A natural gas fireplace is a home installation that provides warmth while its design maximizes efficiency. A wood-burning fireplace is largely an aesthetic fixture. It may provide heat to the room in which its located, but it offers nothing to the rest of the home. An insert in your fireplace equipped with a blower is more efficient, but the question remains: should wood fuel it or natural gas? While natural gas is an efficient means of energy transfer, it is problematic for several reasons including sustainability, cost and aesthetics. Then again, in terms of safety, efficiency and emissions there is little difference between the two while a natural gas fireplace is much easier to use. Comparing the two along these lines should give you everything you need to know about which one to choose.
Since wood is a potentially renewable resource while natural gas is a fossil fuel, burning wood is arguably the better choice. With replanting efforts underway on a massive scale, the wood used to burn can be renewed in less than a generation. Such is not the case for natural gas.
Wood-burning fireplace inserts cost less than their natural gas counterparts. There is also the cost of converting your home to natural gas assuming you don’t have a line already. With those fixed, one-time expenses out of the way, natural gas is very inexpensive, as is wood. The comparison, then, lies in the cost of the inserts where natural gas models cost more.
Natural gas fireplace inserts are designed to look just like a roaring fire complete with cleverly stacked logs and the warm glow of burning coals. As attractive as these models are, they are not real and do not fool anyone. Real wood-burning fireplaces have a charm that is as old as the harnessing of fire, so it’s clear which one people would choose if they based their decision solely on looks.
When installed correctly with the proper seals and venting in place, both wood-burning and natural gas fireplaces are safe. Wood fireplaces should be used with a steel screen to prevent burning sparks from jumping out and the gas insert should follow code every step of the way. Done right, there is little danger from either.
Both wood-burning and natural gas models, rather than let the warmth float out the chimney, use a blower to push the warm air into the room. The most efficient models draw cool air from outside to heat and project inside. In this sense, they are equally efficient.
Wood and gas both pollute. Whether it is a minimal level of particulates or carbon monoxide, when vented correctly there is no danger to the health of the home’s inhabitants.
Side by side, a natural gas fireplace and a wood-burning fireplace are nearly equal when they are a part of an insert in your home. It will ultimately come down to the price you will pay for the fixture and any natural gas hookup that becomes necessary as well the attractiveness of either type to you. Another consideration to make is log storage should you opt for the wood-burning model.