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Choosing The Right Fireplace

The warmth and ambiance of a crackling fire can transform a dull, cold living room into a cozy space. Whether you are envisioning cozy winter evenings or seeking to add a touch of timeless charm to your home, investing in a fireplace is a choice that merges functionality with aesthetic appeal.

Assessing the many options available in the world of fireplaces can be overwhelming, but not anymore. This comprehensive fireplace buying guide highlights the key factors to consider in order to choose the right fireplace for your home.

How to Choose a Fireplace

Fireplaces are categorized according to their designs, which include the type of fuel they use, the material used to make them, their position, and style. When looking for one to buy, you must consider all these factors and the intended purpose of the fireplace. You can choose a fireplace that only heats your house, one that cooks, or one with both functionalities.

Where and what to use the fireplace for

Main Heating Unit

A fireplace can be your main heating unit, or it can add to an already existing one. You should identify the main areas you need it to heat since 1kW of power usually heats up to 10m2. Important factors you should consider with usability are your region, the insulation in your home, altitude, flooring, and glazing. 

For fireplaces that will serve as the only heating source, value for money should be your only concern. Wood is still the best fuel option because it is more economical. Wood fireplaces will also continue to provide heat even if there is a blackout. However, you have to remember that a fireplace cannot work as a central heating unit because of its inability to supply heat to all the rooms in your house.

Additional Heating Unit

If you’ll use the fireplace to back up another heating method, choose a wood-burning fireplace. Out of all the fuel options, burning wood is the least expensive yet still effective in providing secondary heat. You can also opt for other fuel sources like gas if you can afford them.

Decorative Purposes

You could also buy it as a decorative feature. In that case, choose a hearth that enhances the view of the fire. Glass hearths tend to have an unobstructed view of the fire, making them perfect for the visual effect.

A wooden fireplace also requires a lot of attention. You will need to prepare and store the wood properly and feed the logs to the fireplace. On the other hand, wood usually smells better than gas fireplaces. Most people also find having a chimney better than having a boiler.

You should discuss your preferred fireplace options with your contractor or architect to get a professional perspective. They will help you understand the latest heating regulations as well as get the perfect thermal balance in your home. Understanding the regulations before investing in a fireplace is essential because they change frequently.

Available fireplace types to choose from

1. Wood-burning Fireplaces

Wood-burning fireplaces are better if you have a chimney flue or another fresh air inlet. Wood is usually more efficient, especially when the fireplace has a dual combustion system. Such a system will burn up the emitted gases completely. This system allows you to use less wood and get increased heat. You can also choose between open fireplaces that have an efficiency not exceeding 15% and closed ones that have more than 75%.

There are different types of wood fireplaces, each with benefits and limitations. Here are the top types of wood-burning fireplaces.

Traditional built-in Wood Fireplace

Think of an open-hearth-style classic fireplace used in homes for centuries. Such traditional fireplaces can be factory-built and installed onsite or constructed onsite using classic masonry techniques. Be sure to assess the benefits and limitations of a wood-burning fireplace before buying it.


  • Traditional wood-burning fireplaces offer timeless aesthetic properties

  • They can use various combustible materials, such as wood

  • They are constructed using various materials such as stone, brick, and more

  • They’re available in circulating and radiant versions


  • Traditional wood-burning fireplaces may be less efficient than electric fireplaces and other alternatives

  • They’re more decorative rather than efficient indoor heating systems

  • Usually require a dedicated chimney or a new one

Wood Fire Insert

This is a pre-fabricated unit that requires a professional installation in an existing fireplace. These self-contained inserts often have a venting system and a firebox. This makes them a great option if your existing chimney structure is unusable or damaged.

Fireplace inserts often operate like wood-burning stoves or furnaces but with outstanding aesthetics. Most of them have blowers to efficiently circulate heated air throughout the room.


