Compare Gas Fireplace vs Pellet Stove Costs
An Expert Comparison of a Gas Fireplace and a Pellet Stove
About Gas Fireplaces
A gas fireplace brings warmth and character to your home. Gas fireplaces are available in a wide variety of styles and designs, from contemporary to traditional. Adding one can reduce your overall energy costs, too.
There are two types of gas fireplaces: Freestanding fireplaces or inserts that convert an existing wood-burning fireplace to gas. (Gas log sets are also available at a much lower price point, but they’re not as effective for heating).
Gas fireplaces run on natural gas or propane. Either way, the heat output is measured in British thermal units (BTUs), with models ranging from 8,500 to 100,000 BTUs. The most popular models fall in the range of 20,000 to 60,000 BTUs, although newer high-efficiency models allow you to adjust the heat output. To figure out the correct heat output for your home and heating needs, consult a local hearth professional.
Most gas fireplaces must be vented to the outdoors via a chimney or a direct vent to the outside of the home, but unvented models are also available. However, unvented models are controversial due to concerns about health and air quality.
How Much Does a Gas Fireplace Cost?
Gas log sets sell for about $200 to $1,000. Converting a traditional wood-burning fireplace to gas with an insert costs about $3,000 to $4,000, including installation and a chimney liner. Freestanding gas fireplaces often cost $4,000 to $5,000, including installation and venting.
Operating costs depend on the efficiency of your home, local gas prices, and the size and efficiency of your unit. In general, expect to pay anywhere from $0.10 to $0.50 per hour of use.
Gas Fireplace Pros
- Easy to operate - Operating most gas fireplaces is as simple as pressing the on/off button. You don’t have to load them, light them or tend to them. There are no ashes to clean up, and there’s no waiting for the unit to generate heat.
- Clean burning - Natural gas burns much cleaner than wood pellets, emitting less soot and pollution. A gas fireplace won’t aggravate respiratory problems.
- Low maintenance - Gas fireplaces require only occasional maintenance - usually just an annual inspection, which costs about $75 to $150.
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Gas Fireplace Cons
- More expensive - Gas fireplaces tend to cost more upfront. And in many cases, they also cost more to operate. However, operating costs are heavily dependent on gas prices, which fluctuate significantly.
- Burn fossil fuels - Natural gas and propane are non-renewable resources, so they’re not considered as eco-friendly as wood.
- Not a real fire - Gas fireplaces are pretty realistic looking, but some people miss the sounds and smells of a real fire.
About Pellet Stoves
Pellet stoves are similar to traditional wood-burning stoves, but they rely on wood pellets, rather than logs, for fuel. Wood pellets are typically made of wood waste such as sawdust, wood shavings, paper and other organic materials, which makes them an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.
Like gas fireplaces, pellet stoves can be freestanding or fireplace inserts. (There are also larger pellet-fueled furnaces that replace or supplement traditional fossil fuel-burning furnaces.) Pellet stoves have heating capacities ranging from 8,000 to 90,000 British thermal units (Btu) per hour. All pellet stoves have what’s known as a hopper that feeds stored pellets into the fire. Most hold between 35 to 130 pounds. In most cases, you’ll need to refill the hopper about once per day.
As with gas fireplaces, high-end pellet stoves can be connected to your thermostat, which allows for easy adjustment of the heat output.
How Much Does a Pellet Stove Cost?
Most pellet stoves cost $1,700 to $3,000, not including installation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Installation could add a few hundred dollars or several thousand, depending on complexity. However, pellet stoves are generally cheaper to install than conventional wood stoves because most can be direct-vented and do not require a chimney or flue. Because of the lower installation cost, the total cost of a pellet stove is typically lower than the total cost of a comparable wood stove.
Wood pellets are typically sold in 40 pound bags that cost about $4 to $10 each. Buying in bulk keeps the price on the lower end of that range. Premium pellets sold by the individual bag fall on the high end. Pellet stoves do require electricity to operate the feeder, controls and fans, but the electricity costs are minimal. They average about $9 per month, according to the DOE.
Pellet Stove Pros
- Less expensive - Pellet stoves tend to cost less than gas fireplaces. They usually cost less to operate, too, despite actually being less efficient, because natural gas and propane are usually more expensive than wood pellets.
- Generate more heat - Pellet stoves tend to generate more heat than similarly-sized gas fireplaces. They’re a better option for heating the entire home or a large portion of the home, as opposed to a single room.
- Renewable fuel - Wood pellets are renewable, so they’re considered more eco-friendly than fossil fuels such as natural gas and propane.
Pellet Stove Cons
- High maintenance - Pellet stoves require constant attention. You need to load them, light them and tend to them. They need regular cleaning. If you’d rather just flip and on/off switch, a pellet stove is not the best choice.
- Not clean burning - Wood pellets do not burn as cleanly as natural gas, so they’re not ideal if anyone in your family has respiratory problems such as asthma.