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Types Of Fireplaces For Inside Your Home

Rachel Burris7-Minute Read
October 01, 2020

As the days get shorter and the nights cooler, it’s such a treat to be able to curl up in front of the fire. Having a fireplace inside your home does more than just produce heat; it elevates your room’s design and makes it feel cozy.

However, before you can dream of chestnuts roasting on your open fire, you must decide which type of fireplace is right for your home. This choice comes down to installation, cost, ease of use and aesthetics. To help you decide how you want to ignite the flames in your home, we’ve gathered a list of the pros and cons of the most popular options.

Wood-Burning Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace is what comes to mind when most imagine sitting around a warm fire. This classic option creates a sensory experience that enhances the ambiance of any room. The crackling sounds and smoky aromas will spark thoughts of simpler times and add a feeling of hygge to your home.

Types Of Wood-Burning Fireplaces

If you’re in the market for a wood-burning fireplace, there are a number of options you can choose from. While the traditional open hearth can be considered the most romantic in feel – and found in most historical homes – they’re less efficient when it comes to heating.

More efficient options include enclosed fireplaces, which are enjoyed behind a glass panel, and fireplace inserts that can be fitted into your preexisting open hearth. 

Pros

Aside from the sheer nostalgia that a wood-burning fireplace offers, there are actually quite a few pros of having one of these in your home:

  • Since firewood is a renewable resource, a wood-burning fireplace is considered more environmentally friendly than a gas log fireplace.
  • Should the power go out, you have a source of heat and light.
  • You can choose the type of firewood you burn (long-burning, quick-burning, aromatic, etc.).

Cons

Of course, as pleasant as the ambiance of a wood-burning fireplace is, there are a few more items of upkeep that come along with it.

  • If improperly sealed, wood-burning fireplaces can cause drafts, resulting in higher utility bills.
  • Annual inspections are required, and your home insurance could possibly be affected.
  • You need to maintain a steady supply of firewood in order to use it.

Turning A Wood-Burning Fireplace Into A Gas Fireplace

Since a wood-burning fireplace requires a little more maintenance than most homeowners are willing to do, many consider turning their wood-burning fireplace into gas versions. However, this isn’t a project you should do yourself. It’s important that you hire professionals with expertise in chimneys, fireplaces or gas lines who are licensed and insured.

You’ll need to start with a chimney inspection to ensure it’s clean, functional and able to accommodate a gas unit. After you choose the type of gas fireplace that works for your home, you’re looking at a bill of around $500 – $2,500, assuming no issues arise when installing the gas line. On top of this cost, expect to pay about $100 a year on inspections and maintenance.

Gas Fireplace

Gas fireplaces may not create the same nostalgic feeling as wood-burning fireplaces, but they do tend to burn cleaner and more efficiently. If you want to spend less money installing your fireplace and heating your room, gas is a great option.

Types Of Gas Fireplaces

There are different types of gas fireplaces from which you can choose. A direct-vented built-in fireplace creates a yellow flame, making the aesthetic closer to wood-burning options. These must be vented through a chimney or a pipe.

For an easier installation, you can choose a ventless built-in fireplace, which does not require a vent of any kind. But don’t expect the classic fireside look with this option – the flame for these fireplaces is blue.

Pros

Gas fireplaces simulate the feel of a genuine fire but don’t come with the hassle of starting and maintaining them.

  • You can turn on your gas fireplace with the touch of a button, flip of a switch or tap of a remote control.
  • While the logs are ceramic, they emit real flames, without much maintenance or cleanup.
  • Since they burn real fire, electricity isn’t needed for operation, making them a more reliable source of heat compared to an electric fireplace.

Cons

Even with all the pros of a gas fireplace, there are a few striking cons that make it less desirable than a wood-burning alternative.

  • You need to hook them up to a gas line or propane tank.
  • They may emit contaminants into the air.
  • They don’t produce the sounds and smells that make wood-burning fireplaces so inviting.

Turning A Gas Fireplace Into A Wood-Burning Fireplace 

If your home came with a gas fireplace previously installed yet you yearn for the smoky aroma and crackle that a wood-burning fireplace offers, you can convert your gas fireplace into a wood-burning one.

Unfortunately, the process isn’t as cost-effective as going from wood to gas. According to Angie’s List, your contractor would need to completely replace the fireplace rather than do a simple conversion. Therefore, the cost of conversion is likely to be around $2,000 – $5,500.

