Australia is vast and diverse, with different climate zones ranging from tropical (north) to temperate (south). Perth experiences a Mediterranean climate with mild and wet winters, typically from June to August. Because of that, heating solutions must cater to the needs of homeowners based on their location, budget, and preferences.
Some people opt for reverse cycle air conditioning for heating, but two of the best options are arguably wood fire heaters and gas log fireplaces. These two heating systems are both effective in quickly heating spaces. However, they have their own distinct features, including the type of fuel they use.
In this blog, we discuss the differences between a gas log fireplace and a wood fire heater to help you decide which one suits your home more.
What is a Wood Fire Heater?
Who doesn’t love a real wood-burning fireplace? This heating appliance uses wood logs which are its primary source of fuel for generating heat. It is also called a wood-burning heater, wood stove, or wood fireplace. The design is much better than the traditional fireplace, allowing it to burn wood more efficiently and effectively.
However, before you set your heart on this heater, take some time to understand how the appliance works. There are two types of wood heaters, namely:
Radiant Wood Fire Heaters
Also called radiant wood stoves, these appliances primarily generate heat through radiation. Heat is transferred from the stove’s hot surface to the surrounding objects, including the people in the room. These heaters are often designed with a closed combustion chamber made from either steel or cast iron. You’ll often find fireplaces with glass doors so you can view the fire.
Convection Fire Heaters: As the name suggests, this appliance generates heat through a process known as convection. This heater uses air’s natural movement so it can distribute warmth across a space. Its design is built around air circulation, featuring a double-wall construction and an outer shell encircling the firebox. The air is heated as the fire burns, prompting hot air to rise and flow into the room. It’s a continuous and proven cycle in effectively distributing heat, leading to a more uniform and consistent temperature throughout the space.
Based on the structure, wood fire heaters can be freestanding or standalone made of steel or cast iron. They can also be designed as fireplace inserts, which fit into your existing fireplace opening. A wood fireplace can also work as a slow-combustion heater, allowing it to burn for a longer time. This type uses advanced combustion technology to extract more heat from the wood. The goal is to produce fewer emissions whilst effectively heating the space.
Benefits of a Wood Fire Heater
The problem with a wood fireplace is that it increases air pollution, especially in the winter. Woodsmoke is a major concern during colder months because people tend to leave their heaters burning all night long. It can be harmful to human health as woodsmoke contains particulates, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. Some are even carcinogenic, including formaldehyde. However, reducing smoke from wood heaters is not only possible but achievable. Proper ventilation and usage can minimise these associated risks.
With the dangers out of the way, let us talk about why many Australian homes choose wood fire heaters as their primary heating appliance:
- A wood fireplace creates a cosy ambience. Having a warm and inviting atmosphere right in your living space is hard to beat. The crackling sound of burning wood, mesmerising flames, and the aroma of wood smoke create a comforting environment you’ll enjoy during colder months.
- Wood fire heaters don’t rely on electricity, making them an independent heat source. That means you don’t have to worry about power outages, especially in extreme weather conditions.
- Responsible wood harvesting makes wood-burning fireplaces a sustainable choice. Burning wood is also considered carbon-neutral because the carbon released during combustion is almost the same as the amount the tree absorbed while growing.
- If you have access to affordable wood supplies, a wood fireplace is a brilliant option, especially if you’re searching for a cost-effective heat source. Additionally, wood can cost lower than other fuel sources, including electricity and natural gas.
- If there are specific areas that you want to heat in your home, a wood fireplace is a good option for zone heating.
You can choose between a radiant and convective heater, where the former warms objects and people directly. The latter, on the other hand, relies on air circulation for effective warmth distribution.
Whichever design you prefer, both can provide a comfortable and consistent temperature in your room. There are also a variety of sizes and styles that will certainly complement your décor whilst fitting your specific heating requirements.
What is a Gas Fireplace?
The sleek new designs and log sets that look genuine, gas fireplaces have stolen many homeowners’ attention. In the past, gas fireplaces used to be purely decorative. But thanks to technology, a vast number of changes have made it possible for this fireplace type to provide high heat outputs. Some units even come with optional duct kits, allowing you to heat more than one room.
Gas fireplaces are easy to operate, with natural or liquid propane gas (LPG) as the fuel source. No wood, no matches – just flick a switch. Like wood fireplaces, gas can also be freestanding, resembling a wood fireplace, except that it is powered by gas. As a log set, it can be installed into an existing open fireplace to convert it into a gas fireplace. Or, it can be installed into a wall or custom-built enclosure.
Benefits of a Gas Fireplace
Your gas fireplace is virtually maintenance-free, requiring an annual visit from a technician. Aside from that, it also comes with a number of features for functionality, efficiency, and even aesthetic benefits:
- You can choose between a vented or vent-free gas fireplace. Vented means that you are using a chimney or flue to expel combustion by-products. If that is not ideal for your construction, you can find a vent-free model to suit your home. This option does not require any venting system, allowing you to install the fireplace quicker. Make sure to check with your local authorities, however, as some regions prohibit the use of vent-free fireplaces.
