Wood is good! But when it comes to deciding between different wood-burning solutions for heating your home, some comparison shopping is in order. Today we’ll look at the features of wood fireplaces and stoves, and see how each “stacks up.” Get it? Wood…stacks up. Anyway, let’s compare some of the key features to look out for when deciding between a whole hearth unit and a stove.
The price tag. It’s a necessary “evil,” if you will. While the following additional factors may ultimately be more important to you in the long run, your wallet may dictate what you decide to buy now. Home heating is a valuable commodity, and as such carries prices to match. For heating on a budget, you might consider a wood-burning fireplace. For a standard factory-built fireplace, look to spend an average of $3,000 – $5,000 in the DC area. Note that replacing/updating an old unit costs less, as it involves only swapping the hardware, however fabricating a fireplace from scratch will involve heavy construction and weighing the costs of different materials (i.e. stone vs. brick). Wood stoves, on the other hand, are pricier from the outset. These run at an average of $2,500 – $4,000 PLUS the cost of installation and venting. You’ll also have to think about whether or not a special ventilation system is necessary for your stove if the home doesn’t already have fireplace venting. Stoves can either be vented through a wall or chimney and the method matters to your wallet!
Each unit uses wood as the fuel source, which is easy to come by and relatively inexpensive when bought, but there are major differences in the efficiency levels of fireplaces and stoves. Wood fireplaces are best used to heat a single room because during combustion, a fireplace takes in air from inside your home and may bring it in from outside to send smoke and CO up the chimney. This can bring a draft through the house, so you benefit from less of the fire’s heat. A stove, on the other hand, is potentially 50% more energy efficient, according to the EPA, and uses 1/3 less wood for heat while providing more warmth than its fireplace counterpart.
We absolutely cannot forget about the environment when weighing our options between a fireplace and a stove. A major player here is carbon monoxide, which is toxic when inhaled. Burning wood is considered to be environmentally-safe and carbon-neutral, as emissions amount to only 0.00612 pounds of CO per hour, but should still be monitored. Carbon monoxide emissions vary between the two types of units, with a lower risk of in-house pollution from a stove, as combustion gases flow straight up and out of a stovepipe instead of into your home. A fireplace, however, might back draft some hazardous gases into your home, with the rest escaping through the chimney. In either case, however, a certain degree of CO makes its way into the atmosphere, affecting the surrounding area. It’s a tight race in this case, however when considering the larger environment and your own home, we have a clear winner.
As one blogger we encountered put it, a wood stove in the corner of a room sometimes just looks “sad.” Wood stoves are often big, freestanding metal units that simply look awkward when not in use and do little to add beauty to a room. A nice compromise is to opt for a wood stove insert, which would occupy the fireplace area, but you might still want to have a standard wood fireplace for added beauty. A wood fireplace is very much a centerpiece to the room it occupies. Dressed with an elegant mantle, rustic bricks and/or gorgeous tiling, it brings joy to a room. You can add to it seasonally, with decorative accents placed atop the mantle and much more. And when that fire’s lit—boy you’ll be in for a treat! Between the low crackling of wood and the glow of the flames, a fireplace brings the ambiance!
Wood-burning comes with some hazards. For instance, we know that both units rely on wood for fuel, which itself can carry mildew or pests. We also know that burning wood can result in creosote buildup inside a chimney, a possible house fire risk. With diligence, though, these problems can be managed. Additionally, many times wood-burning fireplaces are open, sometimes with a mesh curtain for minimal protection. This means that sparks can fly out, resulting in the potential for burns on your hands/arms or for your property to catch fire. Along those same lines, wood-burning stoves are enclosed, usually by a glass door. Without sacrificing heat, that closed door will usually keep you, your family and your property safe, with sparks only being problematic when tending to the fire. It is important to realize, though, that although stove flames are sequestered behind closed doors, the unit itself will become quite hot and should not be touched to avoid further burn risks. The safety levels of each type of unit are pretty equal when all is considered.
Winner: It’s a tie!
There are lots of things to think about when it comes to choosing how to heat your home. Sticker price, efficiency, greenness and other factors are just the tip of the iceberg in choosing between a wood fireplace and stove. The two compare quite closely, but the choice really depends on which features you value more. No matter which one wins in your book, fireplace or stove, High’s Chimney has you covered! Call us to discuss your needs today!