Wood Stove vs Fireplace - In Depth Guide

August 4, 2021

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Should I choose a wood stove or a fireplace?

  •  Answer: Wood stoves are the best choice for most applications.

 

 

When it comes to choosing a wood stove or a fireplace, there are both subtle and big differences that you must consider. A fireplace is more aesthetically pleasing - but a wood stove is a safer and more efficient alternative. It all comes down to the house you have and your preferences.

Adults who live on their own without children, have a big house, and prefer aesthetics over functionality should choose a fireplace. It's a beautiful option, the classic choice for people who want to sit down in front of a fire and feel it with no barriers whatsoever while they read a book during a cold winter night.

Of course, that's not the only option. Bigger families with little children roaming around the house should choose the safer alternative, a wood stove. Having more people in the house means needing a bigger fire to stay warm, so the efficiency factor also comes into play - and that's where the wood stove shines as well.

Does that mean a bachelor, or an adult couple should always choose a fireplace? Not at all! And neither should big families go for a wood stove without thinking about it.

For example, large families should consider a fireplace if they plan to sell their house and move to a bigger place in the future. A fireplace is a great way to increase the value of your house - and it's something that you can treat as an investment.

As we have said, choosing between a wood stove and a fireplace comes down to your house and personal preference. It's a big decision, so make sure you think long and hard before you favor either option!

Check out the epa's website on wood stoves: Frequent Questions about Wood-Burning Appliances | US EPA

What's the difference between a wood stove and a fireplace?

The biggest difference between a wood stove and a fireplace is where the fire is located and how safely stored it is inside of each option. Fireplaces have a less protected fire, while wood stoves contain it more safely and efficiently.

Three big factors separate wood stoves from fireplaces and vice-versa. We're talking about safety, efficiency, and aesthetics.

Each one of these three elements will favor one option in particular - but that doesn't mean that one is not safe or ugly, depending on what you read down below. It simply means that one is better than the other in a particular area, but the alternative is not that far behind realistically speaking.

Are wood burning stoves safe for the environment? check out this article Are Wood-burning Stoves Bad For The Environment? - Conserve Energy Future (conserve-energy-future.com)

Safety

Safety is the number one concern you must think about when you're about to start a fire. And even though fireplaces are far from dangerous, a wood stove is the safer choice out of the two.

Figuring out why this is the case isn't hard. A wood stove has an extra layer (or two) of protection that keeps the fire away from people (if you don't open any doors or remove any glass protecting you from excess heat) - and it does so while it keeps you warm.

In contrast, a fireplace has no barrier of protection whatsoever between you and the fire.

Efficiency

You probably care about efficiency if you need to start a fire to stay warm during the winter. More likely than not, winters are long and tough where you live - and making the most out of every fire is a must for you.

If that sounds like you, a wood stove is the right choice. Once again, we're not saying that a fireplace has a weak fire (on the contrary), but a wood stove will make a bigger and better fire using the same amount of wood.

You may not care that much about efficiency if you have plenty of wood to burn, but that doesn't mean you should waste energy, though.

Let's put it this way: wood stoves tend to be up to 70% more efficient than any other alternative.

Aesthetics

The third and final aspect, aesthetics, may not seem that important to you - but it's more relevant than you would think.

Starting a fire right at home is all about comfort and having a good time, and you can have neither if you're looking at a hideous thing while you try to stay warm.

And, in this case, a fireplace runs laps around the wood stove. Sure, wood stoves take the prize when it comes to safety and efficiency, but a fireplace is closer to a work of art than the wood stove is to anything else.

Does that mean all wood stoves look horrible? Not at all! Similar to how fireplaces are efficient and safe places to start a fire, certain wood stoves look great.

In general, fireplaces are more aesthetic; wood stoves are safer and more efficient, though.

How can I decide between a wood stove and a fireplace?

There are a couple of things you have to do before you settle between a wood stove and a fireplace. Figure out where you want to put it, how much you're going to use it, and what's your budget.

As of now, you already know that a wood stove is a safe and efficient choice - but do you know it's the more expensive option as well? That's right! Even though most people tend to think it's the other way around, a wood stove tends to cost more than a fireplace.

And, as you now know, a fireplace works as an investment of sorts by increasing the value of your home. Unfortunately, a wood stove doesn't add any significant increase to how much your house is worth.

Because of that, you should consider installing a fireplace if you have a tight budget.

