The Efficiency and Expense of Gas vs. Wood Fireplaces

Boulder, Colorado House Cleaning Service

A Boulder County winter can be frigid. But a fireplace at home can make the season not just bearable, but downright cozy. 

If your home doesn’t have a fireplace and you’re looking to install one to enjoy throughout the colder seasons, you may be wondering whether to choose a wood-burning or gas fireplace.

A wood-burning fireplace relies on firewood, which comes with the added bonus of comforting crackles and a soothing aroma. But the smoke, ash and wood chips also mean wood-burning fireplaces need more clean-up and maintenance.

Gas-burning fireplaces are typically as easy as flipping as switch — literally. However, gas-burning fireplaces don’t come with the hominess of a real wood fire.

One way to help you decide? The difference in cost between gas and wood-burning fireplaces. Let’s look at how the two types of fireplaces stack up when it comes to efficiency and expense.

Gas or Wood: Which is More Efficient?

Gas fireplaces are more efficient than wood-burning fireplaces.

With a wood-burning fireplace, you have to expend energy to gather, cut, stack and store the wood. It also takes more work to start a wood fire, clean up afterward, and maintain your chimney throughout the year.

Wood burns dirtier than gas, and leaves a build-up in your chimney called creosote, which is something you need to get cleaned every year. Wood fires also send more heat up your chimney than gas, so you have to burn more fuel to get the same heat output.

However, a wood-burning fire is still more efficient than running a whole-house furnace if you’re looking to heat a single room. And unlike gas, wood a renewable resource. So if used properly and responsibly, wood could be considered more efficient in the long run.

Pro-tip: If you want to burn wood, choosing the right kind of wood can improve the efficiency of your fire. Read our blog on Colorado woods that burn the hottest »

Gas or Wood: Which is More Expensive?

The answer to whether a wood-burning or gas fireplace is more expense isn’t completely clear.

The initial cost of installing a new wood-burning brick fireplace is generally more expensive than putting in a gas fireplace. But after installation, the difference in price depends on the cost of fuel and the efficiency of your specific fireplace.

A modern gas fireplace can run for as little as 17 cents an hour. That means a long night of relaxing by the fire can be bought for less than a dollar.

It’s estimated that using on average, a gas fireplace costs about $60 per year. This price can vary greatly based on where you live—Alaska has many more cold nights than Arizona—and how much you use it.

The cost of wood, on the other hand, depends on what kind you get, and where you’re getting it from.

If you live on a plot of land with plenty of trees, you might be able to fuel your fireplace for free for life. You may also be able to find free firewood through neighbors on Craigslist or Nextdoor. Other sources of free wood include fallen branches after storms, sawmills giving away scraps, and used wooden pallets.

If you buy firewood in bulk, you can also save a lot. You might pay about $225 for a cord of wood (a pile 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long — a lot of wood), which could last you as long as 4 months in the winter!

But if you buy your firewood piecemeal at the grocery store or gas station, the same amount of wood will cost you a lot more. Enough wood for your fireplace for just 4 hours or so of enjoyment will probably cost you $10 if you buy it this way.

Save Money with a Clean Chimney

Regardless of whether you get your wood for free or not, you can boost heat efficiency and save money by keeping your chimney clean and well-maintained. A dirty chimney is a pricey chimney.

The soot and creosote build-up in your chimney from burning wood is not only a safety hazard, it can also reduce air circulation and require you to burn more wood to keep your fire hot. Cleaning your chimney takes care of that.

Regular maintenance also spot air leaks and structural flaws in your chimney that could be affecting efficiency.

Don’t waste another dollar on an inefficient wood-burning fireplace. Contact GSC’s Sunshine Chimney Cleaning to get your chimney cleaned today »