Log Blog

Gas vs Wood

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People have a very romantic view of themselves sitting by a roaring, aromatic, crackling fireplace in their new log home. In reality, Wood Burning fireplaces rarely offer the big open flame of your childhood memories. Today's building regulations require EPA approved Enclosed Wood Inserts with a Catalytic Converter to control air pollution and offer a relatively small glass window to view your flame. Though they can be very efficient at burning that Beetle Kill Pine you cut down for defensible space around your home, they are not the ideal choice for every home or lifestyle.

Consider these things when planning or designing your home to make sure you have the right fireplace to fit your needs:

Cost

Everything about a wood burning fireplace is more expensive then a gas fireplace. Gas fireplaces can usually "direct vent" out an adjoining wall. Wood burners will require venting through the roof and a fireproof, framed, lined chimney chase. Gas fireplace give you more flexibility on location, and use less precious floor space as the units have smaller depth requirements. Cost of installation can be as much as twice as much for a wood burning installation then it would be for a gas log set unit. Both can offer a variety of options for your fireplace surround from tile, to natural or cultured stone. Plan on having your chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional once per year with a wood burner, gas units should be checked for CO2 approximately every 5 years.

Convenience

Gas can give you instant gratification on a cold mountain morning, or after a day on the slopes. It is s simple as pushing a button on a remote control, and you have just the right amount of flame and heat instantly. With wood, you will have to bring the fire wood in, open the flue, get kindling and start the fire. Gas fireplaces also may be turned off at a whim while it is recommended someone "tend" a wood fire before retiring to bed.

Efficiency

Most gas fireplaces have a glass front that keep the warm air in the house from going up the chimney when you not using in use. Gas units may also be set on a thermostat to keep a room at a constant temperature or to supplement other heat in your home. It also allows control of the combustion air and assures the combustion air is coming from outdoors, not from the living space. Older Wood fireplaces tended to siphon warm air out of the house when not in use, however new units have combustion air. When choosing either a wood or gas unit, consider your actual heat needs. Choosing the correct BTU's for the room size is important to assure it gives the warmth you desire, but also not so much that it runs you out of a smaller room by being too hot for the space.

Ambiance

If you enjoy walking up to the door of a house burning wood, smelling the scent of the fireplace drifting through the neighbor hood, sitting in front the hearth with pine logs snapping and the roar of flames a wood burner may still be right for you. Xtrodiniare and other EPA units require the doors be shut during operation. In a short time the glass doors get a dark coating of creosote making the flames harder to view. There are some very beautiful gas log set options on the market today with realistic looking logs and decent flame height, however, none offer the exact experience of a real fire. Try looking at units from Quadrafire with a large 35" viewing area as an option. Some Heat'n Glo units offer an audio chip to replicate the crackle sound.

Mess

Wood debris can get tracked throughout the house, there is little getting around it. Ash needs to be hauled out of the house. Negative air pressure in today's super efficient homes creates a downdraft that can push smoke and ashes into your home. Soot is also a factor in wood burners, a dark film that can drift through the house if you don't have proper draft from your chimney. None of these things are an issue with gas and a flip of the switch.

Wood Storage

Plan a head for a dry location, with good access to the firebox, and away from your wood sided home. A cord of split fire wood consists of a pile 4' high x 4' wide x 8' long. Consider the labor of splitting and stacking wood each season. With gas, the power company keeps you supplied on demand.

Safety

Today's gas burners have safety shutoff's, to prevent gas from leaking into the house. The level of flame is always the same, you can't build too big of a fire in a gas fireplace. Wood on the other hand creates creosote in the chimney. You risk the danger of a chimney fire without annual maintenance. If you have lots of family, friends, and guests using the home who are inexperienced at lighting a wood burning unit ensure they have sufficient guidance and instruction to open the flue and start the fire safely.

Insurance

Before you choose between gas or wood, give your home owner's insurance agent a call. Some companies add a surcharge to cover the increased risk of a wood burning fireplace, while other companies refuse to cover them all together. Most will accommodate a gas fireplace, but it's better to check before you proceed.

 

 

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