 

If money isn't an issue, where you want to put either a fireplace or a wood stove could be something you need to think about.

Most people have a fireplace somewhere in their living room. If you spend most of your time in your personal office, bedroom, or somewhere other than the living room, you may want to invest a little extra and choose a wood stove.

Since wood stoves are smaller and more versatile, you can easily fit them in other places that may not have the same amount of space available as a living room does.

Finally (and, perhaps, most importantly), you have to ponder on how much you're going to use either one.

 

A fireplace tends to produce more carbon monoxide than a wood stove, and it also has a hard time disposing of it safely. It goes without saying, a wood stove is more efficient when it comes to consuming wood.

So, at this point, you can probably guess that a wood stove is the go-to choice if you're planning to stand next to the fire for a long time.

Can Wood Stoves go in Campers? - Easiest Heating - ZeusFire (zeusfires.com)

 

What is a wood stove?

A wood stove, also known as a wood-burning stove, is an appliance that serves one purpose: burning wood and keeping you warm. It can help you heat an entire home or a small indoor space, depending on how big the wood stove is.

Unlike fireplaces, a wood stove is more of a structure than they're a part of the house. You can quickly realize such a thing when you look at one. In a way, fireplaces are built into the house; wood stoves are brought inside.

The great thing about the structural nature of wood stoves is that they tend to protect you from the fire a little better than a fireplace does.

A wood stove consists of three parts: a firebox, a ventilation pipe, and a chimney. You will burn wood inside the firebox - and that very same firebox will have a protective layer that'll keep excess heat from harming you or anyone near the wood stove.

Often, wood stoves are usually made out of steel or cast iron, and that makes them incredibly resistant to heat (and that's exactly what you want).

 

How does a wood stove work?

As you know, a wood stove consists of three parts: a firebox, a ventilation pipe, and a chimney. You burn wood inside the firebox, and both the ventilation pipe and the chimney take care of releasing smoke and drawing oxygen inside, keeping the fire alive.

If you never used a wood stove before, picturing how one works could prove a little difficult - but starting a fire inside of one couldn't be easier.

While different wood stoves work in different ways, they all act the same way. First, you start the fire inside of the firebox. It may take a while, but things will eventually start to heat up and you'll see the wood stove in action.

As the fire starts to burn even more than before, you'll see how the smoke starts to get out of the wood stove via the chimney. At the same time, the ventilation pipe will allow air to flow inside of the firebox to keep the fire alive.

Simply put, as the fire burns, smoke goes out and oxygen comes in. Since the firebox is a compact box, the fire burns more than it would in a fireplace - and thanks to the chimney and ventilation pipe, it'll remain under control.

Why should I get a wood stove?

  • More efficient: Your average wood stove will produce three times more heat and warmth than an average fireplace. This number is a consequence of the wood stove's design and how it works. Simply put, the wood stove is built to contain a fire. More efficiency means saving more money on wood in the long run, and it also means having to make less of an effort to make a great fire at home.
  • Occupies less space: While a fireplace looks magnificent - that comes with a price. More often than not, a wood stove will occupy half (and, sometimes, one-third) of the space a normal fireplace will take. Not only a wood stove occupies less space, but it can also go pretty much anywhere you want to, unlike a fireplace.
  • Easier to maintain: Wood stoves usually require smaller wood logs for you to create a great fire; such a thing helps with efficiency - and it also helps with cleanliness. When you have to use less wood to start a fire, you also need less time to clean the aftermath of said fire. While it might not seem like much, you will be thankful for it when you have to start cleaning.
  • Safer to use: As you know, a wood stove is designed to contain a fire, unlike most fireplaces. Often, such a thing comes in handy. For example, the fire inside a wood stove will not damage your property, nor will it hurt anyone near it. If you have children or pets, this point is very important.

 

Why should I avoid getting a wood stove?

  • Not as aesthetically pleasing: One of the biggest issues people have with wood stoves is how unappealing they look, especially when you compare them to a fireplace. When you think about starting a fire at home, you probably picture yourself right in front of a beautiful fireplace, not a metal machine. While looks might not seem that big of a deal, it becomes an important factor when you consider it affects how much your house is worth.
  • You may have a hard time finding wood for it: Another issue of the average wood stove is its size. While a wood stove occupies less space, you have to consider most wood logs will not fit inside of it. Some people fix this issue by buying smaller logs (such as pellet logs) or chopping regular ones in half.
  • Might be more expensive: While it might seem counter-intuitive, the average wood stove costs a little more than the average fireplace. The price difference may have to do with the cost of building materials, or the lack of popularity wood stoves have. This point might not seem that important if you consider how much money you'll save in the long run (due to how efficient a wood stove is).
  • Not as popular: As we have hinted above, wood stoves tend to be less popular than fireplaces. Why people prefer fireplaces isn't a mystery: most people identify warmth, heat, and being comfortable at home with sitting in front of a fireplace, not a wood stove.

