• Category:
    Energy Efficiency
  • Published:
    February 24, 2017
  • Updated:
    July 6, 2021

Which Is More Energy Efficient? Gas vs. Wood-Burning Fireplaces vs. Electric Fireplaces

The National Association of Home Builders says fireplaces are among the top three most desired features for a new homebuyer. Who doesn’t love the idea of sitting by a crackling fire on a cold night? Like most things, though, that ambiance costs money. Fireplaces are also often major sources of air leaks. Bob Vila of “This Old House” says they can send up to 8 percent of valuable warm air right up the chimney.

The good news is that fireplaces can become more than an accessory to create a mood. You can improve fireplace efficiency by choosing an energy-efficient fireplace, or by taking other steps to improve how you use your fireplace.

Before we get into how to make your fireplace more efficient though, let’s take a look at the most efficient fireplace types and do a little comparing.

Most Efficient Fireplace Types: Gas vs. Wood-Burning Fireplace

In the battle for most efficient fireplace, gas fireplace efficiency is always going to win over wood fireplace efficiency. That’s because gas fireplaces burn more cleanly and produce fewer polluting emissions. Wood-burning fireplaces typically emit 28 pounds of particulate emissions per MMBtus (one million British thermal units), Project Greenify reports, compared to natural gas, which produces up to 99 percent less emissions.


Here are some other pros and cons to consider when comparing gas vs. wood-burning fireplaces:

  • Gas fireplace efficiency includes easy maintenance, so you have no ashes or soot in the chimney with a gas fireplace.
  • Natural gas is a fairly inexpensive form of energy, so a gas fireplace is inexpensive to run. Gas fireplaces cost 17-19 cents an hour to run, or about $60 annually, Electric Fireplaces Direct says. Wood-burning fireplaces cost about $190 annually to produce a number of BTUs similar to a gas fireplace.
  • Both gas and wood-burning fireplaces lose heat up the chimney, although wood-burning fireplaces typically lose more. Electric Fireplaces Direct estimates 60 percent of heat from these fireplaces goes up the chimney. Additionally, wood-burning fireplaces can also draw warmer air from inside a room up and out the chimney, further lessening wood fireplace efficiency.
  • Wood-burning fireplaces require annual cleaning to make sure the chimney does not have excess creosote, which can create chimney fires. Creosote is a natural byproduct of burning wood. It liquefies when heated and flows down the sides of the interior chimney, making it a fire hazard if there is too much buildup.

Most Efficient Fireplace Types: Gas vs. Electric Fireplace

When comparing gas vs. electric fireplaces, electric is the cleanest fireplace. Electric fireplaces are the only ones that do not release pollutants into the atmosphere. They are also cool to the touch, making them particularly safe in homes with small children and animals.


Other pros for electric fireplaces:

  • They require little maintenance.
  • They convert all they produce into heat kept in the home.
  • They are the least expensive of the fireplaces to run, costing 8 to 12 cents an hour or about $25 a year, according to Electric Fireplaces Direct.

How to Make Your Fireplace More Efficient

Maybe you’ve decided that converting your fireplace to electric or gas is unrealistic or just doesn’t fit your personal preference. (We can all agree wood-burning fireplaces win the ambiance award.) If that’s the case, here are some tips on how to make your wood fireplace more efficient.

  1. Burn seasoned firewood. Green, or unseasoned, wood burns inefficiently and also creates a large amount of smoke. Seasoned wood — i.e., wood that has had at least an entire year to dry — burns more efficiently and with less polluting smoke.
  2. Open the damper as wide as possible to increase the amount of air the fire initially receives. Doing this improves combustion and the amount of heat the fire produces.
  3. Clean your chimney annually. Doing this prevents the buildup of creosote, a natural product created when fire burns. Creosote can build up on the side of your chimney flue, restricting air flow and, in worst-case scenarios, potentially creating a fire hazard.
  4. Consider installing tempered glass doors in the front of your fireplace. Keep the doors closed while the fire is burning. This will increase the temperature in the chimney and reduce the amount of warm air the fire draws from the room.
  5. Install a fireplace insert. Fireplace inserts, literally large metal coverings that include doors, often include circulating fans as well, which can blow warmth into the room, further reducing the amount of air that is drawn up the chimney.
  6. Add insulation and a fan heat exchanger to blow heat back into the room and prevent heat loss up the chimney.

