Types of Fireplace

Types of Fireplace Explained (Including Pros & Cons)

In Electric Fireplaces, Gas Fireplaces, Indoor Fireplaces, Wood Burning Fireplaces, Wood Burning Stovesby James O'KellyLeave a Comment

We take you through the main types of fireplace, outlining their pros and cons and providing more in-depth information about how they function and what’s required for installation, operation and maintenance.

Electric Fireplace

Electric fireplaces are appliances aimed at matching the heat output, look, and feel that is commonly provided by a traditional open fireplace. Electric fireplaces have a heating element that helps to heat your room, while also containing a built-in screen that shows a flame to represent a roaring fire.

Electric fireplaces can either come as an entire unit or as an insert for an existing fireplace, and both the temperature and type of flame can be adjusted to suit your preference. If your room gets too hot, most electric fireplaces allow you to keep the flame going while not putting out any more heat.

Electric fireplaces work by heating the air in the room through the use of a heating coil. Fans within the electric fireplace suck in cooler air through the heating coil and force out warmer air, therefore heating your room up. Electric fireplaces are 100% efficient, meaning that no warmth is lost up a chimney or through a vent.

Popularity of electric fireplaces is on the rise thanks to electricity being the most common source of power to a house, and because most rooms are fitted with one or more plug sockets, electric fireplaces can be the most cost-effective option for heating your home, while still keeping that cozy fireplace feeling.

Electric fireplaces help heat your home much like a conventional fan heater would, but also help to provide the same pleasant aesthetic look and feeling that of a conventional wood-burning fireplace. Unlike wood-burning fireplaces or stoves, electric fireplaces don’t leave behind a heap of half-burnt wood and ash, don’t require a constant supply of wood, and are family and pet-friendly.

Although modern electric fireplace flames can look almost realistic, the flames are just for show, and won’t harm anyone, or anything, that touches it.

There’s a wide variety of choice when it comes to buying an electric fireplace. While many will come as inserts for your existing fireplace, with imitation fireplaces being the most popular, some electric fireplaces can be wall-mounted, even to replace a picture frame. You can also buy electric fireplace TV stands.

Electric fireplaces can come with equipped with logs or coal to imitate the real versions, and the surrounds can be made to be traditional or more modern to suit your preferences.

Pros
  • Easy to install anywhere in the house
  • Can be turned off instantaneously (not need to wait for it to die out)
  • The safest option if you have children or pets (the flame isn’t real)
  • Doesn’t require venting (no dangerous fumes or gases emitted)
  • No mess, with nothing to clean up afterwards
  • Can be installed even if your house doesn’t have an existing fireplace
  • Able to take with you if you move home
  • Can be removed if not wanted anymore
  • No preparation time required
  • Come with a remote control
  • Can come as TV stands
  • Can choose whether to have either the flame or heater on, or both
  • Large range of styles to suit your home
Cons
  • Doesn’t provide the same nostalgic feeling as a traditional fireplace.
  • Might not add the same value to your home as a wood or gas fireplace
  • Won’t be able to heat the whole of your house
  • Electricity generation supplying your home might not be environmentally friendly
  • Although realistic looking, the flames are fake
  • Won’t operate in a power cut

Gas Fireplace

Another popular alternative to electric fireplaces is a gas fireplace, thanks to their more traditional fireplace looks and ability to be freestanding or inserted into existing fireplaces.

If your home already has a gas supply, a gas fireplace may be the best option. Gas fireplaces are very efficient and generally have the highest heat output for the price compared to all the other types of fireplaces. If your home doesn’t have a supply of natural gas, then you’ll need to get a propane tank installed (LPG) if you want to use a gas fireplace.

Gas fireplaces can also come in direct-vent or ventless versions; the latter not requiring a chimney or vent, which can be a great reason to buy for many.

Direct vent gas fireplaces don’t require a chimney, and instead need a vent to the outside through an external wall in your home. Air is sucked in from outside your house and any gases released from the fireplace are vented to the outside.

Ventless gas fireplaces don’t require either a chimney or a vent, and as long as you can provide a supply of gas, can be placed on any internal wall in your house, not just on an external wall. Ventless gas fireplace flames burn the gas cleanly enough to not release any toxic fumes into your home, such as carbon monoxide.

Gas fireplaces can also come with added security features for your peace of mind, such as shutting off automatically after a certain number of hours of continuous use.

Gas fireplace can be bought with a range of looks to fit in with the style of your home.

Pros
  • Burns more cleanly than wood burning fireplaces
  • Typically produce more heat with lower energy costs than other types of fireplace
  • Can be inserted into an existing open fireplace
  • Offered in vented and ventless options
  • Can be turned on an off with the switch of a button
  • Large range of styles to suit your home
  • Can be used during a power cut
  • Slightly more realistic than electric fireplaces
Cons
  • Requires source of gas (natural gas or propane tank)
  • Doesn’t provide the same nostalgic feeling as a traditional fireplace
  • Small risk of contaminants being released into your home
  • Requires professional installation and maintenance.