Is a wood stove better than a fireplace?

A wood stove is not necessarily better than a fireplace, but neither is a fireplace better than a wood stove. It all depends on your needs and wants. For smaller houses, a wood stove is probably better than a fireplace.

If you have read the article all the way down here, you are more of a wood stove expert than you think. You can probably picture a wood stove inside your house and how much it will help you stay warm during the winter.

At this point, you can honestly ask yourself if you believe if a wood stove is the better alternative for you. If you care about efficiency and safety, you already know the answer.

Remember about your budget! A wood stove is more expensive. Then again, it's more expensive at first - but as time goes by, you'll save money by burning less wood in the long term.

Of course, the most important factor (the one that will determine whether you can choose between a fireplace and a wood stove) is how big your home is. Some houses do not have enough space for a fireplace - and, if that's the case, you'll have to settle for a wood stove (which is not bad at all!)

Perhaps, you're not sure just yet. And that's okay! We will cover everything you need to know about fireplaces down below.

Should I replace my fireplace with a wood stove?

Replacing your fireplace with a wood stove is far from a bad idea. You shouldn't do it just because, though. Doing so is an important (and somewhat expensive) task, so you better be ready to go all the way through before you start.

Why should you replace a fireplace with a wood stove? Because you're planning on having kids, because you're about to adopt small pets, because you're concerned about fire safety, or because you're spending too much on wood during the winter.

Why shouldn't you replace a fireplace with a wood stove? Because you want stronger fires, because you'll think you'll save money in the long run (at this point, you're going to spend more money switching than you'll ever save), or because you want to try something new.

You need a good reason to install a wood stove to replace a fireplace. Does that mean you should never do it? Well, not at all! Remember, though, you must have good reasons - or you will regret it later on.

What is a fireplace?

A fireplace is a ventilated structure used to contain a fire. Often, fireplaces are made out of bricks, stones, and other materials that can sustain high temperatures and are heat resistant. If you have ever been to a big house, you probably saw a fireplace in the living room or a common area.

You probably watched more than a fair share of movies and TV series with fireplaces in them. And, if you were lucky enough, probably stood in front of one that had a big fire resting inside of it.

There's a reason for that: fireplaces have been around for longer than any of us. Houses have had fireplaces inside of them for centuries - because they do a great job at keeping people warm.

The thing about fireplaces is that they have something that you cannot explain - but you can only experience. With wood stoves, the fire is contained behind a protective barrier; when it comes to fireplaces, you're standing right next to the flames and feeling its warmth directly on your face.

A fireplace consists of a firebox, a flue, and a chimney. Unlike a wood stove, it has no ventilation pipe.

How does a fireplace work?

Fireplaces work similarly to how wood stoves work. You place wood in the firebox, let it burn, and allow the chimney and flue to release the smoke and allow air to flow in, both things necessary to keep the fire alive.

While your average fireplace is similar to a wood stove, there's one crucial difference: the firebox of a fireplace has no protective barrier whatsoever.

When you're using a wood stove, the fire is behind a protective barrier inside the firebox.

Fireplaces, on the other hand, keep the fire in the firebox, but they do not contain it the same way a wood stove does (because a fireplace has no protective barriers)

This design helps you to have closer contact with the fire, keeping you warm and allowing you to have a more one-on-one experience with the flames. For adults, this can be a great thing. When it comes to children, it could prove a little dangerous if they are unsupervised.

There are no secrets when it comes to the fireplace, though. You put some wood inside of it, watch it burn, and stay warm.

Because it has fewer moving parts, understanding how a fireplace works is easier and more intuitive than understanding how a wood stove works - but, in the end, they work in a similar fashion.

Why should I get a fireplace?