You’ll need to get your flue and chimney inspected by a chimney sweep beforehand. You’ll also need a damper (a vent that opens and closes) and a properly working venting system installed.

While the price is high, the conversion process is relatively simple, with a professional removing the gas logs and capping off the gas line. Like the gas fireplace, all that’s left after installation is a yearly inspection and maintenance fee that usually runs between $100 and $150.

Electric Fireplace

If you don’t want the chimney, pipes, gas line or tank, you’ll need to opt for a low-maintenance alternative. An electric fireplace merely requires an outlet to power its heating coils. However, the flames it produces are only simulated.

Types Of Electric Fireplaces

If you want the no-hassle experience of an electric fireplace, you have a couple of options. You can install a mantel electric fireplace, which has the appearance of a formal, built-in fireplace. However, if your home is smaller, you may want to go for an electric fireplace TV stand or entertainment center.

Pros

An electric fireplace may not have a real flame, but it can look and feel like the real thing.

  • Electric fireplaces are the least expensive and replicate both the heat and light of a real fire.
  • They can be plugged into any outlet and start with just a push of a button.
  • They’re environmentally friendly and don’t emit fumes.

Cons

While the easy plug-in features of an electric fireplace may seem convenient, there are some less-than-convenient points as well.

  • If there’s an electrical outage, electric fireplaces cannot be used, unlike their gas and wood-burning relatives.
  • The heat is a little more costly since they’re similar to space heaters.
  • While they can simulate heat and light, they cannot simulate the smoky smell of a genuine wood-burning fireplace.

Ethanol Fireplace

Ethanol fireplaces produce a real flame without the need for a vent. Because it runs on an ethanol fuel, which is alcohol based, it doesn’t emit chemicals nor smoke into the room. Ethanol fireplaces come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and they tend to have a sleek, modern design.

Types Of Ethanol Fireplaces

Since ethanol fireplaces require minimal installation, the options you have revolve around where you want to put them and how you want them to look. Ethanol fireplaces can be wall mounted to provide a gorgeous focal point to any room. However, you can also choose from a variety of tabletop fireplace options, which are portable and can be moved on a whim.

If you already have a fireplace and want to convert it into an ethanol one, you can do that, too. You can buy one and insert it directly into your existing fireplace.

Pros

Ethanol fireplaces have become increasingly popular, as they can provide homeowners with the best of all worlds.

  • They are eco-friendlier than wood-burning and gas fireplaces.
  • They can be installed anywhere in your home because they don’t require chimneys, pipes, gas or electric lines.
  • Since they use burners, the temperature of the fire can be adjusted.

Cons 

Ethanol fireplaces have many great qualities, but there are some drawbacks when it comes to their day-to-day use.

  • They’re not that efficient and don’t produce as much heat as other types of fireplaces.
  • They are more expensive to use.
  • They don’t provide the same sensory experience and take much longer to heat up to their full potential.

Alcohol Gel Fireplace

Similar to ethanol options, alcohol gel fireplaces are installed without vents, pipes, outlets and gas lines. To ignite real flames, all they need is a can filled with gel fuel, which contains an isopropyl alcohol mixture.

Types Of Alcohol Gel Fireplaces

As another ventless, portable option, alcohol gel fireplaces come in the same options as ethanol ones. You can purchase a wall mounted fireplace or a freestanding model that can be moved around the room.

Pros

With real flames and that sweet, crackly noise we associate with cozy fires, alcohol gel fireplaces have some great qualities.

  • Self-contained and fueled by alcohol gel, these fireplaces are highly portable.
  • They produce a true flame without the need for venting or installation.
  • They create a similar sensory experience to wood-burning, but they don’t produce smoke.

Cons 

Although alcohol gel fireplaces are easy to install, they’re more of a burden to use.

  • The gel cans must be purchased separately and replaced frequently, typically after 2 – 3 hours.
  • Although purchasing an alcohol gel fireplace can be more affordable, the cost of using it is far more expensive.
  • They produce much less heat than other types of fireplaces.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Installing a fireplace can transform any room and make it feel homey. While there are many types of fireplaces, they may not all work for your space. When deciding which type is appropriate for your home, begin by determining what you can realistically install. Then, you can think about the cost, efficiency, maintenance and aesthetics.

For more ideas for your home, check out the homeowner tips on the Rocket HomesSM blog.

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Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.