Wood Burning Stove Vs. Fireplace

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Heating with wood provides a pleasant, and potentially economical, means of home heating. Wood is a renewable energy source, and is preferable in this respect to oil, gas, or electric heating. Open fireplaces and closed wood stoves each have both pros and cons in terms of heating efficiency, safety, cost and aesthetics.

Heating Efficiency

  • Wood stoves are more efficient at heating a room or home with the same amount of wood, in comparison to a fireplace. This is because a stove is closed and controlled, whereas much of the heat output of an open fire escapes up the chimney rather than into the house. An average open fireplace will have an efficiency of up to 15 percent, but the open chimney when there is no fire in the fireplace can result in the loss of warm air and therefore a negative efficiency overall.

Smoke and Emissions

  • With a wood stove, smoke and other emissions are channeled directly up and out of the house through the stovepipe. An open fireplace has the potential to emit more smoke into the home. However, there should be no significant indoor emissions from either a fireplace with a well-cleaned and maintained chimney, or a properly installed wood stove.

Cost of Installation

  • If an open fireplace is already built, the cheapest option is to use this existing fireplace for open fires. Masonry work to repair, rebuild, or create a new fireplace and chimney from scratch is expensive. Purchasing and installing a wood stove is cheaper than building a new fireplace and chimney, and in most cases cheaper than extensive repair work to an open fireplace. A wood stove can be installed in the absence of a fireplace and chimney, making this the cheapest option where there is no existing or functional open fireplace already in the home.

Aesthetics

  • Wood stoves are uglier than fireplaces, and the sight of an open fireplace is not exactly enhanced by a metal stove and stovepipe poking out in front of it. On the other hand, an open fireplace is nice to look at, and wood burning in a fireplace is pleasant in terms of visual appeal and the overall mood of the home.

Safety

  • Both an open fireplace and a wood stove burn wood at high temperatures. Therefore it is very important to keep children and pets away from a stove or fire, to reduce the risk of burn injuries. Because an open fire often sparks, the chances of setting fire to something in the home is greater than with a properly-installed wood stove. However, the visual appearance of a wood stove does not give as good a warning to a person about its heat--whereas most people are aware of the burn risk from an open fire, not everyone expects a wood stove body and stovepipes to be capable of causing a serious burn.

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