  • It's downright beautiful: A fireplace is more like a work of art than a place to start a fire. A properly built fireplace will be a lovely sight to see, especially during winter, with a big fire right at the center of it. Some people believe you don't have a home until you have a fireplace that ties it all together.
  • People will love it: Friends, family, and other guests will love your fireplace during the winter, the same way most guests love a pool during the summer. It will be the go-to attraction for most people that visit your house - and, more likely than not, most social activities will happen right in front of the fireplace.
  • It will increase your house market value: A fireplace will help you in more than one way. Sure, it will keep you warm during cold winter nights, and it will also put a little extra equity in your pocket. Installing a fireplace can increase your market value - which makes installing a fireplace an investment of sorts.
  • Most wood logs will fit: Unlike wood stoves, most fireplaces are big enough for you to use any wooden logs that you can buy or find (unless we're talking about dramatically big wood). The great thing about fireplaces is that you don't have to think too much about them when you want to start a fire. Throw some logs in there - and that's that.
  • A fireplace feels different in a good way: If you ever sat in front of a fireplace, you know it feels different than any other alternative. There's something special about being right next to a fire, relaxing, and staying warm on a cold winter night. You have to experience such a thing to understand it.

Why should I avoid getting a fireplace?

  • Could be riskier: A fireplace is more of an adult kind of thing - and it's not the right choice if you have small pets or children roaming around the house. Your average fireplace has little to no protection for anyone standing in front of it, and it only takes a little wind to make the flames go wild.
  • Consumes way more wood: As you know, a wood stove is more efficient because of how it consumes energy. A fireplace is a little too out in the open to be considered efficient and will burn way more wood than its counterpart.
  • Less eco-friendly: Since a fireplace is less efficient than a wood stove, you will be actively using more and more wood as you go along with your fires. Fortunately, wood is one of the most environmentally friendly sources of energy - but its inefficient consumption still is a big point to ponder on.
  • It's mostly an aesthetic statement: A fireplace is mostly a beautiful sight to see - but when it comes to any other thing, a wood stove is probably better. If you care about safety, efficiency, and environmental issues, a fireplace may not be the right fit for you.

Is a fireplace better than a wood stove?

A fireplace will add an aesthetic element to your house, make it more valuable, and keep you warm during the winter. That doesn't mean it's better than a stove - it only means certain people will prefer it over the alternative.

At this point, you know about fireplaces and wood stoves. You read so much about the subject that you probably feel like starting a fire, sitting next to it, and watch it burn!

Well, before you do that, you need to choose between a fireplace and a wood stove. And, as you know, that's something that you must ask yourself. More importantly, you must answer it yourself as well.

Our recommendation is to build a fireplace if you have a big enough house, don't care about long-term costs, and have no small children to take care of.

You can also get a wood stove for now and eventually install a fireplace if you so desire.

Should I replace my wood stove with a fireplace?

Unlike replacing a fireplace with a wood stove, replacing a wood stove with a fireplace may be a great idea from the get-go. The reasoning behind it is simple: because it will add value to your house.

Now, remember, if a wood stove is not doing its job, you're not going to have a better fire by building a fireplace.

In fact, unless you make it a lot bigger than your wood stove, a fireplace isn't going to provide a better fire.

You should only replace a wood stove with a fireplace for real-estate-related reasons or aesthetic reasons.

On a final note, you should consider getting a fireplace if your wood stove is considerably small and you're wondering about getting a bigger wood stove or a fireplace - but, once again, that's up to you.

Are there any alternatives to wood stoves and fireplaces?

There are other alternatives to wood if you are trying to stay warm during the winter. You can go the electric, gas, or bioethanol route if you so desire. Then again, are they better alternatives than wood?

While we have extensively covered fireplaces vs. wood stoves, it's important to note that they are not the only choices you have - but they are most definitely the better ones. That's right: wood triumphs over any other alternative you could find, at least most of the time.

  1. Gas fires do not feel the same way as a wood fire does. Not only that, but gas probably is a little more dangerous when it comes to starting a fire. This option is not for you if you're overly concerned about safety or how fire feels during a cold winter night. On a related note, the smell of gas is less than ideal and subpar when compared to how burnt wood smells.
  2. Bioethanol provides an efficient and versatile alternative to wood. And, sure, it's an option you should consider if you have no chimney or flue. You have to remember that even though bioethanol is versatile, it's also weaker than wood.
  3. An electric source of heat could be the best alternative out of all three - if it wasn't for the bills you're going to pay by the end of the month. While it may seem like a cheaper alternative than installing a fireplace or a wood stove, going electric will catch up to you money-wise in a couple of years - and it will only get worse from there.

When it comes to starting a fire, wood is king.

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