How to Choose the Right Type of Fireplace for Your Needs

Getting a fireplace is an exciting upgrade that can work wonders for any living space. It sets the tone for a relaxing evening and brings people together. So whether you’re unwinding alone, with family, or with guests, a good fireplace is never out of place.

On top of the aesthetic and lifestyle benefits that come with getting a fireplace, you can also get practical benefits such as added heating, added value to your home, and so on. However, the set of benefits you get from your fireplace depends on what type you’ve chosen.

To help you choose the best fireplace for your needs, this complete guide goes into the pros and cons of electric, gas, and wood-burning fireplaces.


Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood burning fireplaces are arguably the most traditional choice because they burn the most traditional fuel type, wood. These fireplaces traditionally require vertical venting, with minimal offsets.

There are four main types of wood-burning fireplaces:

  • Open hearth fireplaces: These are open fireproof boxes that are constructed into the wall of the house with a chimney to vent out combustion products. Nowadays, these wood-burning fireplaces are used mainly for recreational purposes instead of being the primary source of heating.

  • Wood-burning stoves: These types of wood-burning fireplaces are free-standing. They are made of steel or cast iron to enclose the fire, a glass front where the fire can be seen through, and a vent for the combustion products. These are more efficient and safer than open-hearth fireplaces.

  • Zero clearance fireplaces: These are enclosed, fireproof, metal boxes that are built into the wall and have a glass front. This type of fireplace generally gives the efficiency and safety of wood-burning stoves along with the aesthetic look of a traditional fireplace.

  • Wood-burning fireplace inserts: These are enclosed, fireproof boxes that are meant to go inside an existing open-hearth fireplace. These fireplaces are the best option for homeowners that want to upgrade their existing open-hearth fireplace for added aesthetic, efficiency, and safety.




Wood Burning Fireplace Pros

  • No other fireplace can mimic the aroma, sound, and overall aesthetic of authentic wood-burning fireplaces.

  • Wood burning fireplaces easily function even when there is a power outage.

  • You can sometimes cook using a wood-burning fireplace and the top of some stoves too.

  • This type of fireplace adds significant value to your home.

Wood Burning Fireplace Cons

  • Wood-burning fireplaces require regular maintenance.

  • Wood-burning fireplaces also involve more physical work due to the wood preparation process. If you enjoy chopping wood for exercise, this isn’t a con at all!


Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces run on either propane or natural gas. When talking about the types of gas fireplaces, we look at the fireplace’s venting method and the construction or design of the gas fireplace.

In terms of venting, these are the main categories:

  • Direct vent gas fireplaces: These gas fireplaces need an exterior vent for both drawing in air and for expelling combustion gases. Unlike natural vent gas fireplaces, they do not get air from inside the home. However, these fireplaces can sometimes have blowers so that warmth is directed from the fireplace into the home. In terms of efficiency, these fireplaces are a step up compared to natural vent gas fireplaces.

  • Natural vent gas fireplaces: These are also known as B-vent gas fireplaces. These gas fireplaces draw in air from inside the home then vent the exhaust through a chimney. These fireplaces are typically not sealed with a glass front and are the least efficient type of gas fireplace.

  • Vent-free gas fireplaces: these gas fireplaces burn the cleanest and do not require venting. These are also more efficient than natural vent or direct vent gas fireplaces. However, they are not approved for use in some regions because of the risk of noxious gas build-up within the indoor space.
    Note: Vent-free gas fireplaces are not permitted in Canada.

In terms of gas fireplace construction or design, the options are as follows:

  • Freestanding stoves: These gas fireplaces typically have a direct vent and are made of cast iron or steel. Some options can also be vent free. Either way, freestanding gas stoves generally have a glass front to cover the fire.

  • Inserts: Gas fireplace inserts can be naturally vented, have direct venting, or be vent free. Gas fireplace inserts are designed to go into existing fireplaces.

  • Zero clearance: In most cases, these pre-manufactured fireplaces can be installed against combustible materials like wood, walls, or panelling.




Gas Fireplace Pros

  • Gas fireplaces are generally more efficient than wood-burning fireplaces and produce fewer emissions.

  • Gas fireplaces are also considered safer than wood-burning fireplaces.

  • Gas fireplaces do not produce ash and soot and are generally easier to clean.

  • Gas fireplaces can function even when there is a power outage.

Gas Fireplace Cons

  • Gas supply lines are required in order for these types of fireplaces to function properly.

  • With gas fireplaces, while you can achieve the same ambience as a wood-burning fireplace, you lose the comforting smell and sounds that can come from a real fire.


Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces are heating fixtures that mimic the look of traditional fireplaces. These fireplaces are built with enough depth to create a convincing illusion of real fire.

There are 3 main types of electric fireplaces:

  • Wall-mount electric fireplaces: As the name suggests, these fireplaces are designed to hang on a wall like a piece of art. They can also be installed directly into the wall, which involves a recessed installation.

  • Built-in electric fireplace: These fireplaces can be built directly into walls for a completely seamless look. They can also be installed into an existing fireplace’s masonry.

  • Freestanding electric fireplaces with mantels: These electric fireplaces are aesthetically pleasing and can be placed anywhere. They are designed to mimic traditional fireplaces. Some models also provide shelves for additional storage or space for your television.




Electric Fireplace Pros

  • Electric fireplaces can be installed virtually anywhere as long as you have a power source.

  • These fireplaces also require the least amount of maintenance when compared to wood-burning and gas fireplaces.

  • Of all three major types of fireplaces, electric fireplaces are also the safest because no smoke or fumes are produced.

  • They do not require venting or gas work (but will require a contractor or electrician for hardwiring if installing into a wall).

Electric Fireplace Cons

  • Electric fireplaces add minimal value to the home.

  • Electric fireplaces cannot be used during a power outage.


Upgrade Your Home and Lifestyle with Napoleon

That wraps up our guide on how to choose the right fireplace for your home. We’ve talked about all the electric fireplace pros and cons, gas fireplace pros and cons, and wood-burning fireplace pros and cons.

Once you’ve narrowed your options down to a specific type, the next step is to find a durable, safe, and efficient fireplace that will serve you for years to come.

Napoleon gives you a set of fantastic options - whether you’re looking for a classy wood-burning fireplace like the ones in the High Country™ Series, an efficient gas fireplace like the ones in the Elevation™ X Series, or a dazzling, hassle-free electric fireplace like the ones in the Trivista™ Series.

Upgrade your living space today and be one step closer to the home ambiance you’ve always dreamed of. Check out Napoleon’s collection of durable, stylish, and efficient fireplaces today.

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