Informational Guide

Comparing Gas Vs Electric Fireplaces

Home heating can get confusing. We compare gas & electric fireplaces so you can decide which heating solution is most suited to your home.

by Josh M

For generations, the fireplace was the primary source of heat in your home. Over time the hassle of fuelling, cleaning, and maintaining a fireplace made them obsolete, but modern fireplaces came along to take their place.

Gas and electric fireplaces are now the most common on the market, and if you’re in the market for one, it’s essential to understand the differences. In this guide, we’ll help break that down for you and give you all the information about gas vs. electric fireplaces so you can decide which is best for you.

Gas Powered Fireplace HeaterGas fireplaces have become increasingly popular in the home because of their efficiency and effectiveness in heating a room. They use a supply of gas, hence the name, to light and fuel a flame within the device, which then emits radiant heat into the room.

This uses the convection method, which means that cool air is drawn into the device and warm air comes out, heating the air in the room to increase the overall temperature.

Gas fireplaces were the original alternative to a traditional fireplace and have been in existence since 1895. They lacked the aesthetics of a traditional fireplace, but they were much more reliable and efficient, giving your home a more consistent amount of heat.

They also solved the problem of needing fresh wood and cleaning out the ash from the grate. Plus, they didn’t need a chimney, only a route through pipes to ventilation though most modern gas fireplaces don’t need ventilation anymore.

The gas fireplace developed massively only over the next 50 years and became more popular as fewer people had homes with chimneys. Initially, gas fireplaces were very expensive, mostly due to the fact they were built from cast iron. The manufacturing costs came down in the early 1900s, making them much more accessible for everyone.

Modern gas fireplaces are generally made from stainless steel and often incorporate a glass panel at the front of the device. This allows you to see the flame and makes the whole room a lot cozier.

Gas fireplaces are popular because they are low maintenance, give off a lot of heat, and don’t need any external power source. This means you can use them in a power cut and in any room in your house.

Pros & Cons of Gas Fireplaces

Things We Like
  • High Levels Of Heat: Gas fireplaces give off a lot of heat so you can warm up a room quickly.
  • Low Maintenance: Once installed, you’ll only need to check your device once a year and make sure it has enough fuel. There’s no dirt or ash to deal with.
  • Easy Ventilation: If you do have a gas fireplace that needs ventilation, then you can connect it to your existing fireplace if you have one. This helps protect the look of a room.
  • Self-Contained Power: Your gas fireplace will function even if your electrics go out. Perfect for those in more rural areas.
  • Energy Saving: Gas fireplaces are considered one of the more efficient forms of heating, so you will save less on your energy bills each month.
Things We Don’t
  • Hot To Touch: Gas fireplaces can be hot to touch, making them a hazard to children and pets.
  • Permanent Installation: Your gas fireplace will need to be installed more permanently with a fixed gas line. It will need to be connected to an outside wall for ventilation and is difficult to move afterward.
  • Gas Line Needed: Your fireplace will need a fixed gas line to work or a propane tank that can be refilled. You might need a professional to help you with this.

All About Electric Fireplace Heaters

Electric fireplaces aren’t as old as gas fireplaces but still have over 100 years of history behind them. The first model was invented in 1912 as an alternative to wood or gas fireplace heaters, but they weren’t seen in many homes due to the high cost.

Post WW2, attitudes and tastes had begun to change, and the electric fireplace really took off in the 1950s. However, these still looked very different from the modern fireplaces we know today, and it wasn’t until 1981 that the first realistic flame effects were incorporated into the designs.

Nowadays, modern electric fireplaces look and feel just like an actual wood fire but without the mess or upkeep associated with them.

Electric fireplaces use electricity to power a heating coil within the machine. A convection method is used to heat the air around the fireplace, spreading into the room. Most of the components are made from metal, but some of the exterior parts are plastic because there’s no risk of combustion. There is often a glass front that uses LEDs to look like a real flame and add to the aesthetic of the piece.

Electric fireplaces are popular because they are simple, connect to your existing electricity supply, and don’t give off any by-products. They heat a room well, and there are a lot of very affordable models out there, so anyone can have one. Plus, they only need electricity so they can be used anywhere in your home, not just in an existing fireplace.

Pros & Cons of Electric Fireplaces

Things We Like
  • Low Maintenance: You won’t need to refuel, vent, or get rid of any by-products with an electric fireplace, making it the simplest option out there.
  • Portable: Electric fireplaces can just be plugged in and used. This means you get a lot of portable heaters which can move room to room as needed.
  • Safe: Most modern electric fireplaces will not be hot to the touch, so there’s no risk of children or pets accidentally hurting themselves.
  • Affordable: Electric fireplaces are affordable to buy and cheap to run, so they are accessible to everyone.
  • Great Designs: Modern electric fireplaces are very stylish, and there’s a wide range of designs to match any home.
Things We Don’t
  • Susceptible To Power Outages: Your fireplace is connected to your electricity supply, so if there is an outage, your fireplace will stop running too.
  • Lower Heat Output: Electric fireplaces give off less heat than gas fireplaces, though it usually is enough to heat most rooms.

