Why Stoves & Fireplaces Are The Best Way To Heat Your Home [& 5 ways to make them efficient]

How are you going to keep your house warm this winter?

Easy! Crank up the thermostat, right?

We’ve been there.

It sure is convenient, but the effect on your bank account hurts. For each degree you adjust your thermostat up, you lose about $10 per month

So, let us to give some friendly advice:

If you’re looking for a great way to heat your home, consider using a fireplace or stove. Fireplaces and stoves are beautiful, efficient, low-cost, and use renewable energy sources.

stoves and fireplaces provide efficient heat

But the thought of installing a fireplace or stove probably brings up a lot of questions in your mind. Questions like: 

  • Will a fireplace or stove heat my whole house?
  • Do fireplaces and stoves require ductwork?
  • How would I know which fireplace or stove is best for my home? 

Those are fair questions, and we’re here to help you answer them. 

If you’d like to learn more about fireplaces and stoves, and whether or not one might be a good option for your home, keep reading. 

Let’s get to it!

Table of Contents

  • icons--Ebyland
    1. What Are The Core Differences Between Fireplaces And Stoves?
  • 2-icons--Ebyland
    2. Three Main Types of Fireplaces & Stoves
  • 3-icons--Ebyland
    3. Four Reasons To Choose A Fireplace Or Stove Over A Central Warm Air Furnace
  • 1-icons--Ebyland
    4. Five Keys To An Efficient Fireplace Or Stove

What Are The Core Differences Between Fireplaces And Stoves?

The first step is choosing whether you prefer a fireplace or a stove. Although the two are similar, they do have several important differences.

A fireplace is a ventilated structure that’s designed to contain a fire safely. Fireplaces are typically made of heat-resistant materials like brick or stone that can withstand fires.

The interior of a fireplace is known as a firebox. The pellets, wood, or gas can burn safely inside the firebox.

a firebox is where the fire burns safely

The firebox connects to a hollow flue that leads upwards to the chimney. Smoke escapes the firebox through the flue and chimney while fresh air enters the firebox from the room or a fresh air intake.

People have been using fireplaces for centuries. Their otherwise basic design allows homeowners and family members to enjoy the benefits of a warm, cozy fire inside their home. 

Instead of gathering around the TV, you can converse with family members or guests in front of your fireplace. It seems like nothing invites good conversations like a cozy fire! 

Like fireplaces, stoves are designed to contain a fire safely. 

The primary difference between them lies in their construction. Fireplaces are constructed as a structure — typically made of brick or stone, they are part of your home’s infrastructure. Stoves can be built into your home too, but are often stand-alone heating devices.

fireplaces are usually built directly into home's structure

Stoves are most commonly constructed using multiple pre-fabricated components. 

Stoves consist of a firebox, a ventilation pipe, and a chimney. 

The firebox, of course, is the main compartment in which fuel is burned. The ventilation pipe is a hollow pipe that connects the firebox to the chimney.

You can easily heat your entire home with a fireplace or stove - just make sure you buy the right model. Some models are rated for only small homes, but even standard models can heat areas up to 1,500 sq. feet.

Three Main Types of Fireplaces And Stoves

When you think of cozy evenings around the fireplace, there’s a high chance you picture a crackling wood fire, maybe in a real stone fireplace. 

While wood is an excellent option for fuel in fireplaces and stoves, you have more options than just wood.  

Fireplaces and stoves are usually defined by three major categories of fuel: 

  1. Wood-burning
  2. Gas-burning
  3. Wood Pellets

Let’s take a look at each of these along with the pros and cons of each. 

 

Wood-burning 

Figuring this out isn’t exactly rocket science. Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces use wood as their heat source. 

To operate a wood-burning stove or fireplace, you simply feed logs into the firebox. Your stove or fireplace, along with the size of your house and quality of wood dictates how often you need to replenish your fire. 

Most stoves and fireplaces come with a recommended burn time, which tells you how often you should load your stove or fireplace. As a general rule, efficient models allow 8-10 hour burn times.

