Emergency service needed? We're ready to help! Request Service


Gas vs Wood-Burning Fireplace: Which is More Efficient?

Gass vs Wood burning fireplaces which is more efficient

Last Updated: December 14th, 2021

For hundreds of years, fireplaces have been the focal point of homes, providing warmth and a central location to rest and entertain guests. In recent years, homeowners’ choices for fireplaces have expanded dramatically to include a variety of designs and fuels.

Gas, wood, and electric fireplaces are options that offer safety, convenience, and efficiency. Two of the most popular choices for Portland homes are gas and wood burning fireplaces.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of each. 

What is a Wood Burning Fireplace?

The smell and sound of crackling firewood give many people a sense of security and warmth, offering a natural, outdoorsy experience. There is nothing so amazing as a blazing fire crackling while you relax on a comfy couch after a long day at work, especially when the weather has turned dark and rainy.

Most people think of an open masonry fireplace when they hear “wood fireplace.” These fireplaces are open and usually constructed of bricks, stones, or mortar. Masonry wood burning fireplaces are built when the house is built and require extra supports to take the weight of the stone or brick. 

Pros and Cons of Wood Burning Fireplaces

As the name suggests, the first thing you’ll need is wood. In the Pacific Northwest, people who live in rural areas are typically surrounded by a ready supply of wood outside.

However, if you live in the suburbs or city, your neighbors will most likely not support you singing lumberjack songs while randomly felling trees. Because of the effort required many wood fireplaces go unused.

With wood burning fireplaces, it’s unsafe to leave a fire unattended. Even when ashes seem to be cold and the fire has died out, a fire can start from glowing embers. Fireplaces that are wood burning are more difficult to keep clean since soot and ashes must be regularly removed.

There’s also the issue of cleaning out the creosote, which is a buildup of soot in the chimney that can cause a flue fire if it isn’t cleaned out. Additionally, open fireplaces are inefficient for heating and can produce smoke that reduces indoor air quality.

What is a Gas Fireplace?

One of the most common heating sources in Portland homes is natural gas fireplaces. Used to warm homes, gas fireplaces create a welcoming atmosphere and unlike electric or wood burning fireplaces, do not require electricity or wood.

Instead, a gas burning fireplace uses natural gas to create a warm and cozy space with significant heat output.

Gas fireplaces come in two varieties: vented and ventless. Vented units draw air from the outside of the fireplace to keep the flame burning by eliminating all of the gases produced during combustion. Ventless gas fireplaces are more effective at heating a home, but exhaust flames are kept inside the fireplace.

Pros and Cons of Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are considered eco-friendly and, as a bonus, people who opt for a gas fireplace do not have to worry about cutting, hauling, or storing wood logs. Just flip a switch and you have instant ambiance!

Modern-day gas fireplaces burn realistic-looking logs that give homes a cozy glow with few maintenance issues, but you won’t get the crackle of a wood fire with gas.

Because gas fireplaces do not produce actual combustion it allows for a zero-clearance installation. With a natural gas connection, a homeowner can install a gas fireplace virtually anywhere in their house – under a window, in a corner, or even in the middle of a room.

Gas fireplaces can be exposed on three sides or four sides. However, those glass doors can get hot to the touch and you may need to consider a screen to protect curious tiny fingers and pets in your home.

Gas vs Wood Fireplace – Which is More Efficient?

The efficiency of a gas or traditional wood burning fireplace depends on how well it can convert fuel into usable heat. On average, a typical wood burning fireplace is only 10 percent efficient in heating a space.

And if the room isn’t well-insulated, there may even be a negative efficiency when the chimney draws chilly air into the house by drafting it through gaps in the insulation.

Gas fireplaces can be around 60 to 90 percent efficient depending on the type of model. The downside is that it can also be more expensive to run a gas fireplace over a wood burning one since the fuel often costs more than wood. Yet gas fireplaces are more eco-friendly, using less energy while keeping a home warm.

Many homeowners want to modernize their homes and replace their existing fireplace with an efficient gas fireplace insert

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Gas Fireplace Insert?

Gas fireplaces start at $5000 and go up from there. When choosing a gas fireplace insert in your existing fireplace you need to consider the cost of running a gas line, installation, and equipment.

Depending on the type of gas insert you have chosen you may also need to vent the fireplace to the outdoors requiring some drywall and siding cutting for placement. Permits are needed to install gas fireplaces, so this isn’t a DIY project.

Gas fireplaces should be installed by a professional who knows their way around flames, venting, gas, and electricity and the labor cost should be factored into your budget.

Jacobs installs Heat & Glo in Portland

For decades, Heat & Glo has been helping homeowners transform their homes with elegant gas fireplaces for both indoors and outside spaces. There are a few factors many homeowners may not think about when considering a gas fireplace — including how to not roast your guests when they come over for game night. A Jacobs technician can help you get those details right.

As an authorized Heat & Glo installer, Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning will help navigate options and tailor your gas fireplace for your Portland home. From modern to traditional, Jacobs has a Heat & Glo fireplace just for you and your budget, vision, and unique style.  

How Jacobs Can Help

Deciding on a gas fireplace can be daunting. A new fireplace isn’t just about choices. There is also installation, venting, heat management solutions, wiring, permits, and inspections.

Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning experts are here to guide you through the process to help you pick the right Heat & Glo fireplace for your home and make sure it is installed with our high standards.

Extend the life of your gas fireplace, avoid extra costs and fewer repairs by scheduling a tune-up for your existing system before issues arise. Our maintenance plans keep your gas fireplaces running like clockwork without any stress or hassle. No matter what you need we’re always just a phone call away. You are welcome to review our statement on COVID-19 and how we’re taking precautions to protect you, our team, and our communities.

About the Author

Amanda Jacobs portrait

Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.