When you’re shopping for a new stove, fireplace, or insert for your home, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the information and product options out there. The first step you should take, though, is to ask yourself what kind of hearth appliance best suits your needs. “Remember that the starting point is you, your home, your tastes and your lifestyle,” advises the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.
Consider how much of your home you want to heat, whether you’re looking for a fireplace that will provide aesthetic value more than warmth, and what fuels are easily accessible to you, suggests the HPBA.
There are three basic options when it comes to fuel for fireplaces and stoves: wood, pellets, and gas. Each type of fuel has its merits, and we’ll discuss them each in turn.
What to Know About Wood
Do you want to hear the pops and crackle of a roaring fire and smell the heady aroma of burning wood? Then a wood-burning stove, fireplace, or insert might be the hearth appliance for you!
According to Martin Holladay in an article for GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, wood heat is most sensible for:
- Homes in rural areas
- Homes with a woodshed where several cords of wood can be stored
- Homes in areas where firewood is relatively inexpensive or can be cut for free
- Compact two-story homes rather than single-story, rancher-style homes
- Homes with an open floor plan
That said, while a traditionally designed wood-burning fireplace can amp up the ambience in any kind of home, don’t expect it to generate much heat—“most are energy hogs, converting only 15 percent of wood’s energy into useful heat,” writes Rich Binsacca in an article for HouseLogic. “Fortunately, new energy-efficient fireplace designs are helping wood-burning fireplaces achieve efficiency ratings of 75 percent or more.”
Modern wood stoves likewise have been designed to maximize efficiency; they’re also more environmentally friendly. While older wood stoves have a reputation for producing large amounts of soot and smoke, today’s wood stoves burn cleaner and actually generate more heat than their predecessors. In fact, many modern wood stoves, such as those made by our retail partner Quadra-Fire, are EPA certified and comply with strict emissions and efficiency standards to reduce pollution and help people control their energy costs.
All Quadra-Fire stoves also are outfitted with Quadra-Fire Four-Point Burn Systems: “Four distinct combustion cycles maximize fuel-to-heat conversion by fully burning every log while re-burning gases and smoke up to four times,” according to a post on the Quadra-Fire Blog. “That means fewer trees to cut or cords to buy, less particulate emissions, and far less ash to clean up.”
Available in a variety of sizes, modern wood stoves also are heat-producing powerhouses capable of heating small and large spaces. “Larger stoves can heat spaces and whole homes as large as 4,000 square feet,” according to Quadra-Fire.
The Pros of Pellet Stoves
If you want the ambience and warmth of a wood stove without the hassle of chopping, stacking, and hauling wood, consider a pellet stove or insert for your home. “Pellet stoves look similar to wood stoves or fireplace inserts, but the similarity ends there,” writes Don Vandervort in an article for HomeTips.com. Rather than burning large pieces of wood, pellet stoves burn small pellets made of compacted plant matter, usually wood or sawdust. Some stoves also can burn pellets made from other biomass materials such as corn, wheat, and even cherry pits.
As one of the most advanced wood-burning technologies on the market today, pellet stoves have certain advantages over wood stoves. “Both because of the fuel’s consistency and the stove’s combustion mechanics, pellets burn very hot,” according to Vandervort. “This means they burn more efficiently and more cleanly than wood.”
Reduced heating costs are one of the top benefits of purchasing a pellet stove. While pellet stoves can be used to heat a whole house efficiently, depending on its size and layout, they’re especially helpful if you already heat your home with propane or heating oil. “Many homeowners zone heat certain areas with a pellet stove, which works in conjunction with their central furnace,” according to another post by Quadra-Fire. “Similar to the concept of a hybrid car, the pellet stove does the primary heating with the furnace as a backup—working together to gain efficiencies.”
The best pellet stoves are up to 87 percent efficient. “And with high efficiencies like that, some models can produce heat for nearly 24 hours on a single hopper of pellets, costing as little as $3 a day,” according to Quadra-Fire in another post.
