9 Types of Fireplaces Compared: Cost, Efficiency, and Style

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Choosing the right fireplace can transform not just your living space but your entire home experience. Fireplaces are not just a source of heat; they’re an expression of your home’s personality. But that’s not all!

Did you know that having a fireplace can increase your home’s value by up to 12%? It’s not just an investment in comfort; it’s an investment in your property. With such an impactful investment, choosing the right fireplace type becomes crucial.

An expensive looking fireplace.

This comprehensive guide showcases the nine most popular types of fireplaces, their cost, efficiency, and aesthetics, among other factors.

We’ll equip you with the knowledge to select the perfect fireplace that complements your budget, warms your living space, and adds timeless elegance to your home.

1. Traditional Wood-Burning Fireplaces

A traditional wood burning fireplace.

These are the classic open-hearth beauties, often masonry built with brick or stone, channeling smoke up the chimney with the help of a damper. However, for a more straightforward installation, prefabricated (prefab) wood-burning fireplaces are available. 

These come as kits and are assembled on-site, offering a balance between convenience and traditional appeal. Both site-built and prefab traditional fireplaces require regular cleaning and maintenance.


  • Open flame: Enjoy the mesmerizing visuals and comforting sounds of a real fire.
  • High heat output: Expect up to 30,000 BTUs, effectively warming large spaces.
  • Fuel versatility: Burn firewood, logs, or even coal (check local regulations).
  • Customizable design: Available in wood, brick, stone, cast iron, and tile materials. You can add styles and mantels to personalize your space.


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Features aside, get ready for some heavy lifting (or hiring!). Masonry fireplaces require professional installation and involve structural considerations like chimney construction.

While undeniably charming, traditional fireplaces aren’t the most efficient. Expect around a 10-25% efficiency rating, meaning a lot of heat escapes up the chimney. Consider adding glass doors or inserts to improve efficiency.

As far as safety goes, open flames demand respect. Always ensure proper ventilation, maintain a 3-foot clearance from combustible materials, and use a sturdy fire screen.

When it comes to design, you have limitless options! From rustic brick to sleek stone, contemporary surrounds, and elegant mantels, the possibilities are endless. 

Lastly, expect to spend between $3,000 and $10,000, depending on the size, materials, and installation complexity of a traditional fireplace.


  • Moderate heat output
  • Authentic fireplace experience
  • Customizable design
  • Adds value to your home


  • Low energy efficiency
  • High installation cost
  • Requires ongoing maintenance
  • Safety concerns

2. Clean Burning

A clean burning wood fireplace.

A clean-burning wood fireplace is a modernized version of its centuries-old ancestor. It features a firebox lined with firebrick or heat-resistant tiles, a sturdy andiron for supporting logs, and a damper to control airflow.

However, unlike their open-hearth predecessors, clean-burning wood fireplaces use a dual combustion system to convert gases and particles into heat. This burns wood more efficiently, reducing smoke and emissions.


  • Airtight doors: These glass doors keep sparks and smoke contained, enhancing safety and allowing you to enjoy the fire’s mesmerizing glow without worry.
  • Secondary combustion chamber: This additional chamber burns off smoke particles and unburned gasses, resulting in cleaner combustion and improved efficiency.
  • Catalytic combustors: Some models utilize these honeycomb-like structures to accelerate the burning process, further reducing emissions and boosting heat output.
  • Adjustable draft controls: Fine-tuning the airflow optimizes combustion and heat distribution, maximizing fuel efficiency.

Unlike gas or electric fireplaces, wood-burning models require professional installation by a qualified mason or chimney sweep. This process is more involved because it involves ensuring proper venting, flue sizing, and hearth construction.

Additionally, modern clean-burning fireplaces boast impressive efficiency ratings, ranging from 70% to 80%. In terms of heat output, expect an average of 25,000 to 35,000 BTUs per hour, enough to warm a large living space.

Safety is paramount with any fireplace, and clean wood-burning models require extra vigilance. Regularly cleaning the chimney and flue is crucial to prevent creosote buildup and fire hazards. Additionally, using a sturdy fire screen and practicing safe fire-tending habits are essential.