So, what are some advantages and disadvantages of burning wood in comparison to using gas or pellets?

Advantages of burning wood

  • Runs independently of electricity - you don’t have to worry about losing heat during a power outage and you will never be out of a heat source. 
  • Wood is a natural and renewable energy source.
  • Burning wood offers a cozy ambiance, a wonderful cracking sound, and a soothing fire smell. There is just nothing like it! 

 

Disadvantages of burning wood

  • Burning wood requires more clean-up and maintenance than pellets or gas. 
  • You will need to acquire and store a lot of firewood. 
  • Wood can be hard to handle, so if you are elderly or injured it may be difficult for you.

Annual maintenance inspections are highly recommended.  (Cleaning and inspection cost around $100 - $200 a year.)

3 advantages of a wood burning stove or fireplace

Gas-burning

Gas stoves and fireplaces run on natural gas or propane. The heat output is measured in British thermal units (BTUs), with models ranging from 8,500 to 100,000 BTUs. 

The most popular models fall in the range of 20,000 to 60,000 BTUs, although newer high-efficiency models allow you to adjust the heat output. To figure out the correct heat output for your home and heating needs, consult a local hearth professional.

Why would you install a gas fireplace or stove in your home? (or why not?) Here are a few pros and cons of using a gas stove. 

Advantages of using gas

  • Using gas makes heating your home easy. Just press the on/off button, and you’re good to go. No loading, lighting, or tending to the fire is necessary.
  • Gas burns cleaner than wood, emitting less soot and pollution, which means it's more eco-friendly and you won't need to clean your stove out as often. 
  • Gas stoves and fireplaces require only occasional maintenance - usually just an annual inspection, which costs about $75 - $150. 
  • Burning gas does not use electricity.  

Disadvantages of using gas

  • Gas fireplaces tend to cost more upfront. And in many cases, they also require more to operate. (even though they burn more efficiently) Note: Operating costs are heavily dependent on gas prices, which fluctuate significantly. 
  • Natural gas and propane are non-renewable resources.
  • You will need a gas line to run the stove or fireplace. 
  • Gas does not provide the same romantic ambience that wood does.
advantages of a gas burning stove or fireplace

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are a heating fuel made from compressed wood fibers. Each pellet is about 1 - 1.5 inches long. They come in bags most often weighing around 40 lbs - that’s about the size of a big bag of dog food. 

Pellet stoves and fireplaces are equipped with a hopper, which is a container used for storing the pellets. Your job is to fill the hopper, and the stove does the rest. 

A motorized auger inside the hopper feeds the pellets into the firebox for a continual source of heat. 

Models vary in hopper size, but in general, the hopper needs to be replenished about once a day. 

Advantages of burning pellets

  • Pellets are more compact than traditional wood, allowing for easier storage. 
  • Low particulate emissions compared to traditional wood (but more than gas).
  • Pellets are considered a renewable fuel source
  • Since they are so compact, pellets burn long and efficiently. 
  • They are much easier to handle than real wood logs.

Disadvantages of burning pellets

  • Pellets are more expensive than traditional wood
  • A pellet stove needs electricity to run. Although this is very minimal (about $9 per month), you would be without heat during a power outage 
  • Pellet stoves and fireplaces need daily attention to keep replenishing the fuel supply.
  • Pellets can be spilled and make a mess if your child or pet decides to play in them.

Pellets are not the only processed wood fuel source. For more info on different ways to heat your home with wood, check out our blog The Ultimate Guide To Wood Fuel Types. 

advantages of pellet stove or fireplace

Four Reasons To Choose A Fireplace Or Stove Over A Central Warm Air Furnace

The vast majority of homes in the U.S. are heated with furnaces.

A furnace is designed to heat air and distribute it through air ducts in your home. They are most often powered by natural gas, propane, heating oil, or electricity. 

(As a friendly bonus tip, let us tell you that if you decide to install a furnace in your home, power by natural gas is the way to go.)

Central heating systems get the job done; there’s no denying that. 

But why are stoves and fireplaces better options than furnaces? (even natural gas furnaces). 