  • They are more efficient and generate extra heat compared to a traditional built-in wood-burning fireplace

  • Limits heat loss and drafts even when not in use

  • It’s easy to install even when you already have a perfect fireplace

  • Many design options to choose from


  • Not compatible with all types of fireplaces

  • Wood-burning fireplace inserts are less authentic than open-earth fireplaces

Wood-Burning Stove

A modern, freestanding wood-burning stove is a versatile wood-burning fireplace that can be placed nearly anywhere within your home, as long as you have an efficient vent. These fireplace units are made of cast iron, partially soapstone, or steel. You can choose either a modern or traditional appearance.


  • Available in a variety of fireplace styles, log-holding capacities, and sizes

  • Flexible fireplace placement options

  • Energy-efficient fireplace with optional blowers


  • Requires dedicated, direct venting

  • Requires a non-combustible hearth pad or solid masonry floor

  • Lacks the ambiance of a built-in fireplace

Note that there are important wood fireplace decisions you must make when choosing the best fireplace. Remember, you aim to add a beautiful fireplace as a safe and efficient heat source. So consider the type of fireplace you want, design style, venting requirements, convenience features, efficiency, hearth, and surround options. It’s equally important to consider fireplace safety and maintenance requirements.

2. Gas Fireplace

If you desire the aesthetic properties and allure of wood fireplaces without the hassle of frequent cleanups, electric and gas fireplaces are the way to go. Gas fireplaces are easy to use and require minimal maintenance, making them a solid pick for most homeowners.

These fireplaces are connected to a duct that feeds gas to the heater. These appliances don’t have to be attached to the wall to function, and most of them are conventional. Gas fireplaces have a performance efficiency of over 90%.

There are many benefits of electric and gas fireplaces as opposed to wood-burning fireplaces. For instance, they are safer. Considering you have a controlled flame, direct vent gas fireplaces are safer to operate within a home compared to wood fireplaces.

Gas fireplace inserts require limited maintenance. If you prefer gas logs, you don’t need to sweep your chimney or hire someone to keep it clean and functional. Further, you don’t need to chop wood and feed it to the fireplace.

Generally, gas fireplace inserts generate and retain more heat compared to standard fireplaces. This makes them more energy-efficient than wood-burning fireplace options. Additionally, there are different alternatives to choose from. For instance, you can choose either vented gas logs or ventless gas logs, depending on your preferences. Other factors to consider include:

  • The pros and cons of vented and ventless gas logs

  • Propane vs. natural gas logs

  • Gas log size

  • Fireplace measurements for gas logs

  • Gas log materials

  • Gas log appearance

Remember, not all gas log sets are created equal. Therefore, you need to find the top gas log sets and compare their benefits and limitations. This way, you can choose an efficient gas fireplace that matches your indoor heating requirements. 

3. Bioethanol Fireplaces

Bioethanol fireplaces are usually portable and require little to no maintenance. They also burn faster, making them perfect for cold seasons. Bioethanol is cleaner and more efficient than all the other types. It doesn’t produce smoke or odour and doesn’t lose heat. You won’t need a professional to install it either.

4. Electric Fireplaces 

Generally, electric fireplaces mimic the flames produced by actual fire but still warm up the room. With electricity as fuel, the fireplace doesn’t produce smoke or smell. It has an efficiency of over 90% and doesn’t need special maintenance.


An electric fireplace is no stranger to the skeptics who question the efficiency and aesthetics of a flameless fireplace. However, there are many benefits of an electric fireplace. Therefore, when comparing a natural gas fireplace and an electric fireplace unit, there are two key differences to keep in mind.

An electric fireplace uses an innovative LED light system and strategically placed reflective mirrors. This creates a realistic illusion of a real fire without the hassle of wood-fueled fireplaces or the hazard of the real fire flame associated with a natural gas fireplace.

Secondly, an electric fireplace allows you to enjoy the aesthetic properties of a modern fireplace with or without heat. This fireplace option uses reflected light that complements the existing decor. That means you can switch off the heating component separately and still enjoy the beauty of dancing orange flames all year long. This makes them an eco-friendly indoor heating solution.


Unfortunately, an electric fireplace isn’t a reliable sole source of heat, like burning logs or other different types of fireplaces. Considering they don’t emit as much heat as wood or gas, they are a good choice if you plan to supplement your primary heat source.