Similar to traditional wood-burning fireplaces, the clean versions come in a plethora of styles to complement any aesthetic. From rustic brick surrounds to sleek contemporary mantels, you can find a design that seamlessly blends with the look of your house. 

The cost of a clean-burning wood-burning fireplace can vary widely depending on factors like size, material, and features. Expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or more on the fireplace itself, with installation adding additional costs.


  • High efficiency
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Unmatched ambiance
  • Increases home value
  • Numerous design options


  • Higher installation cost
  • More maintenance
  • Safety concerns
  • Limited heat distribution
  • Not as convenient as alternative options

3. EPA Certified

An EPA-certified wood-burning fireplace adheres to environmental standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It ensures a more efficient combustion process, minimizing harmful emissions and optimizing heat output.


  • Open flame: The quintessential charm of wood-burning fireplaces lies in the mesmerizing open flame, offering a visual and sensory experience unmatched by other fireplace types.
  • High heat output: Traditional EPA-certified wood-burning fireplaces can generate tremendous heat, easily warming up large spaces with BTUs ranging from 20,000 to 60,000, depending on the size and efficiency of the unit.
  • Variable heat control: While damper controls allow for some heat regulation, the fireplace’s open nature can make maintaining a consistent temperature challenging.

Like their counterparts, EPA-certified wood-burning fireplaces require proper installation, including a chimney or flue system for venting smoke and gases. This adds to the upfront cost and complexity compared to other fireplace options.

While EPA-certified models offer improved efficiency compared to older fireplaces, they still lose a significant amount of heat up the chimney, with an average efficiency rating of around 20-30%.

Also, open flames and sparks pose safety risks, requiring proper precautions like fireguards and regular chimney cleaning. The good news is you still get various styles, from rustic stone hearths to sleek modern enclosures, allowing you to personalize your space.

Although EPA-certified models burn cleaner, wood-burning fireplaces still contribute to air pollution and release carbon dioxide. To minimize your environmental impact, consider sourcing sustainable firewood and practicing responsible burning habits.

The cost of a wood-burning fireplace can vary widely depending on size, materials, and features, ranging from $2,000 to $12,000 or more.


  • High heat output
  • Open flame ambiance
  • Wide variety of styles
  • Natural, renewable fuel source


  • High installation costs
  • Lower energy efficiency
  • Safety concerns
  • Air pollution and carbon emissions

4. Direct Vent Gas Fireplace 

A direct vent gas fireplace.

Direct vent gas fireplaces are the gold standard for efficiency and safety. They operate with a sealed combustion system, meaning air intake and exhaust are channeled directly through a pipe or chimney to the outdoors. This eliminates the risk of carbon monoxide leaking into your living space and keeps indoor air quality pristine.


  • Realistic flame effects: Modern gas logs and burners create remarkably lifelike flames that dance and flicker, capturing the essence of a wood-burning fire.
  • Remote control operation: Enjoy the convenience of turning your fireplace on and off, adjusting flame height, and even setting timers from the comfort of your couch.
  • Variety of styles: From traditional brick surrounds to sleek, contemporary models. Direct vent gas fireplaces come in a wide range of styles to complement any décor.

Similar to traditional fireplaces, direct-vent gas fireplaces require professional installation due to the need for a dedicated venting system. Moreover, they boast impressive efficiency, with most models converting over 90% of the fuel’s energy into heat.

For safety purposes, the sealed combustion system and flue venting eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and ensure safe operation even in tightly sealed homes. As for maintenance, annual inspection and cleaning by a qualified technician are recommended to ensure optimal performance and safety.

These fireplace types are also available in many designs, from classic mantels and hearths to modern wall-mounted units and even outdoor fireplace options. Direct vent gas fireplaces are considered more eco-friendly than traditional wood-burning fireplaces because of the sealed system and high efficiency that minimize their environmental impact.

When it comes to costs, direct vent gas fireplaces can range in price from around $4,000 to $11,000 or more, depending on factors like size, features, and brand. On average, operational costs can range from $200 to $500 per year.

However, their efficiency and 20-year average lifespan can make them a cost-effective investment in the long run.


  • Highly efficient
  • Safe
  • Clean-burning
  • Convenient
  • Low maintenance
  • Variety of styles


  • Higher upfront cost
  • Professional installation required
  • Limited heat output

5. Vent-Free Gas Fireplace 

A ventless gas fireplace.

