Are you trying to heat your home but are stuck on which type of fireplace to pick? It can be difficult to understand if a gas or electric fireplace will fit you and your home’s needs. So, I put together this post to better distinguish the two.
A gas or electric fireplace is a beautiful addition to any home. However, the better option is the gas fireplace as it heats more efficiently and is more aesthetically pleasing. An electric fireplace is great for those on a budget, but it does not heat larger spaces as well as a gas fireplace can.
In this guide, we discuss the differences between a gas and electric fireplace. Keep reading as we cover an in-depth analysis of which fireplace costs more, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of gas and electric fireplaces.
The Differences Between Gas & Electric Fireplaces
While the basic structure and requirements for a gas and electric fireplace are similar, there are also quite a few differences between the two. To clear up any confusion around what these fireplaces are, we give a brief description of each before diving into a comparison of the two fireplaces.
We also want to make clear that these fireplaces are starkly different from a wood-burning fireplace. While a gas fireplace still needs proper ventilation, neither the gas nor electric fireplaces require chimneys or fireboxes, making them a much more affordable option.
What Is A Gas Fireplace?
A gas fireplace uses gas (typically natural gas or propane) instead of wood as the fuel source for heating your room or home. Gas is a great alternative to wood as it is quite efficient and heats spaces quickly. A gas fireplace provides a good mix of radiant heat and warm air within a room.
There are quite a few different ways a gas fireplace can be categorized, and so to clear up any confusion, we have broken down the three categories into which your gas fireplace may fall. The following describes the three different types of gas fireplaces that you may stumble upon:
- Gas built-ins – This is the most common type of gas fireplace and is what most people are referring to when discussing gas fireplaces. This is the type of gas fireplace we discuss here. These units do not need a chimney or firebox to be installed, making them quite cost-effective.
- Gas inserts – This is an insert that is placed inside an existing firebox. Usually, gas inserts are used to convert a wood-burning fireplace into a strictly gas fireplace.
- Gas log sets – This type of gas fireplace adds a burner to a wood-burning fireplace allowing you to turn on the gas and light a pile of ceramic logs. These units are known not to produce heat as well as the other two types of gas fireplaces. And they end up being comparable in price to the installation of an electric fireplace.
This post will focus mainly on the built-in gas fireplace, as the other two options are not true fireplaces. And we wanted to clear up any possible confusion you may have if you come across information on these other two types of gas fireplaces.
One of the best parts about a gas fireplace is the fact that it can still heat your home in the event of a power outage. This may factor into your final buying decision, especially if you live in a colder climate.
What Is An Electric Fireplace?
An electric fireplace is similar to a gas fireplace, but the heating element is powered by your electricity instead of gas. These fireplaces tend to have a similar look to them with a fake log display or LED light display.
The following three steps walk you through how an electric fireplace is designed to work:
- Draws cool air into the fireplace
- Heats cool air with an internal heating coil
- Uses a fan to disperse warm air back into the room
One of the best parts about an electric fireplace is that they do not need professional installation. You can install them yourself, especially if you choose an option that plugs into your wall outlets.
You may want to hire an electrician if you want your electric fireplace hardwired into your home’s existing electrical network and if you want your house to pass inspection should you decide to sell it. However, even some savvy do-it-yourself types may feel comfortable taking on this challenge. Just be careful when dealing with electricity and make sure you cut the power so you are not working with live wires.
A Brief Comparison of Gas and Electric Fireplaces
As you can tell, there are quite a few differences between gas and electric fireplaces. However, there are also many similarities between them.
The following table compares a gas fireplace to an electric fireplace, summarizing the similarities and differences between the two:
|Characteristics of A Gas Fireplace||Features of Both Gas and Electric Fireplaces||Characteristics of An Electric Fireplace|
|Has the potential for a gas leak or carbon monoxide issuesHeats more effectively than an electric fireplaceTends to cost more to install, run and maintainUses a real flame that can heat the surrounding areas to high temperatures||Both have an expected lifespan of about 20 yearsDo not require the installation of a firebox or chimneyIncrease your home’s resale valueLow maintenance options||Easier to install than a gas fireplaceGenerally, it has a fake flame display that can look cheesyMore inexpensive than gasNeeds almost no maintenance Produces less heat overall compared to gas and is slow to heat a room|
As you can see, they are similar in some respects but very different in others. And now that you can see how different each of these heat sources is let us dive into the advantages and disadvantages of each next.
The Pros and Cons of Gas and Electric Fireplaces
Wood stoves and fireplace both have their perks. However, there are some weaknesses that you should consider before making your final decision.
