When it comes to efficiently heating your home you’ll want to look at various whole-home HVAC systems, baseboard radiators, etc. The most efficient fireplace is irrelevant for your entire house but it isn’t when it comes to a room. A fireplace can heat a single room quite well. The benefit of this is that you can turn down the heat in the rest of your home and save money.
The short answer to this question is that electric fireplaces are the most efficient, gas comes in second, and traditional wood burning fireplaces come in a distant third. This doesn’t mean that an electric fireplace is the best choice for you as there are obviously unique pros and cons to each. It does mean that if efficiency is your primary selection criteria then an electric fireplace will most likely be the best choice.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
Traditional wood burning fireplaces are beautiful without a doubt and they put off quite a bit of heat. As for efficiency however, a great deal of that heat goes directly up and out the chimney. Wood burning fireplaces also come with a great deal of maintenance. Ash and coals must be removed and chimneys must be cleaned annually to avoid risk of creosote buildup catching fire within the chimney. The chimney itself is very expensive and requires a great deal of attention around the top to prevent water damage. The overall expense of a traditional wood burning fireplace is incredibly high due to the construction costs of they chimney. For all these reasons, traditional wood burning fireplaces are on the decline.
Gas fireplaces are a vast improvement over traditional wood burning fireplaces. They are much more efficient though not as much so as electric fireplaces. Maintenance is very low in comparison. You may need to have your gas provider come out on rare occasion to address an issue or you may need to have the gas burners serviced. Gas logs can be fairly compelling visually but they typically fall short of a real fireplace when it comes to aesthetics. Venting is required but a chimney is not. They do retrofit very well into an existing wood burning fireplace. New construction can install a venting system and avoid the massive expense of a full chimney. The efficiency hit that gas has is due to the venting whether it’s via a chimney or of venting system. Heat will escape this way the same as heat escapes via the chimney in a traditional wood burning fireplace. Gas fireplaces are far less expensive to build than a traditional fireplace. They still require a significant investment but if you’re looking to retrofit gas into an existing fireplace it’s an excellent choice.
Electric fireplaces require basically no maintenance. The only issue would be if there were a failure of some kind that would need services although with little to no moving parts failures are typically very rare. Aesthetically, electric fireplaces can range from passable to stunning. Even though no real flame is used in an electric fireplace, there are some very amazing options available. The Opti-Myst line of electric fireplaces produced by Dimplex is one of the most realistic looking faux fireplaces you’ll every see. Vastly more realistic than even the majority of gas fireplaces. Electric fireplaces range in expense from incredibly cheap to similar to gas. Versatility of installation is without equal though. Electric fireplaces can be mounted on a wall, installed within a media console, or put on casters and can be wheeled around a room to be placed wherever might be convenient. They retrofit into an existing fireplace extremely well and can do so for far less than a gas fireplace. For many, gas isn’t an option if there isn’t a provider in their area. Also, the expense of running a new gas line could be cost prohibitive if a gas line to your home doesn’t already exist. Another great benefit of electric fireplaces is the ability to turn the heating portion off in warmer weather and still enjoy the relaxing flickering flame.
In Conclusion: Most Efficient Fireplace – Wood Burning, Gas, or Electric
Electric fireplaces are clearly the most efficient fireplace winner as no heat is lost via a chimney or venting system. When it comes to other costs they win there as well. They are generally as inexpensive as you can get. You also don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics if that’s high on your must-have list. Even spending what would be considered a lot of money on an electric fireplace is a mere drop in the bucket when compared to a traditional wood burning fireplace and still far less than installing a gas fireplace from scratch and having to include a venting system. When it comes to retrofitting into an existing wood burning fireplace the nicest electric fireplaces are on par with good gas fireplace retrofit solutions.
Whether you’re looking to retrofit or you’re deciding which way to go with a new construction project, an electric fireplace is the best dollar for dollar way to go. While some won’t want to give up the beauty of a real wood burning fireplace, the pros definitely outweigh the cons in favor of electric fireplaces. If you’d like a little more background please visit our good friends at Constellation Energy and read their article detailing fireplace efficiency.