What You Need to Know about Gas Fireplaces

When planning your gas fireplace project, there are many factors you’ll need to consider to ensure your installation is completed to your satisfaction. To simplify the building process, we’ve gathered some of the most common questions we’re asked during the shopping process. These questions will put you well on your way to finding the right product for your project.

Ask Yourself These Three Questions to Get Started

What is my budget?

What type of unit should I buy?

What features do I need?

What is My Fireplace Budget?

Your first consideration when building a gas fireplace will likely be budget. Expect to pay between $2,500 and $10,000 from start to finish. This is a wide range due to the fact your final cost will be highly dependent on the unit you buy, the amount of prep work required and even where you live.

We’ve already put together a separate guide covering gas fireplace costs, so be sure to check out that article for more in-depth information on cost considerations.

What Type of Fireplace Should I Buy?

The wide variety of gas fireplace types means you’ll want to consider all your options before making your purchase decision. You’ll also need to consider whether you’re working with an existing chimney or if you’ll need to accommodate new venting.

Fireplace Style

The three styles of gas fireplace you’ll come across on Fireplaces Direct are built-in units, fireplace inserts and freestanding gas stoves. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages as well as its own aesthetic.

Built-in gas fireplaces offer a complete manufactured unit capable of being installed into a framed enclosure, mantel unit or wall space.  For venting purposes, a built-in fireplace requires a dedicated chimney or vent system within several inches of combustible materials to ensure safe operation. This venting can be run through an exterior wall or into an existing chimney with proper compatible components.

Gas fireplace inserts differ from built-in fireplaces in that they must be installed in an existing operational fireplace like an older wood-burning masonry unit. These fireplaces also require a chimney system inserted within an existing chimney to ensure safe and efficient operation. Consult a fireplace insert product manual for more information on what specifications will be required for an installation like this.

Freestanding gas fireplaces and stoves offer installation flexibility provided there’s enough floor space available. These units feature a convenient design that allows them to be placed in nearly any area so long as proper ventilation is installed. Unlike inserts and built-in units requiring adequate wall space for framing, these units can sit just about anywhere if clearances from combustible materials are met.

Ventilation Requirements

On the most basic level, gas fireplaces are available as vented or vent-free. Direct vent comprises several different types of venting including coaxial and colinear, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to the basics with vented or ventless. For more information on types of direct vent, see this article.

Vented gas appliances make use of installed venting to exhaust smoke and other byproducts to an outdoor location. Most modern units are direct vent, though former variations may include B-Vent/Natural Venting. However, direct vent units offer the most flexibility when installing.

Vent-free units (also known as ventless or unvented) have been designed for locations where venting is not possible. These units are uniquely designed and feature an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) to automatically monitor the oxygen levels in a room to ensure safe combustion. If the ODS trips, the unit will shut down automatically. One thing to note, however, is that vent-free systems are prohibited in some areas. You'll need to check your local building codes and regulations to ensure a vent-free system can be installed in your area.

What Fireplace Features Do I Need?

Fireplace features can vary a great deal, so you’ll want to keep in mind how you plan to use your fireplace as well as your budget; more features mean a higher cost. Here are some of the most important features you’ll want to consider when shopping:

Fireplace Heat Output

Will this fireplace be used primarily for looks, or are you after maximum heating capability? You’ll also want to think about whether you intend to use this fireplace year-round or seasonally. Keep in mind, too, some manufacturers offer fireplaces specially designed for scenarios like this.

One great example of this special technology is the Dynamic Heat Control (DHC) Plus System found on most Napoleon gas fireplaces. This system allows you to enjoy your fireplace during warmer months by venting heat outside during warmer months without affecting the ambiance of the unit.

Fan controls also play an important role in heat output. A fireplace blower kit can increase the heating efficiency of your unit if you’re looking for maximum heat output. These systems can range from basic systems that must be turned on and off manually to remote control systems and systems capable of turning on and off automatically, so be sure to see what’s available with the fireplace unit you’re considering.

Ambient Lighting

It’s highly unlikely you’ll have your fireplace running at all times, so what will your fireplace look like when it’s sitting idle? Some fireplaces, like this Napoleon Ascent X Series model, take this into consideration with special backlighting. This night light casts a soft glow over the included gas log set to create an impressive display even when the fireplace is not in use.

Fire Media Options

Media options are a great way to personalize the look of your fireplace. Typically, gas fireplaces will feature a traditional appearance designed to replicate the look of a classic wood fireplace, or they’ll take a more contemporary appearance with bolder designs, modern colors and clean lines.

If you’re looking for a more traditional fireplace appearance, a gas log set will give your fireplace a timeless appearance. These artificial log sets usually feature ceramic fiber or concrete construction for durability. To enhance realism, these log sets are often cast from molds made from real logs and then hand painted.

Contemporary fireplaces usually feature fire glass and offer a much more distinctive statement piece for your room. Fire glass comes in a wide variety of colors, allowing you to complement the look and feel of your room to match your individual style.

Functionally, both log sets and fire glass serve the same purpose. These media options break up gas flow for a larger, more impressive flame to give you a great firebox presentation.

Remote Control Options

Fireplace remote controls offer an easy way to enhance the functionality of your fireplace while adding an impressive level of convenience. Depending on your needs, these systems can do everything from basic on/off functionality all the way up to fully programmable thermostat control.

One thing to note, however, is that fireplace remote controls are not universal, so you’ll need to know what kind of gas valve your fireplace will have in order to determine compatibility. See our guide on how to determine what fireplace remote control works with your fireplace for more information.

In recent years, smart devices have become more and more common, and the hearth industry is no exception. Systems like the Skytech SkyBridge system offer an easy way to control your compatible fireplace directly from your smartphone.

Gas Fireplace Alternatives

While gas fireplaces are certainly the most popular option on the market today, they’re far from the only option available. Wood fireplaces remain popular for those looking for higher heat outputs to lower energy bills, while electric fireplaces offer an excellent way to add warmth and beauty to a home at a much lower entry cost.

Think a different type of fireplace may be right for you? We've also written another article about other options available.

Get More Help with Your Project

You don’t have to plan your project by yourself. Why not let our team offer their expertise to help you out along the way? Contact us if you need additional assistance and we’ll be sure to guide you as best we can. We’re here Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time to assist you. You can also find more helpful articles like this one on our blog. From buying guides to troubleshooting tips, we have you covered!