Wood||Gas||Pellet / Corn||Electric|
|Benefits||Natural and available. Wood can supplement furnace usage and reduce heating costs up to 30%.||Convenience. Quickly turn the fire on or off, adjust flame height and fire intensity.||Clean-burning and consistent. Pellets are affordable, available and renewable.||Extremely reliable heat. No gas or wood to purchase. No venting required. Install almost anywhere.|
|Fire Characteristics||Expect robust, steady fires. Today’s wood products deliver powerful heating performance and efficiency.||Gas fires are consistent and controllable by design. You choose the fire’s intensity.||Active and robust. A small fire can burn an inch high, while a powerful 10-inch blaze is bright and intense.||A unique, hypnotic glow with no actual flames.|
|Fire Starting||Paper, kindling, and a fire-starting log are effective.||Flip a switch or grab your remote. It’s that easy.||Automatic thermostats and temperature controls do the work for you—just keep your hopper filled.||Use an outlet or have the unit hardwired. Then, simply flip a switch or grab your remote.|
|Type of Heat||Adding more fuel will immediately increase convective heat. Radiant heat will remain steady.||Enjoy a steady mix of radiant and convective heat.||Most of the heat is convectional—blown through a heat exchanger and out into the home.||Electric fireplaces produce radiant heat—and you completely control the heat output.|
|Fuel Storage & Handling||Dry storage is important. A cord of wood is stacked 4’x4’x8′. On average, a 1,500 sq. ft. home will require 2-4 cords per season.||Fed through a pipeline or delivered to your home and stored in an outside tank.||Pellets are normally available in 40 lb. bags. A 1,500 sq. ft. home will use 2-4 tons per season, on average.||Electric fireplaces are extremely hassle-free and don’t require any fuel storage.|
This chart makes it clear that fuels each have their own unique set of qualities and benefits. So before deciding what’s right for you, consider your options!