Fireplaces: electric vs gas vs wood-burning stoves
When it’s cold outside, you can’t beat snuggling up in front of a fireplace. But with a variety of different options available, which one will suit your home?
We’ve looked at the benefits and drawbacks of gas fires and stoves, electric fires and stoves, and wood-burning stoves to help you make the right choice.
Gas fires and stoves
Gas fires have come a long way since the 1960s, and you can now choose from a wide variety of styles.
The good news is they pump out plenty of heat at a relatively low cost. But the downside is that they need regular maintenance and monitoring.
Gas fire pros
- Low running costs: using gas to heat your home is much cheaper than using electricity, and less hassle than buying and storing logs.
- Good source of heat: gas fires and stoves can provide outputs of up to 6kW, about three times as much as electric fires.
- Efficiency: gas appliances can be up to 90% efficient, although the exact figure varies from one model to another, so check for the efficiency rating.
- Chimneys aren’t essential: you can now buy ‘balanced flue’ fires, which are vented through an external wall, or even flueless models.
- More realistic appearance: gas fires tend to look more authentic than most electric fires, when comparing models in a similar price bracket.
Gas fire cons
- Professional installation costs: your fire must be installed by a registered Gas Safe engineer.
- Expert maintenance: you’ll also have to get it serviced annually by an engineer to make sure it’s safe to use.
- Carbon monoxide: you’ll need to get a to protect yourself against gas leaks.
- Chimney cleaning: unless you have a flueless appliance, your chimneys will need to be cleaned once or twice a year.
- Less choice of location: most styles of gas fire will need to be placed within a chimney breast or against an outside wall so they can be vented.
Electric fires and stoves
If you’re looking for flexibility and minimal maintenance, electric fires and stoves could be for you. But the running costs and the limited amount of heat they generate aren’t such attractive qualities.
Electric fire pros
- Cheaper to buy: electric fires and stoves start at lower prices than gas and wood-burning equivalents.
- Easier to install: depending on the model and where you want to put it, you may be able to just plug and go, avoiding the cost of professional help to install it.
- Low maintenance: electric fires don’t produce ash that needs clearing up and don’t require a chimney that needs to be cleared regularly.
- More flexible: you can place electric fires anywhere they can be plugged in, and you can still use them within fireplaces or set in chimney breasts.
- Very energy efficient: electric fires are 100% efficient, meaning all the heat is emitted into your room as none is lost in a chimney or flue.
- Convenient: some models can be operated by remote control, which could be handy if you have limited mobility.
Electric fire cons
- Expensive to run: the biggest drawback of electric appliances is the running costs, as electricity is a much more expensive fuel than gas or wood.
- Low heat outputs: most electric fires and stoves are limited to just 2kW or less, which is significantly lower than the range available from gas and wood-burning appliances.
- Less realistic: if you love a real flame effect, you’re unlikely to get it from an electric fire unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money on a high-end model.
The closest experience to a traditional open fire is to get a wood-burning stove, so it’s not hard to see why millions of households have installed them.
But that authentic experience can come with substantial upfront costs and a negative impact on the environment.
Wood-burning stove pros
- Benefits of a real fire: a wood-burning stove can be a great focal point in your living room, creating a warm, cosy feel with real flames.
- More efficient than an open fire: most of the heat from an open fire is actually lost up the chimney, while most wood-burning stoves have efficiencies of between 60% and 80%.
- Low running costs: more than half the Which? stove owners we surveyed said they believed it was helping them to save money on heating.*
- Different fuel options: as well as traditional log burners, you can also choose from multi-fuel or wood pellet stoves, so you can pick a model that suits your needs.
Wood-burning stove cons
- Storage needs: you’ll need plenty of room to store fuel, especially if you'll be burning logs and plan to dry them out yourself.
- Preparation: wood-burning stoves can take time to light and some need the ash cleaned out first every time you want to start the fire.
- Maintenance: as with most gas fires and stoves, you’ll need to get your chimney cleaned regularly.
- Installation: you’ll need to get a professional to install your stove to make sure it meets building regulations.
- Expensive to buy: wood-burning stoves start at around £400, which is significantly higher than the cost of gas or electric equivalents.
- Pollution concerns: stoves can have a negative impact on air quality. But this can be minimised if you .
*January 2019 survey of 1,434 Which? members who have bought a stove in the past 10 years.