Whether you are in sunny California or a much colder state, homeowners everywhere can benefit from a nice fireplace. Fireplaces make great focal points in a living room and help bring warmth on cold days. Of course, not all fireplaces are created the same. There are wood fireplaces, gas fireplaces, and electric fireplaces. Each type even has its own subtypes, brands, and models to choose from. Which one should you get? Should you use an insert if you have an existing fireplace with an existing chimney? Which one should you use? Do you go with a full-on fireplace insert or stick to something like a gas log or a log set? Does which gas log set matter? Do you get gas or electricity? Which has better air quality with little to no byproducts?
What are the disadvantages of a ventless gas fireplace insert?
Is a vent-free or ventless gas fireplace insert a good alternative to wood-burning fireplaces?
To answer this question, let us first look at the common types of wood fireplaces you will find at someone’s home:
- Open Hearth – This type of fireplace is unmistakable. It is an open design where a fire is built directly in the open hearth. Smoke escapes through the flue and out of the chimney.
- Enclosed – Essentially, enclosed fireplaces are not much different than open-hearth fireplaces. The biggest difference is that the flames are not exposed to the room. This is because of the full enclosure system in place. With this kind of enclosure, the fire burns behind glass doors. This adds both safety and efficiency to some small degree.
- Enclosed Insert – Inserts will be covered a lot in this article. However, an enclosed insert is nothing more than converting an open hearth into an enclosed fireplace. It will still burn wood. The fuel type isn’t going to change with this kind of insert.
- Wood Stove – Looking in an old rural wood cabin, you might find a wood stove. These fireplaces are really just metal stoves in the room, where wood is burned within it. There is typically some kind of venting pipe leading out of the cabin. As wood burns inside of these, the sides radiate heat. Of course, in many cases, the top can also be used for some basic cooking.
- Fire Pits – Fire pits are typically outdoor fireplaces. In most cases, they are a simple novelty to stay warm during outdoor gatherings.
Unfortunately, deciding to use a wood fireplace in your home can be a real problem. This is due to the long list of issues people face with them. Here is what you can expect:
- Fire Safety – When using wood fireplaces, the risk of a house fire is very large. They are one of the most common reasons for houses catching on fire. This is due in part to their exposed flames. Of course, the biggest culprit is the soot that builds up within the chimney of the fireplace. As this builds up, it becomes increasingly flammable. Flames from within the fireplace can easily catch it on fire and spread to the rest of the home.
- Harmful Emissions – Harmful emissions such as smoke and carbon monoxide prove to be serious health concerns with wood fireplaces. It doesn’t seem to matter how good your chimney ventilation is; some will always find their way into your home.
- Hassle To Use – There is a ton of work that goes into just using wood fireplaces. To begin with, you need to scoop out the old ash from the opening. Then you have to build the fire. Hopefully, you’ve already split the wood beforehand or that will be just another step in the process. After the fire is going you have to stoke the flames as it dies down. Finally, you are required to keep an eye on the fire so that no sparks fly out.
- Heat Loss Problem – As smoke leaves the chimney, so too does a lot of the heat from the fire. Unfortunately, this makes wood fires inefficient. Since the heat can’t be efficiently circulated in the room, a lot of wood has to be burned to make up for this heat loss.
- Smell – The smell of a wood fireplace might seem nice at first, but you will quickly get tired of it. That smoky odor gets into everything. It is in the furniture, carpets, the curtains, throw rugs, your clothes, and can even get in your hair. Even after the fire is extinguished, the smoky smell can linger for days or even weeks.
- Stains – Smoke will stain everything. White walls will turn yellow. Light-colored furniture will be yellow. There is not much you can do to prevent this since the smoke will inevitably get into your home and stain over time.
- TV Damage – When it comes to wood fireplaces, you can’t successfully mount a TV above them. That rising heat and the smoke that comes with it have a strong tendency to destroy the internal workings of a flat-screen TV.
