Gas-burning fireplaces are becoming increasingly popular. With the flip of a switch, you can sit back and enjoy a cozy, warm fire without the effort and messiness of real logs or smoke and fumes. Gas fireplaces burn with up to a 90 percent efficiency rating, meaning almost no pollution. Good for you, your home, and the environment.
Gas fireplaces are now designed to visually simulate a real-wood-burning fireplace so that many people can’t even tell the difference. They have the glowing red embers and orange flames that normally accompany a wood fire. There may not be the nostalgic pop and snap of a real fire, but what you lack in ambience, you gain in extremely clean, versatile warmth and cost-effective convenience. There are also a wide variety of fireplace designs and installation options available. You can choose the design that best matches your home, and you have an option to install a fireplace in more rooms than ever before.
There are basically three types of gas fireplaces: inserts, built-ins, and log sets.
Inserts are a log-and-burner set that sits inside a metal box that, in turn, sits inside another metal box which is inserted into an existing fireplace. The insert warms the room air that’s in the gap between the two boxes. It then radiates this warmed air from the firebox (the fireplace hole). Inserts are very reliable heat producers. Holes need to be drilled for the electrical or gas lines, and the insert can be vented or vent-free. With vented, there’s usually a fixed glass panel in front of the flames, and with vent-free, there’s a fixed glass panel or metal screen.
Built-ins are similar to the insert in that they have a box-within-a-box construction, but built-ins don’t need an existing fireplace or chimney. They can be installed most anywhere. With vented units, they cycle the air and exhaust through an exterior wall opening. Vent-free units cycle the air and exhaust into the room. Like the inserts, the vented units have a fixed glass panel, while the vent-free ones have a fixed glass panel or metal screen. Also like the inserts, built-ins are reliable heat producers.
Log sets are the least expensive option and are usually designed more for looks than warmth. Ceramic logs are intentionally stacked in your existing firebox with a gas burner. Installation only consists of drilling access holes for the electrical or gas lines. Some units are vent-free, some are vented. In the case of vented sets, the fireplace damper needs to be open at all times to prevent CO poisoning. This option can be a drawback, as much of the heat goes up the flue.
Vented vs. Vent-Free Fireplaces
While gas fireplaces don’t produce odors or smoke, their flames do create pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and sulfur oxides. Vented fireplaces send these pollutants outside, while vent-free fireplaces blow them into your home. When considering whether to install a vented or vent-free set, like so many things, each option has its advantages and drawbacks. Vented systems are less efficient overall than their vent-free counterparts, but vented systems are the safest in venting. Vent-free systems are almost 99 percent efficient and can be installed anywhere, even on a wall like a television. Call Williams Mechanical, and one of our expert technicians will be happy to discuss the vented vs. vent-free options with you.
There exist so many options for gas fireplaces today. These fireplaces are not necessarily being installed for their heat-producing capabilities. Many are simply for aesthetics. Whether you want to convert your current wood-burning fireplace or install a new outdoor gas fireplace on your patio, contact us at Williams Mechanical today for more information.