Another pro for pellet stoves: they’re relatively low maintenance on a day-to-day basis. Simply add the pellets to the hopper, and you’re all set for almost an entire day. Because they’re designed to burn so hot, pellet stoves produce less ash than wood stoves, which means less regular clean-up time for you. They also make “far less creosote, a common wood stove and fireplace hazard that blackens glass doors and collects in chimneys, potentially causing chimney fires,” writes Vandervort.
Many modern pellet stoves are designed for form as much as function, offering a level of style and elegance that rivals any wood stove. “If you like the look of a fire, try to find a unit with a good flame pattern and a large viewing glass,” advises Vandervort. “You can get ceramic logs that help disperse the flames and give the fire a more traditional look.”
Getting Cozy with Gas
Flip a switch, enjoy a toasty fire—that’s the main attraction of a stove, fireplace, or insert that’s fueled by propane or natural gas. While you won’t get the same crackle or aroma that you do with a wood fire, you can still enjoy seeing real flames in your hearth without having to build a fire or add pellets.
Today’s modern gas hearth appliances are high-tech works of art, and the options for what you can do with them are nearly endless. Linear fireplace designs, heat management technology, and patio fireplaces are all hot trends this year, according to a blog post for Heat & Glo, another of our retail partners.
Gas hearth appliances can be surprisingly economical. Energy-efficient natural gas fireplace inserts can heat a 1,000-square-foot living space at a fairly low cost, writes Marcia Jedd in an article for HGTV.com. Some Heat & Glo gas fireplaces cost less than 40 cents an hour to operate, according to another post by Heat & Glo.
“Gas fireplaces also contribute to the household bottom line in other ways,” says Heat & Glo. “In addition to being inexpensive to operate, they are incredibly efficient and can actually help reduce your gas bills.” Some of the top gas fireplaces in the industry, such as those manufactured by our retail partner Mendota, boast fireplace efficiency ratings ranging from 70 to 84 percent.
As with pellet stoves, the key to serious energy savings with gas stoves, fireplaces, and inserts is to use them for zone heating—providing heat only to the rooms you use most. “Simply turn the temperature down on your central thermostat and let your fireplace heat the main areas where you live,” advises Heat & Glo. “It’s effective because central furnaces need to push large amounts of heat through the entire duct system, whereas gas fireplaces deliver heat directly into the living area for immediate warmth.”
Get Expert Advice and Save Money at Sunfire
Whatever kind of stove, fireplace, or insert you’re shopping for, find the perfect hearth appliance for your home at Sunfire Energy Solutions.
Be sure to take advantage of the following manufacturers’ coupons and the U.S. Biomass Tax Credit before they expire:
- Save $100 on Heat & Glo fireplaces, stoves, and inserts. Heat & Glo is giving out coupons for $100 off on purchases of fireplaces, stoves, or inserts. Visit
- Save $300 on qualifying wood and pellet stoves purchased in 2015 or 2016 by applying for the U.S. Biomass Tax Credit. This federal tax credit, which only lasts through Dec. 31, can help defray the cost of energy-efficient stoves that burn plant-derived fuels and meet the 75 percent efficiency requirement for residential biomass heating products. Learn more about how to apply for this tax credit at EnergyStar.gov.
- Save $400 on eligible Quadra-Fire stoves, fireplaces, and inserts. Quadra-Fire makes 32 different products that quality for the $300 U.S. Biomass Tax Credit. To encourage customers to take advantage of this tax credit while it lasts, Quadra-Fire is giving out $100 coupons. Get yours at Quadra-Fire.com before this combo offer expires.
Ready to start shopping at Sunfire? Visit our showroom at 301 East Stephen Street in Martinsburg, West Virginia, today to browse our extensive selection of hearth appliances from top brands, or call us at 304-267-3029 to talk to one of our expert sales representatives.
Sunfire Energy Solutions is a one-stop shop for grills, outdoor furniture, hot tubs, hearth products, and HVAC products and installation. We serve customers in Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties in West Virginia, as well as in nearby counties in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.sunfireenergysolutions.com.