Vent-free gas fireplaces offer a seamless blend of convenience and warmth, making them an increasingly popular choice for modern homes. As the name suggests, these units operate without a chimney or vent, allowing for versatile placement within a room. 

They’re designed to maximize heat efficiency by circulating warmth directly into the living space rather than losing it through a vent.


  • Convenience: No chimney means easy installation, often in locations where traditional fireplaces wouldn’t work. Plus, instant on/off control with remote or thermostat integration.
  • Cleanliness: No more soot or ash, making vent-free fireplaces ideal for allergy sufferers and those who appreciate a low-maintenance option.
  • Efficiency: Modern vent-free models boast impressive efficiency ratings, reaching up to 99.9%, meaning almost all the heat generated stays in your home.
  • Variety: Vent-free fireplaces are available in contemporary glass-fronted models to rustic stone surrounds and can have traditional mantels.

While generally easier to install than vented models, professional installation is still crucial for safety and optimal performance. Expect to pay around $1,000-$2,000 for installation on top of the fireplace itself.

The average heat output of ventless gas fireplaces ranges from 20,000 to 40,000 BTUs, depending on the model size. For your safety, these fireplace types feature numerous safety measures like oxygen depletion sensors, automatic shut-off valves, and cool-to-the-touch exteriors.

As far as maintenance is concerned, it is minimal compared to wood-burning fireplaces. It mostly involves annual inspections and occasional cleaning of the burner and logs.

While vent-free gas fireplaces are incredibly efficient, they do burn fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Consider using renewable sources like biogas or propane to minimize your environmental impact.

Lastly, vent-free gas fireplaces range in price from around $1,500 for basic models to upwards of $8,000 for luxurious options. Depending on usage and fuel prices, expect annual operational costs to be around $200-$400.


  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Clean and low-maintenance
  • Highly efficient, keeping you warm and saving money
  • Wide variety of styles to choose from
  • No chimney or flue is required


  • Releases some combustion byproducts into the room, requiring proper ventilation
  • Higher upfront cost
  • It may not be suitable for all homes due to ventilation requirements

6. Electric Fireplaces

An Electric Fireplace.

An electric fireplace mimics the appearance and ambiance of a traditional wood-burning or gas fireplace but operates using electricity. It is designed to provide warmth and the visual appeal of a real flame without the need for a chimney, venting, or the use of traditional fuels like wood or gas.


  • Versatility: Electric models come in various styles, from sleek wall-mounted units to freestanding consoles, fitting seamlessly into any décor.
  • Placement Flexibility: No chimney? No problem! Electric fireplaces can be placed virtually anywhere, adding ambiance to bedrooms, bathrooms, and even media rooms.
  • Instant Gratification: Electric fireplaces turn on with a switch or remote, offering instant warmth and ambiance.

Installation couldn’t be simpler. Plug it in, and voilà! No flue or gas lines are required, making them ideal for apartments, rentals, or even bedrooms. Plus, they typically convert 99% of their energy into heat and generate 1,500-5,000 BTUs of heat output, boasting impressive energy efficiency.

Safety is another gold star for electric fireplaces. No open flames or embers means peace of mind, especially for people with pets and young children. Maintenance is a breeze, too – occasional bulb changes and cleaning the exterior and fan are all it takes to keep your electric beauty aglow.

Design Options

Speaking of beauty, the design options are staggering. From contemporary glass-encased flames to traditional log sets, electric fireplaces cater to every taste. And did we mention eco-friendliness? Electric models produce no harmful emissions, making them a responsible choice for the planet-conscious homeowner.


On the cost front, electric fireplaces range from $200 for basic models to $5,000 for luxury options. Installation is typically $100-$300, and annual operational costs average around $100.


  • Clean and convenient
  • Versatile and stylish
  • Safe and low-maintenance
  • Energy efficient
  • Eco-friendly


  • Lower heat output
  • Artificial flame effect
  • Running costs can add to your electricity bill

7. Ethanol Fireplaces

An ethanol fireplace.

Ethanol fireplaces, also known as bioethanol fireplaces, are a type of ventless fireplace that uses ethanol as a fuel source to produce a clean and real flame. These fireplaces offer a modern and eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood-burning or gas fireplaces.

