How Does a Gas Fireplace Work | Everything You Should Know

by Team MD


Whether you’re planning on building a new house or renovating a bit the one you already have, it’s probably a good time to consider installing a gas fireplace if that’s what you’ve long dreamed of. How does a gas fireplace work, and what are the various types of gas fireplaces available for sale and their benefits? Read on to find out more about this convenient heating alternative. 


How do gas fireplaces work?

Gas fireplaces have become quite popular lately due to the convenience they provide, and thankfully, the market offers many such products. How do such fireplaces work, though? 

As expected and suggested, gas fireplaces don’t require lugs or other such flammable materials to work. They rely on gas, and they work as many other gas appliances we use in our homes. Such units are designed to allow the user to adjust the gas level output, and thus most of them come with remote controls. 

Unlike wood fireplaces, most gas models are built to provide you with constant radiant heat that is evenly distributed throughout your place. Gas fireplaces come in various types, as we will see a bit later, which means that different models work slightly differently, although the basic principle is the same. 

Vented gas fireplaces feature a combustion and exhaust system and work very much like traditional fireplaces. Such a product comes with a sealed chamber that is designed to bring in fresh air from the outside for the combustion process and vent gaseous byproducts back outside of the building. 

This gas fireplace type is vented by a pipe that goes directly out through the wall of the building. Some models in this category, though, can also be vented through the roof, depending on where they are placed. 

Then there are the so-called natural vent fireplaces, a model that employs a factory-built metal chimney or your existing chimney. To channel the exhaust outside, such models use a flexible liner or pipe that is placed within the chimney. 

The third major fireplace category includes ventless units that use the air in the room where they are placed for the combustion process. Ventless gas fireplaces come with various advantages. 

Firstly, since they don’t need a vent, they can be installed anywhere in the room, meaning structural changes are not required. Secondly, given the lack of a vent, all the heat will go into the room, which makes them highly efficient. 

To make sure that the oxygen levels in the room stay at a safe level, ventless gas fireplaces are equipped with air quality and safety detectors. These additions will shut the fireplace off if the oxygen level drops too much or gas goes into the room without being consumed by a flame.

At the same time, given their design and the way they work, it is recommended to allow fresh air from the outside to go into the room continuously. Plus, there are states where unvented gas fireplaces are not allowed; therefore, if you’ve set your eyes upon such a model, make sure you check the local government regulations before purchasing and installing one. 

Now, there is one more aspect that divides gas fireplaces into two other categories, and that is the type of gas used for their operation. Most gas fireplaces operate on natural gas since it is more environmentally-friendly than other gases and, in most cases, comes directly from the gas line. 

Then there is the gas fireplace that works on propane, more precisely, liquid propane gas, a clean-burning gas that is said to burn three times hotter than natural gas. The downside is that propane calls for refilling. 


Types of gas fireplaces

As we’ve seen, gas fireplaces can be vented or ventless, yet they are further divided into other categories depending on their design and functionalities. The wide variety of gas fireplaces makes it easier to find the right model for your place as each type has different advantages. Here is more on the main types of gas fireplaces. 

  • Freestanding gas stoves

These models have gained great popularity thanks to their versatility and design that allow them to be installed in basements and tight corners. They can also be installed inside a masonry fireplace if you already have one, which makes them one of the most convenient options on the market. They ensure warm air and radiant heat. 

  • Gas inserts

If you already have a wood fireplace, and you’d like to turn it into a gas unit, a gas insert is an option you might want to take into account. These items can be installed into an existing wood fireplace and usually come with a metal housing, ceramic logs that have a realistic look, as well as a front glass. 

Given their design and the fact that they are installed into an existing wood fireplace, the masonry chimney will be used for the new vent and chimney liner. Such units ensure reliable heat without the mess and smoke traditional wood fireplaces can lead to. 

  • Zero clearance gas fireplaces

The fireplaces in this category are self-contained, which means that they can be installed in a variety of places where radiant heat is needed. Zero clearance means that these fireplaces don’t require space between them and the wall. Moreover, you don’t even need a chimney or masonry fireplace for them to operate as most of them are directly vented through the roof or wall.

  • Log inserts

Another type of gas fireplace is the so-called log insert. This model is more of an aesthetic choice as it does not ensure the same warmth efficiency as the types mentioned above. However, they do provide the convenience and pleasant look of a gas fireplace, and they are installed in an existing wood fireplace. 


Gas fireplaces – pros and cons 

There is still debate regarding the benefits of gas fireplaces, and, like many other heating products, gas fireplaces come with both advantages and disadvantages. If you’re not sure whether to get such a unit or stick to a wood fireplace, it is good to know more about the specific type of gas fireplace you want to get. 

One of the greatest advantages of gas fireplaces is the convenience they ensure. It usually takes the push of a button to turn them on/off or adjust the heat level. Operating a gas fireplace involves no wood chopping, smoke, or other such messy and challenging aspects, which makes gas fireplaces so popular these days. 

Cleaning them is easy and they require little maintenance, especially when compared with their wood counterparts that involve smoke, ashes, and physical effort. 

Depending on the gas fireplace type you use, and how you use it, such items can ensure improved energy efficiency since you can use them only in the areas of interest. Furthermore, as long as you have propane or a natural gas connection, you can install a gas fireplace almost anywhere in your home. Freestanding units are the most versatile of them. 

Thanks to the many styles available for sale these days, you can easily find a traditional or ultra-contemporary model to match your room design. Once you’ve installed the gas fireplace of your choice, using it is nothing complicated. 

Many such units are paired with remote control for superior ease of use. What’s more, you can easily adjust the heat output or install a wall thermostat to keep the temperature in your room at an agreeable level. 

However, despite the many upsides of gas fireplaces, these units do come with a few drawbacks. You might save on utility bills if you use certain gas fireplaces, and you utilize them to warm just smaller rooms, but if you go for a propane-powered fireplace insert and your room is quite spacious, you may end up spending more than expected.

It costs less to use pellets or wood to produce the same amount of heat than when using propane or gas. Even if you don’t need a chimney for certain types of gas fireplaces, you need a venting system and a gas line to where the fireplace is installed, and, depending on the fireplace model and type, electricity. 

Like many other fuel sources, you will need to inspect it regularly, and thus hire a professional to help you with that. Although modern fireplaces are packed with a variety of safety and air quality sensors, introducing fresh air from the outside constantly is recommended. Plus, such a fireplace should always be installed by a professional, considering the gas-related risks. 

Also, using a ventless gas fireplace in a tight home is not recommended since such a model can lower the oxygen levels if you don’t allow constant fresh air from the outside to enter your room; therefore, utmost attention should be paid to the emissions these appliances give off.

Another drawback that might turn out to be a deal-breaker in some cases is the lack of the sound of a real fire. Many people love the way a traditional fireplace snaps and crackles, an aspect that adds to the ambiance created by these heat sources. 




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