- Wood Storage – Do you have a large backyard or somewhere else you can store all of that wood? If not, you are going to have to deal with running out frequently and continually needing more. You can have it delivered in most areas, but delivery times can be inconvenient and a costly hassle.
- Expensive To Build – Building these if you don’t already have one is very expensive. Wood fireplace construction is a major project for a home. Professionals will be needed and you may even need to leave until construction is complete.
Here are some common gas fireplace varieties:
- Built-In Ventless – These are directly built into a home, and they don’t need any kind of ventilation.
- Built-In Direct Vent Gas Fireplace – These are also directly built into a home, but because of the gas and burn quality, a ventilation pipe is a minimum requirement.
- Gas Insert With and Without Venting – Gas inserts of both varieties can be used to convert wood fireplaces into gas.
- Gas Stove – Not to be confused with the kitchen appliance, these are gas fireplaces that mimic wood stoves often found in cabins.
Some of these inserts can be a simple gas log, while others are completely built-in systems. Regardless, gas fireplaces definitely have an advantage over wood in many regards. Even though some DIY vented inserts can use the existing ventilation in the chimney, ventless gas fireplace inserts don’t need to use the existing ventilation. Keep in mind that a log insert will usually be easier to install, but may look small depending on the size of the existing fireplace.
Between propane, dual fuel, or a natural gas fireplace, what is best for a vented gas fireplace or ventless gas fireplace?
Propane tends to be more efficient and cleaner than natural gas. However, you will need to change out the tanks regularly. Since natural gas connects to your existing gas lines, this makes them a little more convenient in the long run.
Dual-fuel fireplaces are ones that use both types of gas. Remember that dual fuel doesn’t mean wood and gas in the same fireplace. Most gas fireplaces don’t have the proper ventilation to deal with the emissions from wood fireplaces and can only handle gas fireplace byproducts.
What are some common features of gas fireplaces including both a vented gas fireplace and a ventless gas fireplace insert?
It’s common to have some kind of log in gas fireplaces in order to help break up the fire and make it look somewhat more realistic. Of course, it is debatable how realistic gas fireplaces can actually look.
Many gas fireplaces use a millivolt system that helps control the pilot light.
It is common for gas fireplaces to use more traditional t-stat control systems to control the thermostat.
Gas fireplaces can have flames that come in some strange colors. Blue flames are common when looking at different gas fireplace options. If you want flames that look more natural, you will want to ensure you get a fireplace that provides that.
Are generic brands of gas fireplaces on Amazon okay or should I look at brands like Duluth Forge, Procom, and Monessen?
Buying generic brands is always a bad idea when it comes to serious products like fireplaces. If you insist on going with gas fireplaces, you should limit your search to trusted brand names. Some popular gas fireplace brands are Duluth Forge, Procom, and Monessen. Each brand has its own features and styles. You should look into different brands individually to see if it meets all of your requirements in safety, performance, and aesthetics.
Are there downsides to a vent-free or ventless gas fireplace insert or another type of gas fireplaces?
Unfortunately, gas fireplaces have quite a few downsides just like wood fireplaces. Many people don’t realize these problems until it is too late and the fireplace is already installed in their home:
- Flame Is Exposed – The flame within gas fireplaces is still exposed. This means that a house fire is still a serious possibility.
- Carbon Monoxide – Even though gas fireplaces burn much cleaner than wood fireplaces, this noxious emission is still released into your home.
- Ugly Flame Color – The blue flames look very fake and tacky. Their novelty wears off quite quickly. Even when they produce more natural colors, they still look dull and fake compared to real fireplaces.
- Weak Flame – It is no secret that the flames on these fireplaces are often weak. The steady stream of fire also doesn’t seem to flicker much like the flame of when the wood is actually burning.
- Costly Installation – Professionals will be needed to install these fireplaces. They require gas lines and ventilation to also be installed in many circumstances.
If a gas fireplace inserts in a firebox has so many downsides, is an electric fireplace insert a better choice?
