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Heating Your Home: Gas or Wood?

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Some folks take comfort in the romantic notion of heating their homes by burning wood in a fireplace or wood stove. There’s something that just feels cozy about the flames, the aroma, and the sound — that unmistakable crackle and pop — of a cheerful blaze on a crisp winter day. As a cost-efficient heat source, however, firewood leaves a lot to be desired. Even people who live in densely wooded areas believe they will save money by heating their homes with wood. However, too often they fail to account for the overall cost in time, money, and labor.

To begin with, someone has to cut, haul, and split the wood, and that’s no minor task. If you own or have access to a chainsaw, a pickup, and a splitting mall, you’re on the right track, but you still must commit to hours of hard work. If you have ever cut and split a cord of wood, you know what we’re saying. If you don’t have the tools or you’re not willing to do the work yourself, don’t bother with wood. The money you think you’ll save burning wood to heat your home will be eaten up in the cost of the fuel. In addition, if you’re using a traditional brick-and-mortar fireplace, keep in mind that such fireplaces actually remove more heat from the home than they supply. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that as much as 1,000 cubic feet of heated air is sucked up the chimney every minute the fire is burning.

Even if you’re willing to buy your firewood, you will still need plenty of patience. After it is cut and split, firewood should not be burned until it has been properly seasoned in a dry environment, preferably for up to a year. Burning wood before it is ready further reduces heat efficiency. It also runs the risk of a potentially dangerous creosote buildup that can result in a chimney fire. Finally, burning wood to heat a home is like attaching a leash to a collar around your neck. Someone has to be there to feed the fire every few hours, or it will go out. Leaving an untended fire in the fireplace while you go out shopping is not the safest proposition. And if the fireplace or wood-burning stove is your sole source of heat in the dead of a Wasatch Front winter, you’re just asking for the pipes to freeze.

So what’s the alternative? These days, your best bet is a gas insert or gas fireplace from Croft Fireplace Center. We can safely and efficiently install a gas insert into your existing fireplace, or we can fit your home with an attractive gas fireplace that requires no existing chimney. When properly installed, a gas insert or fireplace uses only outside air for combustion. None of the air from inside your home will be sent outside, so only 20 to 30 percent of the heat generated by a gas appliance is lost through exhaust. Gas inserts and fireplaces generate significant heat — to the point that they are anywhere from 70 to 85 percent efficient, depending on the size of the dwelling. A 40,000 BTU gas insert or fireplace can operate on natural gas for about 40 cents an hour while retaining most of its heat inside the home. Because it retains so much heat, a gas insert or fireplace is significantly more efficient than wood. Ultimately, buying and installing a gas insert or fireplace will be more cost effective. Eventually, it will totally offset the normal cost of heating your home.

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