Additionally, you cannot use them during a power outage. So, when choosing a fireplace for your house, consider the power stability in your area, particularly if you want to purchase an electric fireplace. Unless you have a power backup, you will not be able to use your fireplace when power goes out.

What are the Types of Hearths to Choose from?

The hearth you choose to be installed with your fireplace should be determined by the main purpose of the fireplace.

1. Closed Hearths

These are for fireplaces that are purely for heating. The enclosure helps save fuel while producing more heat. The fire will last thrice as long as that of an open hearth, and the dust won’t escape into your living space. These fireplaces require more maintenance and tend to be more expensive than their counterparts.

2. Open Hearths

These hearths are built into walls and act as decorative features. The openness doesn’t help with heat conservation, making these the least economical fireplaces. You only get enough heat from them, but the visual effects from the fire are pleasant. They have ducts that eliminate the smoke, but they waste up to 80% of the heat.

3. Chimney Insert

These are placed inside the chimney and are mostly rectangular. They are smaller and without smoke chambers. The hot air will be dispersed with a turbine that’s built at the front panel. The fireplace sucks the air from the room in the lower section, heats the air in a second compartment, and channels that air through the grill at the top. The primary purpose of these fireplaces is to heat, which is why they have less visual appeal.

Valuable information you should have before buying a fireplace

  • Consider the main purpose of the fireplace. To narrow down your options, decide whether you’re more interested in the heat efficiency, the aesthetic appeal, or both.

  • Never buy a fireplace with the hope that it will heat multiple rooms. Use it to heat a single room.

  • Fireplaces that have thermostats and are self-modulating tend to be more efficient. They will automatically regulate the heat depending on the room temperature.

  • Don’t ignore the fireplace trim designs because they will affect the décor. Make sure they blend well with your existing decorations.

  • Check out the fireplace without the flames because you won’t be using it 24/7. It should be as appealing as it is with the flames on.

  • Heating inserts that rely on fans to disperse the hot air may be inconvenient and less efficient. Fans should only enhance the output, not control it.

  • Choose decorative log sets that leave room in the fireplace to keep the valve from overheating and improve the visual effect.

  • Choose the preferable control feature, whether a thermostat, remote control, or wall switch.

  • If you can’t find a gas fireplace, electric fireplaces are the better option.

  • Buy from a retailer that gives you a licensed and insured HVAC professional to install the fireplace for you.

Other Factors to Consider

Beyond considering the different types of fireplaces and where you place them in your home or how you use them, there are other important considerations. Here are the other factors you should consider when choosing a fireplace for your home.

The Cost of Fireplace

One such crucial aspect is the cost associated with acquiring and installing a fireplace. The expenses can significantly differ based on the chosen fireplace type and the general installation approach. For instance, a traditional fireplace with a wood mantel may be costlier than a simple gas stove or fire pit. Assessing this financial aspect beforehand ensures a clear understanding of the investment required.

The cost of acquiring and installing a fireplace ranges from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, especially if you prefer luxurious fireplace options. In addition to other factors, you need to consider the electric fireplace costs and compare them with the installation cost of gas models, real wood fireplace models, and other options.

The cost may also increase depending on fireplace design and regular maintenance requirements for gas options, fireplaces that require vents, and additional storage.


Equally imperative is comprehending the warranty details that come with your preferred fireplace option. Warranty details vary depending on the fireplace type and manufacturer. Knowing the extent and limitations of the warranty is paramount.

Understanding which components are covered, the reasons for coverage, and the duration of the warranty are critical in making an informed purchase decision. Remember, a comprehensive warranty partly shows the level of confidence manufacturers have in their fireplaces.


Generally, selecting the ideal fireplace for your home involves a multifaceted evaluation beyond mere aesthetics and functionality. Considering factors like performance, efficiency, aesthetics, suitability in terms of size, installation costs, and warranty details plays a pivotal role in ensuring an informed decision.

Armed with a comprehensive understanding of these elements, you can confidently embark on the journey of acquiring a new fireplace whose installation process not only complements your living space but also aligns with your long-term expectations of quality and satisfaction.

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