Frequently Asked Questions About Gas Fireplaces
Even after a lot of research, there are a number of frequent questions people have about their new gas fireplace system. We have compiled them here, to save you time and effort. If you have a question not on the list, please write us here, and send in your question.
- Is it true that I don’t need a chimney?
This is one of the biggest questions people have about gas fireplace systems and the answer is quite surprising. No, you don’t need a chimney! Note that this only directly applies to an unvented gas log system, not to a vented gas log system. A vented gas system still requires some sort of vent, but it doesn’t need to be a chimney. Rather, it can be any sort of vent- many people run a vent through the side of their house, much like the exhaust of a drier.
In an unvented gas system, the fire is safely behind a glass door, where the gas is burned cleanly and efficiently, much like the flame on a gas stovetop. No gas, fuel, fumes, or toxins are released into your home. You only have the warmth and ambiance your fire provides.
- What is the difference between a Vented Fireplace and an Unvented Fireplace?
There are two main types of gas fireplaces: vented and unvented. They are so named because of, surprise, their venting technique. Vented gas fireplaces are much like traditional wood-burning fireplaces. They require a vent to filter air in and out. This vent sometimes is a traditional chimney that has been converted. Other times, this vent is built specifically for the fireplace, and runs out the side of the house.
An unvented fireplace doesn’t need any venting at all. All of the gas fuel is 100% burned, so no fumes are released into the home. A glass door is still used to seal the gas fire log in, just in case.
- What are gas logs?
Gas logs are the heart of the gas fireplace system. When we talk about gas fireplaces, what we are really talking about is a gas log plus its system of venting, the hearth box, and its fuel system.
The gas log unit is where the gas is ignited and turned into a realistic looking flame, dancing warmly over logs made of flame resistant materials. They come in a huge variety of styles, textures, and sizes.
- Where can I put my fireplace?
Anywhere. This is one of the great advantages of using a gas fireplace system. Wood-burning units have a lot of architectural and building requirements. Gas-burning units have none of these limitations.
Your gas fireplace can be along any wall, internal or external. As well, gas fireplace units have been developed that can be inserted within a wall, so that you can enjoy your fire on either side, in two different rooms. Units have even been developed that act as a kind of “island” in the middle of a large space, allowing a panoramic view of your fire and all of the warmth and ambiance it brings.
However, we highly recommend that you check your local laws, as many regions have specific requirements about where you can place your unit. For example, many regions do not allow a gas fireplace in the bedroom.
- Are gas fireplaces safe for pets? What about the fumes? And the fire hazards?
All gas fireplace units, vented and unvented, are completely safe for pets. Absolutely no fumes, particles, or other air pollutants are released into the home. This is due both to the venting process and to the incredible efficiency of the gas system. All fuel is burned cleanly and completely.
As well, your gas fire and log set is set safely behind a glass door, which prevents the curious pet from investigating the beautiful display of flame and warmth.
- Are gas fireplaces environmentally friendly?
One of the major advantages of a gas fireplace system is in its energy efficiency. Wood-burning fireplaces have a very poor fuel-to-heat rate. That is, they need large amount of fuel (wood) to produce only a moderate amount of radiant heat. As well, they produce sooty carbon by-products that are bad for the environment.
Gas fireplace systems, however, are incredibly energy efficient. All of the fuel they burn is directly converted into heat and light. This means that gas fireplaces need only a small amount of fuel to produce a large amount of radiant heat. As well, many gas units are equipped with fans that direct the warmth straight to you and the room- no more heat and fuel being wasted and absorbed into the chimney or places you don’t need it.
Outside of the efficiency of gas, fireplaces also work off the very environmentally friendly idea of “zone heating.” Zone heating is based off the principle that you should only heat the areas in your home where you most inhabit. Why waste energy on heating rooms you barely enter? Instead, fireplace units allow you to use your energy with incredible precision- warming you, and helping the environment.
- Is a gas fireplace expensive?
Not really. There is of course a whole range of gas fireplace units that vary in size, type, and features. When weighing the cost of a fireplace, you should also take into account the long-term expense of time, energy efficiency, and construction. In all of these areas, gas fireplaces have a huge edge on wood-burning fireplaces.