In the following table, we summarize the major advantages and disadvantages of wood stoves and fireplaces in a side-by-side comparison:
|Key Characteristic||Gas Fireplaces||Electric Fireplaces|
|Initial cost||$2,750 to $7,300||$700 to $2,250|
|Yearly running cost||$60||$25|
|Safest option||Gas fireplaces are not as safe as electric fireplaces. This is for many reasons, including the fact that a real flame is produced.||Electric fireplaces are the safest option because you can monitor heat output, and you do not have an open flame.|
|Easier to install||Gas fireplaces are more difficult to install because you need to run and hook up a gas line.||Electric fireplaces are easier to install.|
|Average lifespan||Gas fireplaces last between 15 and 25 years.||Electric fireplaces last up to 20 years. But these fireplaces need their light bulbs replaced every few years, depending on the frequency of use.|
|Heating efficiency||A gas fireplace is more efficient than an electric fireplace. Gas produces much more heat than an electric fireplace heating up in the same amount of time.||An electric fireplace is not as effective as a gas fireplace at heating a space quickly. You often must be close to the fireplace to feel the heat.|
|Aesthetic appeal||You can’t beat the look and feel of real flames that you get with a gas fireplace.||Some modern designs are available that mimic the look of real flames well, but even these stand-ins are not as aesthetically pleasing as the gas options.|
So now that we have quickly summarized the different features a gas and electric fireplace offers let us analyze each of the key characteristics we covered above in more detail in the next few sections.
Cost to Install a Gas versus an Electric Fireplace
Installing a gas fireplace costs more than an electric fireplace, and we show you the cost breakdowns of each below. Either option you choose is an investment, but as we mentioned earlier, it pays off in increasing your home’s resale value.
Installing A Gas Fireplace
Gas fireplaces generally cost more because you must run a gas line and make sure there is proper ventilation. Installing a gas fireplace can cost over $7,000, depending on multiple factors.
The following is a table showing the different factors that will influence the overall price tag for your gas fireplace:
|Key Factor That Influences Cost of A Gas Fireplace||Estimated Cost|
|Running an exhaust line||Between $200 and $500|
|Running a new gas line||Between $300 and $800|
|Hooking up your fireplace to an existing gas line||Between $150 and $300|
|Price of the gas fireplace unit||Between $900 and $3,000|
|Professional installation of the gas fireplace unit, exhaust and gas lines||Between $1,500 and $3,000|
This means that the cost of your fireplace will be anywhere between $2,750 and $7,300 after everything is done.
Installing An Electric Fireplace
An electric fireplace, on the other hand, is a much less expensive investment. It can cost a little over $2,000 to install an electric fireplace, which is almost a third of the cost of a gas fireplace. The most significant reason for the cost being less is that you do not need to have a professional install any gas lines or extra electrical, most of the time.
The following is a table showing the different factors that will influence the overall price tag for your electric fireplace:
|Key Factor That Influences Cost of An Electric Fireplace||Estimated Cost|
|Installing a new electrical outlet or additional electrical lines||Between $200 and $750|
|Price of the electric fireplace unit||Between $300 and $1,000|
|Professional installation of the electric fireplace unit, and additional lines, if needed||Between $200 and $500|
There is no need to have special plumbing or ventilation installed for an electric fireplace. This means your total cost can end up being between $700 and $2,250.
Keep in mind these are simply estimates for installation. Consult your local electrician, plumber, or professional fireplace installation service to get exact costs or more precise estimates. Every house is different, and your home may pose unique challenges that we cannot address here.
Cost to Run a Gas versus an Electric Fireplace
A gas fireplace again costs more to run every year than an electric fireplace. This annualized increased cost is for a few different reasons, including:
- Gas fireplaces need yearly maintenance, and electric fireplaces do not
- Gas fireplaces require annual inspections to ensure your safety
It costs an average household about $60 a year for a gas fireplace and about $25 a year for an electric fireplace. This is for an average climate that experiences seasonal changes. However, it can be argued that because you can lower your thermostat with the gas fireplace running so efficiently, the difference in cost is made up because your energy bill is lowered.
Which Is Safer, the Gas or the Electric Fireplace?
Hands down, the electric fireplace is much safer than the gas fireplace. And the electric fireplace is much safer for many reasons, including the following:
- It does not cause the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning or a gas leak
- It does not get as dangerously hot as a gas fireplace does
- You have stricter control over the temperature settings
- You also don’t have to worry about the maintenance a gas fireplace requires, such as cleaning your gas fireplace’s vent before each use; it ensures proper ventilation. This is especially true if you live in a household with pets whose hair and dander can clog a vent easily.
No matter which option you choose, you can take a few steps to improve the overall safety of you and your household.
Tips for Improving Your Fireplace’s Safety
Because there is an open flame with gas fireplaces, it can make the surrounding areas quite hot. This includes the glass doors that usually protect the flames. Additionally, this means you may want to steer clear of this option if you have young children or pets who tend to be clumsy or unaware of their surroundings.
To make your fireplace safer and more efficient, you can install the following:
- A fire screen, fence, or gate – This will keep any wandering person or pet from stumbling into the hot glass and burning themselves.