Gas Vs Electric Fireplaces: Key Differences Explained

Hopefully, you now understand more about gas and electric fireplaces but still might not be sure which is best for you. To be honest, you could probably run either in your home, so we’ve given a breakdown of the key factors to consider when making your choice:

Model and Installation Cost

Gas and electric fireplaces are both reasonably affordable, and there’s so much variety out there you can search around to find a model within your price range. However, gas fireplaces are more expensive, and the initial cost will be higher than an electric fireplace.

You’ll also have to spend more money on the installation, so you have a reliable gas line and safe ventilation. Electric fireplaces are less expensive, and the installation cost is negligible as long as there is an outlet within reach. If not, you may have to pay an electrician to fit one, which could cost a few hundred dollars.

All in all, electric fireplaces are cheaper than gas fireplaces.

Running Costs

When considering the running costs for each fireplace, we also need to consider the BTUs produced, as this is an indication of the area the fireplace will heat. Fireplaces come in all shapes and sizes, but typically you should expect an electric fireplace to give off 3000-7000BTUs.

This means they can heat about 30-70 square feet of space, depending on the insulation of the room. In addition, your electric heater will cost about 15 cents per hour to run, meaning you can heat a medium-sized room for 15 cents an hour.

A gas fireplace will generally provide 8000-60,000 BTUs, which means it can heat a much larger space. The average cost per hour to run is slightly higher at 17 cents, but because of the efficiency, they are actually better value.

Gas fireplaces will cost you less to run and will mean you don’t need to use the fireplace as often, lowering your energy bills each month.

Time To Heat Room & Home

Both electric and gas fireplaces are effective and should provide heat from the moment you switch them on. Gas fireplaces are more efficient and generally designed to provide more heat, which means they will heat a room more quickly than an electric heater.

Remember, the effectiveness of any heater will be influenced by the insulation in your home and how fast heat escapes.

Unit & Flame Appearance

Both gas and electric fireplaces have a wide range of designs available, so you can suit one which fits in your home. Gas fireplaces are generally a bit more old school and have an actual flame within the unit. This works for some people, but it doesn’t always look like a traditional fireplace.

Electric heaters usually have an LED display panel on the front of the device, showing a flickering fireplace. This gives the illusion of a fire in your home and can be a lot more aesthetic. The range of options means that electric fireplaces are better if you want a realistic look and feel.

Safety

Gas fireplaces, if installed correctly, are perfectly safe, and no gas emissions should enter your home. However, the unit itself can become hot after prolonged use, making it dangerous for children and animals around the heater. You should never leave it unsupervised and consider putting a 3-foot barrier around the device.

Electric fireplaces don’t have this problem and should be cool to the touch. They are the safer option but make sure you don’t leave any flammables too near the heater, or they could catch fire.

Environmental Concerns

Electric fireplaces give off no gas or emissions that could harm the environment, but gas fireplaces are vented, and gas is released into the air. However, because gas fireplaces are more efficient, you won’t need to use them as much, so they actually have a lower footprint than electric fireplaces.

Both of these options are environmentally friendly, but gas fireplaces are slightly more eco-friendly.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Both electric and gas fireplaces are very low maintenance, and that’s a big part of the appeal for most people. Gas fireplaces do need a professional check-up every year, and for some models, you may have to replace the gas supply periodically to keep it running.

Electric fireplaces pretty much run themselves, and once they’re plugged in, there’s nothing you need to do. If you want a no-maintenance fireplace, then an electric one is best for you. In cases where you encounter a problem, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can follow to solve issues or know how to proceed.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Will a gas fireplace really heat the large living room?

Yes, gas fireplaces are designed to heat larger spaces than electric fireplaces. Check the product description/specification to see the details of the space it can heat.

Do I need a chimney for a gas fireplace?

No, but you will need to have a gas line and ventilation line added to use it safely.

What is required for a gas fireplace?

A gas fireplace requires a fixed gas line or a propane tank to fuel it. Some homes have a gas line already, but others will need one installed to power the device.

Are electric fireplaces worth the money for homeowners?

An electric fireplace can effectively heat a room and look great. You should consider the long-term costs of running the heater, but generally, they are worth the money.

Can I replace a gas fireplace with electric?

An electric fireplace uses a different power source, so you will need to make sure there’s an outlet it can be connected to if you’re installing it in its place.

Conclusion

A good fireplace is more than just a heat source; it’s the heart of your home. Both electric and gas fireplaces have their pros and cons, but electric fireplaces will cost you more upfront, and gas fireplaces will cost you more in the long run.

Hopefully this article has helped explain the key differences and has given you everything you need to make an informed choice.

We have also compared the differences of an electric fireplace, infrared, and space heater in another post.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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