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Hot Topic: Wood vs. Gas to Keep Home Fires Burning

Taylors Hearth & Leisure Mendota Fireplace

Courtesy Taylors Hearth & Leisure / Mendota

Fireplace season is upon us on Long Island, the cooler days and nights finally arriving and bringing with them the burning desire for flickering flames, the sounds and scents of crackling logs, and the warmth that a fire brings to both body and soul. But what type of fire gets you fired up is as heated a debate as dogs vs. cats, chocolate vs. vanilla, summer vs. winter—the beauty being, you really can’t lose, no matter which side you choose when it comes to deciding between gas-burning and wood-burning options.

“It really is a matter of personal choice and taste, and both are popular,” says Taylor’s Hearth & Leisure sales manager Brian Puma, walking among various of fireplaces, fire pits and stoves in his Franklin Square emporium. The ultimate decision for each homeowner seems to come down to cleanliness and convenience versus the classic cozy qualities of yore.

“The advantages of gas are, they’re neater, they’re cleaner, there are no ashes, there’s no soot,” Puma says. “There’s a simple remote control to turn it on an off. Gas radiates more heat into the room—with the blowers and the fans, it’s more heat-producing. And it’s easier to maintain.

“With wood,” he continues, “you get the crackling, and the smell of the wood is nice. But any wood-burning fireplace really doesn’t generate heat into the room. Most of the heat is just getting sucked up the chimney. In most wood-burning fireplaces, the chimney just acts like a vacuum, and it just pulls all the heat out of that space.

For those who are committed to the old school charms, there are modern options to help deal with those energy-loss issues.

“They have wood-burning inserts if you want to continue burning wood but make it more efficient.,” Puma notes. “It’s a unit that would slide into your existing fireplace, and you run a liner up the chimney. They’re all cast iron and they radiate heat into the room, and they have blowers that push the heat into the room. So you can still keep it wood-burning but make it more efficient. And a lot of people are doing that to save money on oil or gas bills.”

But wood isn’t the only power source getting upgrades these days. “They also have gas inserts you put into your existing fireplace, ones that are more for ambience and ones that generate heat to the room with blowers and fans,” Puma says. “You would need a gas line, you would need electric to the fireplace for the blowers to operate. They typically all come with battery backup systems as well, so if you lost power in the house, you’d be able to plug a battery pack into the unit and run the fireplace off of the batteries—if you have a power outage, you’ll have a heat source.”

The great debate as to whether you go with a wood-burning or gas-burning fire has transitioned to the great outdoors as well. Here in the new new normal of social gatherings and entertaining, Puma notes, “A lot of people are still staying home, utilizing the backyard more, doing more outdoor living, so fire pits have become very popular.

“The gas firepits are convenient—there’s no cleaning, there’s no soot. They’re nice because you’re not smelling like wood for three days after,” he adds with a laugh. “But the wood-burning ones are great, too—you get the crackling, kids can do the s’mores in them, all of that. So both of them have become very popular, and a great way to spend a night outdoors at home.”

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