 

1 - Aesthetics

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We’re pretty sure that’s true. Just in case, let’s check. 

Would you prefer this forced air central heating system:

central warm air furnace

Or, would you like this pellet fireplace insert?

Fireplace store

It’s not much of a competition, is it? 

The pellet fireplace is cozy, warm, and inviting, while the forced air system is plain and harsh. There’s no way it could be placed anywhere in your home except the basement or utility closet.  

You can choose a wood, pellet, or gas stove or fireplace and you will get the same result: 

A dazzling display of flames that are mesmerizing to watch and promote great converstions.

A wood fire, in particular, combines the flames with a pleasant aroma and nice, crackly sound that creates an enjoyable and relaxing environment inside your home. 

And this isn’t all just a mental game.  The sensation you get while sitting around a cozy fire is real. 

Christopher Lynn, an anthropologist from the University of Alabama, has proven that sitting around a fire causes ‘consistent blood pressure decreases’ and that the longer people gather around a fire, the more relaxed they become. 

How cool is that? Heat your home and lower your blood pressure at the same time. It’s a win-win!

fireplaces make a cozy home

2 - Efficiency

Anyone who’s ever lived with a forced hot air system is likely familiar with the challenges of this type of heat. The room warms quickly but then cools equally fast, forming a yo-yo heating pattern causing your furnace to turn on and off, wasting energy. 

Forced hot air systems are also subject to something known as parasitic heat loss

Because the air from the furnace and air handler has to travel through a series of tubes or ducts to get to its intended room, there are lots of opportunities for it to leak out of small holes in the ducts. 

Also, the ducts for this type of system often travel through cold attics or basements, increasing the chances to lose heat as the warm air travels to the rooms in your home. 

Finally, forced air systems often cause stratification - a situation where the top of your room is warm (sometimes as much as 10 degrees warmer), and the bottom part is cooler. 

This happens because hot air shoots out of vents in the floor and rises to the ceiling. This means you may have to turn your thermostat up to get the heat to reach the portion of the room you live in. 

Fireplaces and stoves heat your home using radiant heat. Radiant heat is more efficient than forced air heat because it heats your home slowly and steadily and avoids parasitic heat loss and stratification. 

In fact, research has shown that radiant heating is about 25% more energy-efficient than forced air. Plus, it means you won't always be switching in and out of your sweater.  

But be careful. 

If you want to heat your home using a wood or pellet fireplace or stove, you need quality fuel. For example, if you burn wet wood in your wood stove, all your energy savings will be lost. 

Make sure you are burning dry, clean fuel like the quality wood fuels from Ebyland.

forced air heat systems can lose air through vents

3 - Renewable Energy

You need to make sure to burn dry wood and pellets in your stove or fireplace, but when you do, you have the assurance that you are helping the earth by using a renewable resource. 

Natural gas, propane, and heating oil are all non-renewable resources. Plus, harvesting and transporting these resources is a carbon intensive activity that contributes to climate issues and pollution. 

 

4 - Increase the Value of Your Home

Fireplaces and stoves can increase the value of a home. 

Research shows that homes with a fireplace sell for a higher price than those without a fireplace. An infographic published by Angie suggests that fireplaces increase the value of a typical home by an average of $1,000 to $4,999.

Maybe it’s because fireplaces save money on central heating costs, or perhaps it’s because they promote a more relaxing living environment and create a great atmosphere for hosting. Regardless, homes with a fireplace typically sell for a higher price than those without a fireplace. 

fireplaces increase a home's value

Five Keys To An Efficient Fireplace Or Stove

In theory, fireplaces and stoves are very efficient. Unfortunately, that is not always the way people experience them.  

Why? 

Because many people don’t understand what it takes to keep your fireplace or stove running efficiently. 

 

1 - Install a Fireplace Insert

Many older homes, and some newer homes, come with majestic fireplaces made of masonry stone and fine craftsmanship.  These fireplaces are beautiful, but they are not usually efficient heat sources!

