The look, smell and warmth of a wood fire is hard to beat, but many folks can get hung up on deciding whether a wood burning fireplace or a wood stove is a better, more efficient choice for them. Both have their pros and cons so comparisons of both can help you make the right decision for your family, your lifestyle, and your heating needs so let’s take a look at some factors to consider.
It’s no secret that wood tends to be the least expensive fuel type among gas, pellet, oil, and coal. Although cheap to fuel, wood fireplaces are not the most efficient hearth appliance in the industry. In fact, they tend to be the least efficient heating source with a heat efficiency of only about 10%. Most of the heat escapes out of the chimney, leaving the room feeling cooler than it should be. On the other hand, wood burning stoves can provide 3x as much heat with 1/3 of the firewood, meaning they are more efficient and offer more heating power than open burning fireplaces. When it comes to efficiency and heating capabilities, wood stoves win.
The beautiful design of a masonry fireplace can include endless possibilities that include mosaic tiles, brickwork, stacked stone, veneer, or marble and a wood fireplace & hearth will be the centerpiece of any living space. Open views of flames and the incredible appearance, feel, and smell of wood burning in a fireplace makes this style very popular among homeowners.
On the other hand, while wood stoves can come in a variety of beautiful designs, from modern to traditional, they lack the natural ambiance that a fireplace provides. Free standing stoves can act as a decorative accent to a room when in use. Since wood stoves feature glass doors, homeowners don’t have the same view as an open burning fireplace design.
Any hearth appliance featuring a wood burning fire can come with natural safety challenges. As opposed to gas or pellet fuel, byproducts & creosote from burning wood can buildup in the chimney, posing a serious fire hazard if not addressed properly. Since EPA certified freestanding stoves offer a more complete combustion process than open burning fireplaces, wood stoves are able to burn away the byproducts more completely. They are not as likely to get creosote buildup as open burning masonry fireplaces.
Sparks are another hazard of wood fires. Sparks can easily fly out of fireplaces causing injury or property damage. Installing screens & doors to fireplaces can help ensure that hot embers won’t land on nearby furniture or carpeting and start a fire. Stoves, on the other hand, are already equipped with a glass door since they are a closed combustion unit, which means escaping sparks are not an issue unless you are tending to the fire.
An open burning fireplace can be a potential safety issue for children or pets. If your little one or your furry friend wanders to close to the fire, they have a chance of being burned by a stray ember. Wood stoves are a bit safer in that respect since the fire is not directly in the open, but there still is a minimal risk of someone being burned if they touch the stove or the glass door of the stove. Safety gates are a great way to keep children and pets away from wood fires, no matter if they are in a fireplace or free standing stove.
Burning wood is carbon neutral which means that burning a wood fire releases no more CO2 than a tree does decaying naturally in the forest. That being said, the wood stoves available today are EPA certified and produce very little harmful emissions thanks to their closed combustion burn system. Since they are more efficient & better at providing heat, wood stoves can help supplement your current heating system, allowing you to lower your utility bills during the cold winter months.
When it comes down to it, the heating appliance you choose will depend on what you prefer. If aesthetics, atmosphere, and authenticity are your main priorities, than a wood fireplace will be the choice for you. If you desire a highly efficient heating powerhouse, a wood burning stove would be a better choice.
No matter what you are looking for make sure you deal with professionals in the hearth industry to ensure the best possible choice for you and your family!