The absence of a need for venting allows for more flexibility in terms of placement/installation within a room. While they’re not champions of heat output, expect an average efficiency of over 90%, generating around 8,000-12,000 BTUs of heat, enough to comfortably warm small to medium-sized spaces.

Safety and Maintenance

Safety-wise, ethanol fireplaces generally come with built-in safeguards like automatic shut-off mechanisms and spill containment features. However, keep in mind that open flames demand respect. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and exercise caution, especially around children and pets.

Maintenance is another perk. You only need to keep the area around the fireplace tidy and clean. You can do this by using a polishing agent on the plates inside and outside the burner. Ensure that both the inside and outside areas of the burner are spotless. You can also use a damp cloth to clean the plates.

Design Options

Ethanol fireplaces aren’t just functional; they’re fashion chameleons. Their contemporary and eco-friendly designs range from sleek tabletop models to chic wall-mounted units, adding a touch of sophistication. Plus, the lack of venting restrictions opens up a world of placement possibilities, making them ideal for apartments or even outdoor patios.


Bioethanol fuel, derived from renewable sources like corn or sugarcane, burns cleanly with minimal emissions. While not entirely carbon-neutral, it’s a step towards a greener flame.


Installation simplicity translates to cost savings. The unit itself will cost anywhere from $300 to $2,000, with annual fuel costs averaging around $100-$200.


  • Easy installation
  • Portable and versatile
  • Clean-burning
  • Low maintenance
  • Sleek and stylish designs


  • Lower heat output
  • Open flame safety
  • Fuel cost

8. Pellet Stoves

A pellet stove.

Pellet stoves provide a convenient and environmentally friendly option compared to traditional fireplaces. These stoves have a hopper that holds the pellets and a motorized auger that feeds the pellets automatically into a burning pot.

An electric blower then circulates air, which helps maintain the burn and distribute heat effectively. 


  • Pellet Fuel: Derived from recycled wood waste, these compact cylinders offer high energy density and consistent burning. The hopper, typically holding around 50 lbs, fuels the stove for several hours, eliminating the need for frequent wood-loading.
  • Motorized Components: A fan circulates air, feeding pellets into the burning pot and venting the exhaust. Because pellet stoves require electricity, unlike wood-burning models, they require an outlet.

While installation is more complex than a basic fireplace, it’s generally less messy than a wood-burning setup. Pellet stoves require a flue for venting and an electrical outlet to power the motor and blower. Expect professional installation costs to range between $500 and $1,500, depending on your location and chosen model.

Moreover, pellet stoves boast impressive efficiency, converting up to 83% of their fuel into heat, and heat outputs ranging from 8,000 to 90,000 BTUs. They also burn cleaner, emitting fewer pollutants and contributing to a more eco-friendly heating option.

Safety and Maintenance

Like any combustion appliance, safety is paramount. Regular cleaning (weekly ash removal and occasional scraper cleaning) is essential for optimal performance and fire prevention. Pellet stoves typically come with built-in safety features like overheating sensors and automatic shut-off mechanisms.


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Design Options

Modern pellet stoves come in various styles, from sleek and contemporary to rustic and traditional. Some models even feature windows to showcase the mesmerizing flames, adding a touch of ambiance to your living space. You can also find wall-mounted options for a space-saving solution.


Installation costs for pellet stoves can range from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the model and level of complexity. The cost of pellet fuel varies by region but generally falls between $0.04 and $0.08 per BTU.

Depending on usage and fuel prices, annual operating costs can range between $500 and $1,500.


  • Highly efficient, producing more heat with less fuel
  • Convenient auto-feed and minimal ash
  • Eco-friendly with lower emissions
  • Diverse design options for various aesthetics


  • Requires electricity and regular maintenance
  • Higher upfront installation cost
  • Operational costs can be higher, depending on fuel prices

9. Outdoor Fireplaces

An outdoor fireplace.

Outdoor fireplaces are freestanding, open-air hearths designed for alfresco enjoyment. Unlike indoor models, they’re built with weather-resistant materials like brick, stone, or concrete, often featuring fire pits or chimneys to manage smoke and heat.