Thankfully, these older fireplaces can be made efficient heat sources by having a fireplace insert installed inside them.

A fireplace insert is a fireproof box built with steel or cast iron, insulated glass, and a combustion system.  It is installed in your existing fireplace, and it quickly turns an inefficient, drafty fireplace into an efficient heat source and favorite gathering spot in your home.

Fireplace inserts can be wood-burning, gas, or pellet to match your primary fuel source.

 

2 - Have a Glass Door

Having a quality glass door on your fireplace addresses two issues you face with a fireplace.

First, there is the safety issue.

Having an open fireplace is an invitation for a child or animal to fall into the fire accidentally and suffer severe burns.  While a glass door gets hot and can also cause a burn, it prevents people, animals, and other objects from actually falling into the flames.

And second, there is the draft issue.

Fire needs oxygen and a draft to burn well.  When no glass door is present, a fire can suck extra air from the room and burn too hotly, making the fire hard to regulate and inefficient for long periods of time.

a glass door on a fireplace protects people and animals

3 - Have the Damper Properly Sealed and Working

Many people are aware their fireplace has a damper, but there is often confusion around the damper’s function. 

Essentially, the damper regulates the airflow and intensity of the fire.  

Because fire needs air to burn, it has more oxygen and burns hotter if the damper is open.  If the damper is partially closed, then airflow is restricted, and the fire doesn’t burn as hotly.

The fireplace damper is the key to regulating your fire so it is as efficient as possible. 

A damaged damper means you are losing heat, and your fireplace is not as effective. So, if your damper is damaged, or not properly sealed you should have it cleaned or replaced.

The fireplace damper makes the fireplace efficient

4 - Burn Dry Material

If you have a gas fireplace, you can skip this point, but if you burn wood or a wood replacement (fire blocks or wood pellets), this point is critical!

Why is dry material such a big deal for an efficient fireplace?

If wood material is wet while being burned, it has many adverse effects, including: 

  • An increase in soot and smoke
  • An increase in emissions
  • Less heat
  • Blackening of the fireplace (or stove) and chimney

Wood material should be seasoned, meaning its moisture content is less than 20%.  When drying or purchasing wood material, make sure it is dry and ready to burn - it isn’t worth the effort to burn it wet! It's inefficient and creates a lot of mess and work for you. 

At Ebyland, we offer Fireblox, Wood pellets, and Firewood that is packaged, dry, and ready to burn.  You can pick it up at our store, or we can deliver it directly to your home!  Visit our website to learn more and to order online.

 

5 - Keep the Chimney Clean

Like the glass door, a clean chimney has both a safety and efficiency component.

In regards to safety, a clean chimney helps prevent a chimney or house fire when using a stove.  

When you burn wood products, some residue, soot, and creosote (a type of carbon tar) stick in the chimney.  If these products build up over time, they can ignite from a burning ember and start a fire.

From the efficiency side, a clean chimney means the fireplace’s airflow is consistent and clean.  This helps protect the damper and other seals in the fireplace, making the fire better contained, more efficient, and easier to regulate.

residue and soot in a chimney can start a fire
Conclusion

If you are tired of being embarrassed by your old, clunky furnace, or if you are horrified by your heating bill each month, maybe it’s time to consider a fireplace or stove. 

Fireplaces and stoves are superior to central heating systems in almost every way. And although upgrading always includes upfront cost, the investment in your future is worth it. 

If you live in Cumberland, MD, or nearby, then visit the Ebyland store for available stoves and fireplaces in Cumberland (as well as the surrounding areas).  We offer a variety of gas, wood, and pellet stoves and fireplaces. 

As your local hearth and fireplace supplier and installer, we have a friendly and knowledgeable staff who would love to help you pick the perfect stove or fireplace for your home. 

We have more than hearth and fireplace supplies, too! We carry lots of great outdoor living products as well, such as: 

- Landscape supplies 

- Hardscape materials 

- Outdoor furniture 

- Greenhouse plants 

And much more!

Contact or visit us today. We look forward to helping you!

fireplaces and stoves are worth the cost