Posts made in November 2013

Types of Gas Fireplaces

custom fitted fireplace insertThere are a good many fireplace options for homeowners nowadays, and gas fireplaces are quite popular.  The big reasons gas fireplaces are attractive are that they are clean, convenient, and cheap to operate.

Depending on your needs or home’s capabilities, different types of gas fireplaces are available. Gas inserts, log sets, built-ins and free-standing units are all among the major types of gas fireplaces, so let’s learn more about them.

Gas Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts in general are intended to be installed into a preexisting firebox, meaning that one sits directly inside a regular fireplace.  Gas inserts are often appealing alternatives when the home’s fireplace no longer works properly or isn’t safe to operate due to damage.  Many inserts are connected to and operate off of your home’s gas lines and are ignited via push button.  Other inserts may be fueled by a propane tank outside of the home.  Fireplace inserts often use ceramic logs to provide the benefits of the appearance of a real wood-burning fire, but without the smell or the smoke.

Gas Log Sets

electric fireplace

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

With gas log set units, you transform a run-down fireplace and get the standard ceramic logs and a grate to sit them in for an authentic look.  Gas log set units are noted as mostly decorative and are best for light use. Gas log sets may be vented or unvented.

Vented gas log sets are typically ventilated through the home’s chimney, but require little maintenance.  Unfortunately, that the burner doesn’t run very hot, and most of the heat will escape up the flue, so this unit isn’t a significant heat source.  Please note that, for log sets venting through the chimney, the flue must remain sized for normal fireplace operation.

Unvented gas log sets are generally more efficient. However, they should not be run continuously due to inevitable leftovers from combustion that will remain in the house such as water vapor, particulates, and even carbon monoxide.

Because log sets are mostly decorative, they are good choices for those who want to add a bit of ambience to a room and work well for those residing in warmer climates.

Built-In Gas Fireplaces

built in fireplaceIf you’re building a home and know that you want a fireplace but don’t want to maintain a wood-burning stove and chimney, you might go for a “built-in”.  A built-in gas fireplace is installed as the primary fire source in a wall of your home and has the inherent benefits of less heat waste compared to wood units.  When the fire is burning, less heat gets cycled out, allowing you to benefit from its warmth.

Vent-less built-in units do not require a chimney for ventilation.  They instead rely on oxygen sensors built into the logs to monitor your home’s oxygen levels. Many vent-less units are UL listed (certified by Underwriters Laboratory as suitable for home-use), but we again note that they may not eliminate all combustion byproduct from the interior of the home.

Direct-vented built-in units, on the other hand, enable pollutants—smoke, exhaust, etc…— to exit your home through the chimney, through a pipe scaling the wall, or up through your home’s roof.  A great benefit of direct venting is that without needing to be in proximity to a chimney, a built-in gas fireplace can be installed virtually any room in the home. Please note that for direct-vent units (or for any vented units other than gas sets) that vent through the chimney, the flue must be lined with a liner that is properly sized according to the units’ manufacturers’ specifications — note that this may sometimes require the additional cost of relining the chimney with a smaller liner. Additionally, the flame of direct-vented units is a traditional yellow, like the flame of wood, as opposed to the blue flame of ventless units.

Free-Standing Gas Stoves

Photo by Edvvc

Photo by Edvvc

Free-standing gas fireplace units combine all of the features and benefits of the other 3 choices.  But can you guess the biggest difference?  That’s right, these fireplaces are stoves that sit on your floor—in the corner, near a wall, or wherever you like.  They are operated by running a gas pipe to them for power, and they sport the same ceramic logs as other units to create a rustic feel.

As an added benefit, free-standing gas fireplaces are not only exposed in the front (like built-in units that only show the face), but also have all sides fully exposed in the room — This allows more heat (from the front, right and left side of the warm stove) to radiate into your room.

Fireplace Extras

No matter which type of gas unit you choose, there are many styles and add-ons available.  For instance, gas fireplaces come with the ability to add extras like fans to better circulate heat through your room.  Additionally, you may opt for one of many ignition systems—using automatic ignition that creates a spark to light the burners or various pilot lights (standing pilot, which is always ignited, in-demand pilot which can be manually turned off, etc.) to start your stove. A remote control is also a very popular option.

Gas fireplaces are sought-after because of the convenience as well as strong efficiency (averaging 70% and up).  There are types of gas fireplaces for anyone—log sets, built-ins, inserts and free-standing stoves each serve various needs.

So which will it be?

  • The insert, which resurrects your old fireplace to bring it back to working order?
  • A log set, which doesn’t provide substantial heat but makes for a lovely home accent
  • The built-in, which bypasses the need to deal with an old wood unit and perhaps even the need for a chimney?
  • Or a free-standing stove, which allows you to place it anywhere in the room to best enjoy it’s warmth?

The sky’s the limit and you can customize anything to your liking!