  • Materials: You can choose from rustic brick or sleek stainless steel, with options like granite countertops or decorative tiles for a personalized touch. Remember, materials should be weatherproof and heat-resistant.
  • Landscaping: Consider wind direction and proximity to flammable objects when placing your fireplace. Create a safe and inviting space with comfortable seating and heat-resistant flooring like pavers.
  • Energy Efficiency: Outdoor wood-burning fireplaces offer high heat output (around 30,000-100,000 BTUs) but low efficiency (20-30%). Gas models are more efficient (50-75%) and produce around 25,000 BTUs. Electric models are most efficient (99%) but generate minimal heat (around 5,000 BTUs).

Installation Complexity

Gas-powered outdoor fireplaces require professional installation due to gas lines while wood-burning options involve building a firebox and chimney. Some electric models offer plug-and-play simplicity.

Safety and Maintenance

As far as safety goes, always follow local regulations and manufacturer instructions. Maintain sufficient clearance from combustibles, use proper screens, and never leave a burning fireplace unattended.

When it comes to maintenance, regular upkeep is essential. Remove ashes frequently, clean fireboxes, and check for cracks or damage. Outdoor wet-dry vacuums come in handy, and a deep clean once a year ensures optimal performance.

Design Options

The world of outdoor fireplace design is diverse. Fire pits offer open flames and rustic charm, while chimneys provide focused heat and a touch of elegance. Gas models often feature modern styles with sleek finishes and lighting elements.


Wood-burning fireplaces contribute to air pollution, while electric models are the cleanest option. Gas fireplaces fall somewhere in between.


Costs vary based on type, size, material, and installation complexity. Expect installation costs ranging from $1,500 to $15,000 (including labor costs), with average annual operational costs for gas fireplaces between $100 and $500.

Of course, all of this depends on the fireplace types, installation complexity, preferred designs, and choice of fuel or heat source.


  • Extends outdoor living season
  • Creates a cozy ambiance
  • Adds aesthetic appeal to your property
  • Provides warmth and light
  • Can be used for cooking


  • Safety concerns with open flames
  • Requires maintenance and cleaning
  • Can be expensive to install and operate
  • Not ideal for all weather conditions

How Do I Choose the Right Fireplace for My Home?

So, you’ve seen the perks and have fallen head over heels for the captivating allure of a fireplace. Now, here’s how to find your needle in a haystack of options.

Assess Your Heating Needs and Preferences

Consider the size and insulation of your space, as well as your climate. Will this fireplace be your primary heat source or a supplemental treat?

For larger spaces in colder climates, prioritize 80%+ efficiency and heat output between 40,000-80,000 BTUs. For smaller areas or milder weather, prioritize aesthetics and ambiance.

Installation Requirements

Next, consider the installation requirements. Wood-burning fireplaces necessitate chimneys and proper ventilation, while gas models might involve gas line hookups. Electric fireplaces offer the most plug-and-play potential, making them ideal for apartments or existing spaces.


Now comes the money talk. Budget plays a crucial role. Wood-burning fireplaces tend to be the most cost-effective upfront, but factor in wood costs and potential chimney maintenance. Gas fireplaces fall in the middle range, while electric models typically have the lowest ongoing costs but higher initial purchase prices.

Set a realistic budget encompassing not just the fireplace itself but also installation and potential renovations.


As we wrap up, here’s a summary of the fireplace types discussed above.

For starters, wood-burning fireplaces provide a natural ambiance but necessitate regular maintenance. Gas fireplaces offer adjustable heat without the mess. Electric fireplaces are efficient and straightforward to use but lack authentic flame charm.

Additionally, ethanol fireplaces and pellet stoves are cleaner and more convenient heating systems for your home. If you want to enjoy the warmth of a fireplace outdoors, you can always invest in an outdoor fireplace.

Ultimately, the perfect fireplace is a reflection of your lifestyle and home design. Consider your heating needs, budget, desired ambiance, and maintenance preferences to guide your decision.

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Thomas Green

Thomas has worked in the Chimney & Fireplace field for over 12 years. He is an expert in his trade and loves to help People with their needs. Thomas Write helpful articles so that homeowners can make the most informed decisions about their fireplace and chimney.