Home is where the hearth is, and there’s nothing quite like the flickering flames of a fire to add atmosphere to a room and give a welcome boost to your central heating in winter. But do you go for a wood burner, open grate, or flame-effect fire? 


Open fire 

The enticing smell of an open fire permeates the whole house, and crackling logs and dancing flames are unbeatable for creating a cosy and inviting ambience. You also have a choice of fuel, whether you prefer long burning coal or aromatic seasoned logs. They carry on roaring when you have a power cut, and they’re perfect for toasting marshmallows or roasting chestnuts at Christmas. Open fires aren’t particularly efficient as you can get more smoke in return for little heat. The uncontrolled air flow draws around 70 per cent of heat generated straight back up the chimney, with cold air coming back into the house when you aren't using the fire. Open fires will need to have a guard to prevent hot debris spitting onto your carpet and should not be left unattended for long periods - and be prepared to get down on your hands and knees to sweep the dusty ash out of the grate. The chimney will also need to be swept regularly to maintain efficiency and prevent chimney fires.  


Wood burner 

Incredibly popular and much more efficient than an open fire, today’s stylish wood burners come with air controls to regulate how fast they burn fuel and how much heat they give out. And because the flames are behind glass, they don’t need constant supervision and won’t be messy. Whether you live in a period house or a modern apartment, there are plenty of styles to choose from, and you don’t need a brick chimney to have one. Wood burners must be ventilated properly and regularly cleaned. The heat from a wood burner can fill a whole house but they can get too hot if not used in the right way, which can damage the stove in the long run.  


Flame-effect fires 

Many of us don’t have the space or the desire for a real wood burning fire – but today’s incredibly realistic gas and electric flame-effect fires give the same ambience as the real thing with greater convenience and flexibility. If you don’t fancy chopping wood, cleaning grates, or searching for chimney sweeps, then a gas or electric fire is the answer. Easy to install and simple to operate, a flame-effect fire can be switched off when you leave the house or go to bed – and, depending on the model, you may even be able to take it with you when you move. Of course, you do need to consider that you won’t be able to use your electric fire if you have a power cut, and a gas fire can be expensive to run if you’re using bottled gas.