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Do Gas Fireplaces Use a Lot of Gas?

Gas fireplaces use less gas than other traditional heating methods such as furnaces. The amount of gas that a fireplace uses is dependent on many factors such as the BTU rating, unit type, and how frequently the system is used.

While it may depend on multiple factors, you may be wondering how much gas the average fireplace uses and how much will it cost you. Are these units cheaper or more energy-efficient to run than your furnace? Read on to find out!

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How Much Gas Do Gas Fireplaces Use?

a gas fireplace burning

The amount of gas that fireplaces use depends on the specifics of your system and where you live. Some important factors that affect gas usage include:

  • Fireplace type
  • Room size
  • Severity of climate
  • Season

Gas fireplaces mainly fall into two categories: log sets and gas inserts. Gas log sets sit inside the pre-existing fireplace in your home with the damper removed. These produce a flame just like a wood fire, but most heat is lost up the chimney.

Gas inserts or fireplaces are self-contained units that typically use less gas than gas log sets to heat the same space. The efficiency rating on a fireplace determines how much gas is converted to heat for your home. Higher efficiency means that less gas is required to heat your home.

Another consideration is the room that your fireplace is in. The maximum heat that a fireplace can produce is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). A larger room requires a gas fireplace with a higher BTU rating to reach all corners of the space. More BTUs mean that you need more gas to run the fireplace for the same amount of time.

Finally, the season will affect how high your fireplace is set and how often it is on. You will most likely need to run your fireplace more often in the winter than in the summer, which will increase gas usage. If you live in a more severe climate, you will also need to run the fireplace more often, which will drive up the amount of gas.

How Much Gas Do Pilot Lights Use?

Another important consideration for gas fireplaces is the pilot light. This is a small fire that remains constantly lit for gas appliances. This pilot light provides a source of fire to ignite the main burner whenever you turn the fireplace on. Most people leave the pilot light on so they don’t have to deal with the hassle of relighting it.

Leaving the flame standing can also keep your firebox dry, stop buildup, and prevent pests. Regardless of whether or not the main burner is on, pilot lights require 900-1,100 BTUs/hour or 700,000 BTUs/month. In comparison, the main fireplace typically uses around 50 times this amount of gas. Some newer gas fireplaces use electronic ignition, which doesn’t require a standing pilot light.

Are Gas Fireplaces Energy-Efficient?

Gas fireplaces are energy-efficient because the majority of the heat produced is released directly into the room. In addition, using gas fireplaces enables zone heating, which reduces the energy consumed. The level of efficiency in a particular heating system varies with the type of gas fireplace and the fuel used.

Considering a gas fireplace but wondering if it’s energy-efficient? Don’t worry, many gas fireplaces are more efficient and cleaner than wood-burning fireplaces. Higher efficiencies mean that fewer pollutants and global warming emissions are released from your fireplace. In addition, using gas fireplaces to heat specific rooms lowers your overall energy consumption. This zone heating reduces energy wasted in unused rooms, which is great for the environment.

Not all gas fireplaces are created equal. Gas log sets make a flame just like a wood fire does and you’ll feel warm if you sit directly in front of it. However, the efficiency of these units is around 25%, which means that only one-quarter of the gas it uses is converted into heat.

This is because most of the warmth goes up the chimney. On the other hand, gas inserts are self-contained, which allows them to push a lot more heat into a room. These devices are 65 – 85% effective, which is a much better use of energy. It is also important to consider the type of gas you are using to heat your home. Propane is more energy-efficient than natural gas.

How Much Gas Does a Gas Fireplace Burn Per Hour?

Along with overall energy efficiency, it is important to consider exactly how much a gas fireplace burns per hour. Based on the currently available models, gas log sets burn anywhere from 60,000 – 90,000 BTUs of gas per hour. On the other hand, the more efficient gas fireplaces use 10,000 – 70,000 BTUs/hour. In comparison, the average furnace requires around double the amount of gas.

How Much Do Gas Fireplaces Cost to Run?

The average gas fireplace will cost $59 – 126 to run per month, depending on the size of the fireplace, fuel used, and gas prices in the region. Using gas fireplaces as the main source of heating is more economical than other traditional heating methods.

In order to determine the cost to run your fireplace, you need to consider the BTUs of the unit and whether propane or natural gas will be used to heat your home. Propane is usually more expensive but isn’t always an option in rural areas. According to the U.S. Energy Administration, natural gas costs $1.10/therm on average, while propane averages $2.12/gallon. It’s worth noting that these costs could vary depending on your part of the country. 

Using these prices for a 60,000 BTU gas fireplace, it would cost $0.66/hour using natural gas and $1.40/hour for propane. The monthly cost, assuming three hours of usage per day, would be $59 for natural gas and $126 for propane. There are other expenses to think about, such as the gas to keep the pilot light on and any electrical costs. However, using gas fireplaces can lower the price of any other heating methods you’re using alongside the fireplace. In the table below, you can find a comparison of some of the most common heating methods based on average monthly prices in Maine.

Wood StoveGas FireplaceSpace HeaterOil FurnaceGas FurnaceElectric Baseboard
$85$59 – $126$125$138$213 – $267$289

Is It Cheaper to Run a Gas Fireplace or the Furnace?

It is most likely cheaper to run a gas fireplace than a furnace because of the radiant heat released and the possibility of zone heating. It is also easier to maintain a consistent temperature with a gas fireplace, which lowers costs. However, this can vary for each home based on the BTU rating, extraction efficiency, and heat loss ratio of the furnace.

This question is hard to answer directly because furnace efficiencies do not account for any heat loss through ducts and radiators in your home. Each house’s delivery system varies slightly and that affects how much it will cause to run the furnace. It’s usually cheaper to run a gas fireplace because of its increased efficiency. Additionally, furnaces release convective heat, which takes longer to warm you up than the radiant heat of a fireplace.

Another thing to consider is that because furnaces heat a larger area, they cost more to run per hour than a fireplace. Gas fireplaces can heat the areas where people spend the most time, so less heat is wasted. Furnaces distribute heat throughout the entire house, including any unused rooms. A good compromise is to use a gas fireplace to heat main rooms and set the central furnace lower to conserve energy.

Are you considering a gas fireplace but don’t know where to start looking? Check out this video on how to choose the right unit for your home:

Need More Help?

You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.

  • Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
  • Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10