An electric fireplace is absolutely a much better choice than a gas fireplace in many situations. The unfortunate truth is that gas fireplaces have almost as many downsides as wood fireplaces. With quality electric fireplaces, you aren’t going to have to suffer through all of these problems. Instead, you are met with a long list of benefits you get to enjoy.
What are all of the benefits of electric fireplaces in general over wood and gas fireplaces?
When it comes to electric fireplaces, here is why they are almost always a much better choice over both wood and gas fireplaces:
- No Added Fire Risk – You get peace of mind when you purchase an electric fireplace. You aren’t going to constantly have to worry about these fireplaces adding to the risk of a house fire starting.
- No Harmful Contaminants – Fresh air is abundant since electric fireplaces don’t have any harmful emissions. Oxygen levels will remain optimal since you don’t have to worry about smoke and toxins.
- No Staining or Smells – There isn’t any smoke present in electric fireplaces inserts because nothing is actually burning. This means you aren’t going to have to worry about bad odors in your home or your walls being yellowed by smoke.
- Using it is Easy – Unlike wood fireplaces and some gas fireplaces, electric fireplaces are easy to use. Turn it on. Set the temperature. Enjoy your fireplace. That is all there is to it.
- Easy Installation – Home improvement is even easier because in most cases installing electric fireplaces is effortless.
- Any Room – Between the lack of necessary ventilation and the easy installation, you can put electric fireplaces into any room in your home. Do you want one in the bedroom? The dining room? Your home office? This is all completely doable.
- TV Safe – With electric fireplaces, mounting a TV above one is completely safe. The heat produced by electric fireplaces is blown out into the room, rather than rising directly up.
- Heat Efficiency – Electric fireplaces don’t need ventilation. This means all of that heat will not escape through the chimney or vent and will keep your home warm. Additionally, infrared heating devices are very efficient and will use the least electricity.
- Supplemental Zone Heating – For larger homes, you can set up some simple zone heating to still keep your heating bill low.
- Remote Control – Remote control electric fireplaces are easy to control from your seat without getting up.
- Realistic Ambiance – High-quality flame effects mean you are able to completely simulate the atmosphere of a real wood-burning fireplace.
Other than an insert, what other types of electric fireplaces are there?
There is a large variety of different electric fireplaces for you to choose from. This includes several types for different situations. You can easily choose the type that most fit your requirements. Here are the common types:
- Flat Wall Mantel Package
- Corner Fireplace
- TV Stand Fireplace
- Corner TV Stand Fireplace
- Wall Mount Fireplace
- Freestanding Fireplace Heater
- Electric Stove
Which brand of electric fireplace has flame effects that are the most realistic?
If realism is important to you, you don’t need to look any further than MagikFlame electric fireplaces. Each MagikFlame fireplace comes with all of these impressive deluxe features and more:
- Realistic 3D Holographic Flame Projection – MagikFlame fireplaces have a log set over a glowing ember bed. 3D holographic flames that look ultra-realistic are projected directly onto the log set. There are 30 different flame styles for you to choose from. Each style of flame allows you to set a slightly different mood within your home.
- Crackling Log Sounds – The sounds of crackling logs are added for an auditory enhancement to the already impressive visuals. As the flames flicker and dance, you can hear the crackles and pops of burning wood. For further relaxation, you can also turn on optional nature sounds.
- 5,200 BTU Heater – The 5,200 BTU heater in every single MagikFlame fireplace is very efficient and powerful. With the BTU output coming out of the blower of MagikFlame fireplaces, you can easily warm a room of up to 1,000 square feet without issue. For much larger homes, multiple MagikFlame fireplaces can be set up in a supplemental heating strategy.
- Smartphone App – In order to control the thermostat, fire effects, or audio, you can use the intuitive smartphone app. This gives you full control of your fireplace from anywhere within your house. You don’t need to worry about adding yet another boring remote control to your living room pile.