- There are a variety of ignition systems for gas fireplaces to choose from. One is an electronic ignition, which eliminates the use of a standing pilot light. With this feature, you get better energy efficiency. It’s also easier to use as a push of a button, a tap on a remote control, or a switch can ignite the fireplace.
- You can now find gas fireplaces with built-in thermostats, whilst others can be connected to one. This connection ensures that there is a consistent temperature in the room. It can also provide better output for a longer time.
- Unlike wood fireplaces, you can control flame and heat with a gas fireplace. That is, if it comes with an adjustable flame height and heat output, giving you the power to customise the comfort level and ambience of the room.
- Another great feature of a gas fireplace is that it comes with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) and shut-off valves for your safety.
You can get the look of a real wood fireplace with a gas fireplace, such as the Regency Gas Fireplace. It produces realistic flame effects and uses ceramic logs, glass beads, or pebbles, easily simulating a wood fire appearance.
Choosing between a Gas Fireplace and Wood Fireplace
Making the decision between a gas and wood fireplace can be a little bit difficult. However, you can use the following as your guide on these two choices:
Compared to wood, gas fireplaces are incredibly convenient when it comes to their operation. They can provide instant heat with just a push of a button. Wood, on the other hand, requires chopping, stacking, and storing firewood. But remember that you will constantly need gas for the gas fireplace to operate. Some areas have yet to have immediate availability of either natural gas or LPG, which can make it inconvenient.
Gas has higher energy efficiency as it relies on gas, which a huge percentage is converted into heat. Some gas fireplaces boast an efficiency rating of 90% or higher. Meanwhile, depending on its type and model, a wood fireplace is rated between 60% to 80%.
A gas fireplace provides consistent heat output, letting you enjoy a steady room temperature. This is one key advantage of a gas fireplace, thanks to technology, which gives you precise control over heat and flame settings.
As mentioned above, you can also connect your gas fireplace to a thermostat, which ensures that you have consistent room temperature throughout the day.
Because wood fireplaces rely on burning wood to produce heat, fluctuations in heat output may arise. You also have to add new logs to make certain that the fire does not burn down when you still need warmth.
Gas and wood fireplaces come in various designs, from modern to traditional. Therefore, you can choose the one that best fits your taste or your home’s aesthetic.
Gas fireplaces, though, often have a more contemporary look with clean lines and a minimalist design. Because they can be built into walls, they often blend effortlessly with the existing home décor. However, a wood fireplace may be for you if you prefer a more traditional appearance. These fireplaces, particularly open-hearth ones, can give a warm, rustic style whilst evoking a cosy atmosphere.
Both fireplaces have issues and arguments regarding which is more environmentally friendly. According to its proponents, a gas fireplace produces lower emissions and pollutants, making it a better option. However, when wood is sourced responsibly, it is a renewable fuel source with carbon-neutral effects.
The problem with wood fireplaces is that they produce more pollutants, which can have a significant impact on your indoor air quality. That’s why it is essential that your fireplace is not only maintained properly but also placed in a well-ventilated area.
Inbuilt Fireplace vs Freestanding Fireplace
Both gas and wood fireplaces give you the freedom to choose between an inbuilt and freestanding design. These two have unique benefits, so the ultimate choice lies in your own needs, preferences, and the room you intend to heat.
Here are some reasons why you may want to go with an inbuilt fireplace:
- An inbuilt fireplace saves floor space as it is installed into a wall.
- It can seamlessly blend with your home’s existing décor, giving it a more streamlined appearance.
- You can install the fireplace at varying heights, which means more flexibility to achieve your desired aesthetic.
- Inbuilt fireplaces, particularly gas fireplaces, allow for the even distribution of heat throughout the room. That’s because they often come with heat distribution systems, such as built-in fans.
Meanwhile, here are excellent reasons why a freestanding fireplace may be suitable for your space:
- Freestanding fireplaces are more affordable and easier to install compared to the inbuilt variety. They require less planning and little to no renovation or construction work.
- You can place the fireplace almost anywhere in your room if the area has proper ventilation. Don’t forget to make sure there is enough clearance between combustible materials and the fireplace.
- Because you can move the fireplace anywhere, you can position it in a location that increases the room’s visual appeal.
- Portability has one more benefit, as you can take the fireplace with you in case you plan on moving to a different home.
- You get substantial heat output from a freestanding fireplace, particularly a wood-burning one. That means you can place it in a large space to heat the entire room or even your whole house. Of course, the ability for the latter will depend on the unit’s capacity and size.
All in all, your decision will be based on your available space and home design. A freestanding fireplace may be the better option if you have a bigger room to heat. It’s also a smarter choice if you want to save on installation costs. However, if you have a chimney or an existing fireplace, you save on valuable floor space and enjoy even heat for a more comfortable winter with an inbuilt fireplace.
If you have set your eyes on a wood fire heater, you can read our guide on how to choose the suitable one for your home.
The decision between wood fire heaters and gas log fireplaces depends on a variety of factors that matter to you. From your personal preferences to your budget to the heat output and energy efficiency, be sure to consider these points before you buy and have one installed.
At Joondalup Heating & Cooling, we have both options for you. We can also guide you in making your choice so you end up with the fireplace that suits your home. Contact us so we can supply and install your wood or gas fireplace today!