Wood Burning vs Vented logs...

atlbrentNovember 3, 2007

I have an interesting situation but could be manageable. My wife wants a nice looking fire on the weekend when home and we currently have vented logs in our full fireplace. The home was built in 1975 and has the original fireplace and unknown dated vented logs.

I am torn between trying to figure out how to get the vented logs in working order (what the hell the sand is there for, the vermiculite, and fear of gas spilling into the house) or ripping out this old setup and installing a new gate and gate pipe for a real wood burning fireplace. I am seeking some advice from those out there on the forum and considering these factors:

- Chimney appears to be in good order but would need to be checked out by chimney sweep.

- I am pretty experienced with working around the house but hesitant to do anything with either combustibles or electricity.

- In a move of genius and prior to the fireplace need discussion, we mounted our 42 HDTV above the fireplace, about 8" above the mantle and 3ft from the top of the opening to the fireplace.

- The vented logs appear to be good although they look dated. There is a built in screen and door combo for the fireplace opening.

- We are currently on Natural Gas ($.99 per therm fixed through winter) and wood appears to be around $150-$200 for a full cord of good wood.

What are the best options given the experience of those out there who have similar situations?



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One follow-up, what will provide the most heat the cheapest without burning up my HDTV?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 10:47PM
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Gas log sets are good for decoration but lousy as a source of heat. Like all regular fireplaces, they suck a lot of heated air from the room they are in up the chimney, and the cold air that replaces that heated air must be heated by your furnace at considerable cost. Also, the considerable heat produced by the burning gas mostly goes straight up the flue, with little being radiated into the house.

A conventional fireplace can be thought to be perhaps 10% efficient, often a lot less.

My suggestion would be to have a fireplace repairman come in to inspect and maintain the gas log set, which may be useable pretty much as it is, if you are lucky.

A year ago I would have charged $95 to do this kind of job. (now retired) If there are repairs needed, you will learn how much it would cost to make those repairs beyond the basic labor charge.

If you chose to remove the gas burner and piping, I could have done that for the same charge.

But think carefully about burning wood. That's a lot of work and rather dirty. Most people with wood fireplaces use them only rarely. Many people with gas log sets use them quite a bit or a lot.

But they aren't cheap--- probably about $1.00/hour to operate based on your cost of gas. And for that you get very little net heat added to your home.

Gas log set can be quite attractive, but nothing can really beat a wood fire if you are willing to do the necessary work and pay the costs.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 7:20PM
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Can you burn wood in a vented fire box? I just bought a condo that has a vented firebox. It is a three flat and i was told that the unit downstairs the tennant was burning wood in his and almost burned down the whole building. This was before I bought and moved in and now I just saw the new tennant below me having a palet of wood being deliverd and it scares the hell out of me. Ahhh I miss my house in the burbs, thx for the information

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 10:49PM
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Look into a ventless fire log set, provides a great source of heat. Used with the damper closed, or open if the room gets too warm for you.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 12:04AM
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