So the final tally is in: If you want the most efficient fireplace, you want an electric one. Get more energy-efficiency tips for your home on our blog.


See full Gas vs. Electric vs. Wood-Burning Fireplace comparison table here:


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Comments ( 15 )

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Carlos Robinson - 3/12/2022

I was thinking of setting up an Electric fireplace for my home, but I had very little knowledge. That’s why I was looking for some suggestions on the internet regarding it. Thanks for sharing details about the cost and maintenance of this Electric fireplace, which are helpful for me to set this at my home.

Mark - 3/18/2021

Good article, but there is no discussion of the aesthetics of wood v gas v electric. Sure, it’s subjective and not directly tied to efficiency, but is a consideration for most people. My previous home had a wood-burning fireplace and I loved the sounds, smells and the rituals of getting the wood, tending the fire and cleaning the ashes.

Our current house has a relatively old gas fireplace, which we’ve had serviced. As much as I may miss the wood-burning experience, the gas fireplace is convenient and efficient and replicates a lot, though not all, of the quality-of-life intangible benefits of sitting by the fire. It produces a very “realistic” (in comparison to a wood flame) fire, and the ceramic logs are good enough that we decided not to replace them. I get that some people prefer the “cool” look of glass or stone, but it’s not for me.

It looks like electric fireplaces have come a long way, but I still get a distinct, “fake-fire” reaction to them, where I am too conscious of their not being wood-burning. It all depends on what you like and what you are looking for. I know there are some very pretty and very efficient gas-flame fireplaces that incorporate a glass sealed front door which really facilitates the heat preservation and distribution, but again for me highlights the artifical aspects.

JoAnn Agnone - 1/15/2021

The pictures under “Gas vs. Wood Fireplaces” shows a wood stove, not a fireplace”

ASH Green - 8/29/2020

One of the best articles that I’ve read in a very long time! I Took notes and surely gonna implement and test bunch of stuff you talked about.
You’re a beast! Cheers, Ash

website - 7/21/2020

I love that everything is explained in detail. Also, i like the layout of your site. All in all a very nice article!

Karl Petersen - 10/14/2018

You can’t compare efficiency between electric and gas fireplaces without stating the heat output of each fireplace you’re comparing. A 20,000 btu gas fireplace will cost more than any electric fireplace to run for one hour, but the gas one will heat up a 900 sq ft space in an hour, while the electric one may not heat more than 200 sq ft.

    Constellation Community Team - 1/23/2019

    Hi Karl, you make a valid point. It’s a good idea to look at the prospective fireplace’s reviews online, to see if the fireplace heats an area well. Some gas fireplaces fall short in that area, as do electric fireplaces.

ss - 3/4/2018

untill you lose power.

    Constellation Community Team - 4/12/2018

    Good point. For anyone worried about power outages disrupting the enjoyment of a warm electric fireplace, we recommend considering a generator. If you’re looking for one, we have our Guide to Buying a Generator!

Joe - 3/1/2018

These prices must be based on the part of the country with the least exspensive costs for gas and electricity. Do regional comparisons based on updated utility rates.

    Constellation Community Team - 4/12/2018

    Hi Joe, unfortunately, we are unable to price out costs for states, as they vary state to state, region to region, and bill to bill. That’s why Constellation is happy to offer fixed-rate plans, so that energy prices may stay the same for each customer for the term of their contract.

Jack - 1/15/2018

I ran an electric heater in one room for one winter month. The cost of electricity in New York surpasses any maintenances cost for any source of heating be it oil, gas, or wood. I find electricity to be the most expensive source of heat (even without maintenance cost)So the comparison would be between gas or wood for fireplace (insert).

    Constellation Community Team - 2/28/2018

    Jack, that’s a good perspective, we appreciate you sharing it!

Randy Robinson - 6/10/2017

I agree, gas is the most efficient, but there is something special about the look, smell and crackle of real wood burning. I like your ideas for how to make wood burning more efficient for us wood lovers. lol I especially like the idea of installing tempered glass. That was new to me. Great article.

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