Wood-Burning Fireplace

Wood-burning fireplaces are the classic open form of fireplace that have been part of many people’s lives over the years. The sound and smell of a crackling fire on a cold winters evening provides peace and comfort to many.

Unfortunately if you want to keep your fireplace looking nice then you’ll have to clean it after every use. Furthermore, you’ll need also need to ideally have your chimney(s) cleaned every year if used regularly to make sure that they are operating safely and efficiently. It’s also likely that you’ll need space next to the fireplace for short-term storage of the wood, as well as an area for long-term storage.

Wood-burning fireplaces are also renowned for being very inefficient. More than half of all the heat generated by the fire can be lost up the chimney, which is required because the burning wood release toxins in the form of smoke, as well as carbon monoxide.

Wood-burning stoves are much more efficient at providing heat output into your home, but require the fire to be locked away inside the stove to achieve this.

Unlike gas or electric fireplaces which can be turned on or off in an instant, wood-burning fireplaces require preparation time to get the fire setup and going. Regular checking of the fire will also be required to make sure that it doesn’t die out.

Screens are recommended to accompany a wood-burning fireplace, as they will often spit out burning embers. If you have pets of young children, then screens and ongoing overseeing of the fire becomes a necessity.

The great thing about have a traditional wood-burning fireplace in your home is that is can be converted into any other gas, electric or wood burning stove fireplace, as well as easily being converted back to an open fireplace if you require.

Furthermore, the smell, looks and sounds of a wood-burning fireplace can be altered to suit your preference by choosing the type of wood to burn. Hardwoods also generally produce more heat than softwoods.

Pros
  • Provides that feeling of nostalgia (looks, sound and smell)
  • Can look great in any house
  • Can easily be converted to other forms of fireplace and vice-versa
  • Choose the type of logs to burn to your liking
  • Can be used during a power cut
Cons
  • Requires periodic supply of wood
  • Storage area required for the wood.
  • Requires cleaning after every use (to remain looking tidy)
  • Chimney requires cleaning annually for safety and efficiency
  • Expensive to install in existing homes
  • Requires grate for safety
  • Accessories required for maintenance of fire
  • Not child and pet friendly
  • Releases harmful smoke and emissions

Wood-Burning Stove

Wood-burning stoves, also known as log burners or wood burners, are much more efficient at heating your room than traditional wood-burning fireplaces. The fire is self-contained within the stove, and the flames can be seen through a glass-paneled door.

Wood-burning stoves are usually inserted into your existing fireplace but can be installed with their own flue, at an added expense.

Much like traditional wood-burning fireplaces, wood-burning stoves will require a constant supply of wood to keep the fire going. You’ll need a large supply of wood if you’re going to be using it regularly.

The fire is kept behind the doors of the stove so are more child and pet friendly than an open wood fireplace, but the stove itself will still be extremely hot to the touch.

As with gas and electric fireplaces, there is a range of styles available to suit your liking. From traditional to contemporary, you’ll find the right wood-burning stove for your home.

Pros
  • Much more efficient than open fireplaces
  • Range of designs available
  • Heats the room even after fire has died out
Cons
  • Can be expensive
  • Requires a flue
  • Requires periodic top up of wood require to maintain heat
  • Chimney requires cleaning annually for safety and efficiency
  • Remains require cleaning out
  • Releases harmful smoke and emissions

Ethanol Fireplace

Ethanol fireplaces are one of the newest types of fireplace to the market, and use liquid bioethanol as a source of fuel. The flame burns with a blue hint, making ethanol fireplaces most suited to homes with a contemporary design.

Ethanol fireplaces generally have a refillable bioethanol burner.

Much like electric fireplaces, ethanol fireplaces can be turned on or off in an instant, and can be mounted in many locations across your house with ease.

Furthermore, ethanol fireplaces don’t require venting and so can be placed on any internal wall of your house, meaning that all of the heat produced will stay within your home.

However, ethanol fireplaces generally produce less heat that gas or wood-burning fireplaces, and so are usually used more for their decorative purposes rather than their home-heating capabilities.

Pros
  • Doesn’t require venting
  • Modern-looking
  • No ashes or smoke
  • Quick and easy installation
Cons
  • Lower heat output that other types of fireplace
  • Liquid bioethanol is highly flammable
  • Requires refilling when fuel source is depleted

Which Type of Fireplace?

Will you go for an electric fireplace that offers ease of installation and a readily available power source in most rooms, or keep your traditional wood-burning fireplace for its crackling and winters night cozy feeling? Gas fireplaces generally produce the most heat for the cost but will you be able to provide a supply of gas to the fireplace?

It’s worth reading through all of the types of fireplace as well as the pros and cons of each before making your decision.

Leave a Comment