Gas fireplaces bring a touch of coziness to a home. They're great for heating a room when the power goes out, warming you up after a brisk winter walk, or adding a bit of romance to a special evening. But there are a lot of different types to consider. How do you choose?
What Is a Gas Fireplace?
The technology of a gas fireplace is really quite simple. A natural or propane gas burner and simulated logs are enclosed in a firebox. Most have a glass front for easy viewing of the fire. By turning the fireplace on with the flip of a switch, you can create instant ambiance or an immediate heat source. There's also no mess involved with a gas fireplace like there is with a wood fireplace or stove.
At one time most homes used woodburning fireplaces. Today, the majority of fireplaces are gas. Gas is more energy-efficient than wood and there's no mess from wood chips or ashes. Gas fireplaces provide a constant supply of fuel and you can turn your fireplace on and off instantly by hitting a switch rather than having to build a fire manually.
With a direct vent gas fireplace, combustion gases have very little chance of escaping from the firebox into your home. Gas fireplaces, whether natural or propane, are clean burning as well. When vented outside, they give off a limited amount of particulate emissions and carbon monoxide, which makes them more environmentally friendly than traditional wood fireplaces.
Types of Gas Fireplaces
In recent years, the technology of gas fireplaces has progressed in leaps and bounds. There are basically three different types.
A factory built fireplace may also be referred to as a zero clearance unit. This type is usually installed during a renovation project or when a home is being built.
A free standing gas fireplace resembles an old fashioned woodburning stove. These fireplaces are most effective as a source of heat because all surfaces are exposed to generate heat.
Gas fireplace inserts are manufactured to be placed into the cavity of an existing fireplace. They convert the fireplace from woodburning to gas. If you choose to go with an insert, the chimney must be completely relined and an approved vent must be installed.
Whichever type of fireplace you choose, it should be installed by a professional heating contractor. Be sure to check how the vent is installed to ensure energy efficiency and safety.
Choosing a Fireplace
When shopping for a gas fireplace, select a unit that is energy-efficient and safe. Today, fireplaces come with a government rating that tells you a lot about the unit you are considering, including its energy use.
The fireplace you choose should also enhance the décor of your home, as well as act as a source of heat. However, there are a few features to look for when choosing the perfect fireplace. For example, with an the energy-efficient fireplace, you will want a direct-vent unit with an automatic starter instead of a pilot light. A squirrel cage circulating fan, a secondary heat exchanger, and connections to the ductwork will all help allow heat to be better distributed within the room and throughout the house. A ceramic glass front is also good for transmitting infrared heat from the flame into the room.
Another useful feature is a variable setting control, which allows you to regulate gas consumption by adjusting the temperature. Check the turn-down range before you buy it. Some fireplaces can be turned as low as 20 percent while others can only be adjusted to 70 percent
With these options in mind, you can select the gas fireplace that best fits your space and your individual wants and needs.
Wayne McCarthy, plumbing and HVAC professional contributed to this article.