In terms of time, gas fireplaces allow you to turn on warmth and ambiance with the touch of a button. No longer do you have to trudge outside to retrieve wood, making a mess in the process. Instead, your gas fireplace is hooked directly into your normal gas line. Just turn it on and you can adjust the height, heat, and look of your fire with your remote. Clean-up is effortless as well: there is none! A gas fireplace does all the work for you.
In terms of energy efficiency, a gas fireplace is a smart investment. Gas units convert all of their fuel directly into heat and ambiance, at a rate exponentially better than wood-burning units. No longer do you have to buy and store large heaps of wood that are wasteful in terms of energy efficiency, heat, and space.
In terms of construction, a gas fireplace does not have the same limitations and costly requirements of a chimney-based wood fireplace. Instead, you only need to worry about the hearth and determine your system of venting. If you already have a chimney, you can easily and painlessly convert over to a gas system.
- What type Of Gas Do they Use?
This question comes up quite a bit and is actually pretty simple. Gas fireplaces use whatever kind of gas is normally used and lined into the home. This can be either natural gas or propane. There is no need to use a special kind of gas.
When purchasing a gas fireplace and log system, however, be sure to check if the logs you are purchasing have a special requirement. While most log units can work with either natural gas or propane, there are still some that require one or the other.
- Can you use propane gas?
Yes! Gas logs and fireplaces can use propane gas. If your home uses a propane gas unit, you can fairly easily hook your gas logs directly into your gas flow. As well, if you want to use propane just for your gas fireplace, you are free to do that as well. However, we do recommend that you just use whatever gas (natural or propane) your home normally uses. This helps with simplicity and ease of use- that way, you don’t have to worry about constantly refilling your gas logs. It just uses fuel out of the main gas line that heats the whole home.
- Are they expensive to run?
In the long run, gas fireplaces are not expensive to run. They are much like using a gas stove top, in that they are incredibly efficient. All of the gas that is fed into their system is transfered into heat and ambiance.
Compared to conventional wood burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces have a number of advantages. They don’t require any storage for fuel- they use fuel pulled directly from the main gas line. As well, they are much more efficient in providing heat. Since the heat does not escape up the chimney or is absorbed uselessly into the hearth, gas fireplaces are much more efficient in transforming their fuel into radiant, and convective heat. Many gas fireplace systems have convective air technology, which helps direct the fire’s heat throughout a space. As well, they can cut down on heating bills since they function off the principle of zone heating: precise, targeted heating for the spaces you actually inhabit, rather than a flat, wasteful heating of unused rooms and spaces.
- Are they dangerous?
This is one of the biggest myths of gas fireplaces. Gas fireplaces are not dangerous in the least! In fact, they can actually be safer than conventional wood burning fireplaces when it comes to carbon, smoke, and fine particulates that are released into the air.
A conventional wood burning fireplace produces a high amount of carbon byproduct and other noxious toxins. That’s the black stuff on the chimney wall and stuck in the chimney’s flu. Gas fireplaces are a clean-burning technology by comparison. As well, there are a number of safety precautions built directly into gas fireplaces that come standard. The first is the the fact that gas fireplaces burn 100% of the fuel they are fed. No gas or fumes are ever released into the home. The second is that a “safety-light” like back-up comes pretty much standard in most gas fireplaces today. This safety back-up is a sensor that detects if any gas is being leaked into the home. If it detects any at all, it immediately triggers a “clamp-down” on the gas fireplace, stopping all gas from being fed to the fire. Thus, no gas can ever leak into your home.
- What about Carbon Monoxide?
As we described in the “are they dangerous” section above, there is no chance that your home is in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
To reiterate, this is because of a few, nearly standard features of gas fireplace technology:
- The first is the the fact that gas fireplaces burn 100% of the fuel they are fed. No gas or fumes are ever released into the home.
- The second is that a “safety-light” like back-up comes pretty much standard in most gas fireplaces today. This safety back-up is a sensor that detects if any gas is being leaked into the home. If it detects any at all, it immediately triggers a “clamp-down” on the gas fireplace, stopping all gas from being fed to the fire.
- The third is that some gas fireplaces, both vented and unvented, come equipped with a glass door that must be closed for the gas fire to function. This effectively seals off the gas chamber from the rest of the home. In vented models, air and particulates are vented in and out of the home without any contact with the living space.