Wood burning fireplaces are wonderful. Nothing beats a traditional wood burning fire with a warm, glowing hearth and crackling logs. Are they practical….not exactly? Their ambience and beauty outweigh the heat that they provide. A fireplace may consume more energy while not in operation due to leaks around the damper than when it’s actually in use.
Make your wood burning fireplace more energy efficient by installing a high efficiency insert.
Having had a wood burning and a gas fireplace, my preference is still wood even with their inefficiencies and maintenance. Unfortunately in my current home, somewhere down the line of ownership since 1889, the chimney was removed and capped on my Victorian fireplace. Fortunately, the original tiles and grate are still intact (see photo). My wish list includes having this fireplace functioning once again. In the interim, I have found a great insert that uses Ethanol Alcohol Fuel, designed specifically for un-vented fireplaces. It certainly does not compare to a wonderful log fire, but it does give some ambiance, and actually has a slight crackling effect. http://www.inflame.ca/fireplaces_inserts.inserts.gk
Ownership of a wood burning fireplace does come with maintenance. Annual chimney inspections and cleaning are recommended. It takes only a small accumulation of creosote glazing to create the potential for a chimney fire. Creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up inside your chimney or liner as a result of burning wood.
Keeping a working fire extinguisher in an accessible location is also recommended. Check your smoke detectors monthly, and replace the batteries as necessary. You should also have a carbon monoxide detector to alert you if there is a build-up of the gas. Carbon monoxide buildup can occur if the area around your wood-burning unit is inadequately ventilated.