Should I Have a Wood-Burning Stove or Fireplace?

Choosing between a wood-burning stove and a fireplace requires careful consideration of various factors to determine which option best suits your needs and preferences.

Using a fireplace is the most inefficient way to heat a home, because the efficiency of a fireplace is only 10-20%. In contrast, a modern wood-burning stove is up to 80% efficient. Wood-burning stoves are also remarkably safer and more environmentally friendly than fireplaces.

Curious to learn more about whether a wood-burning stove or fireplace is the right choice for your home? Keep reading to find out!

Wood-burning stove vs fireplace: understanding the differences

Both wood-burning stoves and wood-burning fireplaces have less environmental impact than that of  appliances that burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. In fact, wood is often referred to as a carbon-neutral fuel—in the long term. 

During its lifetime, a tree absorbs a certain amount of CO2 from the environment. When the tree is decomposed or burned, the same amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. That’s not the case with fossil fuels because when you burn them, the combustion releases CO2 that was trapped in the bowels of the earth for millions of years.

But that does not mean that firewood is an environmentally friendly fuel. In terms of their environmental impact, a non-combustion heating system such as a ground source heat pump is  significantly better than both a wood-burning stove and a wood-burning fireplace.

When it comes to using firewood to keep your home warm, a wood-burning stove is usually preferable to a fireplace. However, both of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and a fireplace may be preferable in some cases.

You burn firewood in both cases, but not with the same efficiency. Whether you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you have to ensure regular maintenance. And you need a storage space for firewood.

The tables below outline the pros and cons of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Pros and cons of wood-burning stoves

Highly efficient. Less wood is needed to produce the same heat as a traditional fireplace producesRemarkably eco-friendly. Modern catalytic wood-burning stoves emit little to no smokeNo built-in chimney required, so you can install a wood-burning stove in a modern flatFire is contained within the stove, so there is very little risk of fire hazardsHigh upfront cost. A high-quality wood stove can cost up to $3500. Expect to spend an additional $1000-$1500 for installationRegular maintenance is required for optimal performance. Ideally, the chimney should be swept twice per yearThe stove gets very hot when it is in operation. Extra care should be taken if there are children and pets in your home

Pros and cons of fireplaces

Adds to the value as well as the aesthetic appeal of your homeProvides great ambienceAdds a traditional vibe to your homeVery inefficient. 80-90% of the heat gets wastedNot suitable for heating a large areaMay require costly repairs from time to timeRequires regular maintenance

Wood-burning stove vs fireplace: Which is more efficient?

Efficiency is one of the main reasons homeowners replace their fireplaces with wood-burning stoves. When a fireplace is lit, up to 90% of the heat leaves straight out through the chimney. That means, the efficiency of a fireplace can be as little as 10%.

Pulling warm air up, fireplace draughts can make other rooms cooler. Lower-temperature fires, inefficient construction, clogged dampers and chimney blockages can cause the chimney to draw in cold air—a problem known as backdraught.

Because an open fire has a low temperature, complete combustion does not occur. Therefore, you have to burn plenty of firewood to keep your home warm. And that means more impact on the environment. The US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that traditional wood fireplaces cause 20 times more air pollution than EPA-certified wood-burning appliances do.

Modern catalytic and non-catalytic wood-burning stoves are remarkably efficient. An Ecodesign stove is 80-90% efficient, which means only 10-20% of the heat generated by the stove gets wasted. However, this high level of efficiency is attained only when you burn sufficiently seasoned wood and ensure regular maintenance of the stove.

Are wood stoves cheaper than fireplaces?

Based on the brand and size, a new wood-burning stove will cost $500-$2500. If there is no existing chimney in your home, the installation cost of a wood-burning stove, including the cost of building a chimney, will be anywhere between $2500-$3500.

The installation of a new fireplace costs anywhere between $3000 and $5000. And as we have mentioned, a fireplace is very inefficient, which means the ongoing cost is also high.

A homeowner planning to sell the home may prefer a fireplace because it can increase the value of the home.

Are wood-burning stoves safer than fireplaces?

Yes, a wood-burning stove is significantly safer than an open fire. Safety challenges are associated with all types of combustion-based appliances, particularly fireplaces. To allow for proper airflow, you must keep your fireplace open. And that increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Fireplaces can be dangerous in homes with children and pets.

By taking a few steps, however, you can improve the safety of your fireplace. Ensure regular cleaning of the chimney. It’s pretty easy to install a heat-proof glass door. A blower system or fan can significantly reduce toxic fumes.

A wood-burning stove is safer because fire is contained within the stove. There is a risk of burns if you touch the stove when it is in operation, but the absence of open flames makes the appliance very safe.

Environmental impact of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces

The combustion of wood releases gasses and pollutants that include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and a host of hazardous chemicals. The risk of air pollution is significantly higher if you burn wood with a moisture content of more than 20%.

A traditional fireplace is only 10-20% efficient, and therefore has an adverse impact on the environment. The chimney emits plenty of smoke even if you burn only dry wood.

In terms of their environmental impact, thanks to their high efficiency, wood-burning stoves are not as bad as fireplaces. While even the most sophisticated units emit harmful gasses and particulate matter, there are some simple ways to reduce pollution from wood-burning stoves.


When you have to choose either a wood-burning stove or a fireplace, the former is almost always the better option. Wood-burning stoves have undergone huge transformations in the last few decades, and investing in a modern stove is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

A fireplace can increase the value of a home, and therefore can be a good option for a home-owner who wants to sell the home sometime in the future. Yet, that may not be a good idea because the installation cost is pretty high. Moreover, governments are making stricter laws regarding firewood combustion, and encouraging people to buy efficient stoves.

If you currently have a fireplace and do not want to sell your home, replacing the fireplace with a modern wood stove can be a wise decision. With that said, not all wood stoves are equally efficient, so do a little bit of research before you buy one.