- A fireplace fan or blower – This is a great way to improve your fireplace’s efficiency and heating capacity. Electric fireplaces come with a built-in fan, so be sure to make sure the specifications on the included fan meet your needs.
- Heat-proof glass doors – This is another great option for keeping the fire contained in the firebox, but it might reduce heating efficiency slightly in a gas fireplace.
Always inspect your fireplace before turning it on. If you should notice something out of the ordinary with your gas or electric fireplace, discontinue use and call a professional to identify and solve the problem.
Install A Carbon Monoxide Detector
Finally, you should strongly consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if you do not have one already. Most homes have a smoke alarm, and it is more common that newer homes come with carbon monoxide detectors nowadays. But in older homes, you will want to invest in one!
If you choose a gas fireplace because these have an open flame, you should install a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm.
Always make sure you test your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. And for all the battery-powered models on the market, make sure to replace batteries every six months.
A Comparison of the Heat Output: Gas vs. Electric
As we have mentioned previously, the gas fireplace does a better job of heating the room or your whole house if you need it. Generally, you can select a specific model that will suit your needs in terms of heating a specific amount of square footage.
The gas fireplace has good heat output and allows for warm air to circulate nicely. You do not lose any heat up the flue or chimney, as you would with a wood-burning fireplace.
While it is safer, an electric fireplace does not heat in the same capacity as a gas fireplace. Another drawback of the electric fireplace is that if your power goes out, so does your heat source.
But the gas will still flow during a power outage, keeping your home warm if needed.
Gas vs. Electric: Which Is Easier to Install?
The electric fireplace is easier to install than a gas fireplace. As you may have noticed earlier, it costs more to install the gas fireplace because of the additional needs of a gas fireplace, including the gas and a ventilation site.
However, when compared to a traditional wood-burning fireplace, which requires a firebox, flue, and chimney, both the gas and electric fireplaces have an easy installation process.
The electric fireplace simply plugs into any wall outlet, and the gas fireplace needs to be hooked up to a gas line and vent. Still, you do not need to worry about the firebox or chimney being maintained properly like you would with a wood-burning fireplace.
The gas fireplace is more difficult to install because it requires the following:
- A gas line
- A vent
- An exhaust line
All of this means you will need a professional to do the work of installing a gas fireplace properly. Whereas an electric fireplace is ready to use as soon as you have plugged it into an outlet.
The Average Lifespan: Gas vs. Electric Fireplace
A gas and electric fireplace have similar average lifespans because they require little maintenance throughout their life.
An electric fireplace can last for about 20 years before it is no longer producing at its peak output. The only thing you need to worry about with an electric fireplace is replacing the light bulb if it goes out. Or replacing the heating element if it fails, but this generally happens at the end of the fireplace’s life anyway.
The gas fireplace can last for about the same amount of time, between 15 and 25 years.
A good way to gauge the average lifespan of a fireplace, gas or electric, is to examine the warranties that are included with your purchase.
And most of the time, you can improve the lifespan of a household product if you maintain and upkeep it properly.
Environmental Ratings: Gas vs. Electric Fireplaces
Gas fireplaces are better for the environment than wood-burning fireplaces because they convert up to 90 percent of the energy from burning gas into heat energy. However, gas is a non-renewable resource, so in that sense, it is not great for the environment.
However, electric fireplaces may be better for the environment in some areas, especially if your electricity is drawn from a renewable power source, like wind or solar energy.
Here is a table showing the side-by-side comparison of how environmentally friendly each of these options is:
|Environmentally Important Features of Gas Fireplaces||Environmentally Important Features of Electric Fireplaces|
|Burns cleanNon-renewable resource90 percent efficient in energy conversionDoes not produce high amounts of carbon dioxide||Renewable resource in some areas, if using wind, solar or the like to power your home100 percent efficient in energy conversionDoes not release any pollutants into the atmosphere|
As you can see, electricity is the more environmentally friendly option to choose. However, one way you can combat the less environmentally friendly gas option is to choose an energy star-rated model or one that is similarly rated for efficiency.
Which Is Better: The Gas or Electric Fireplace?
The gas fireplace is the better option. Even though a gas fireplace:
- Costs more
- Needs professional installation
- Is not as safe as the electric option
The gas fireplace wins in our book because, ultimately, it can be used at any time, even during power outages. And the efficiency is higher than an electric fireplace. We even cover this in more detail next!
Our Favorite Electric Fireplace Models
No matter which option you decide on, we have compiled some of our top choices for both electric and gas options. In the following list, we have our top six favorite top-rated electric options:
- Ameriwood Home Farmington Electric Fireplace and TV Console
- Ameriwood Home Lamont Mantel Electric Fireplace
- BOSSIN 50 inch Ultra-Thin and Silent Linear Wall-Mounted Electric Fireplace
- SEI Furniture Merrimack Faux Stone Convertible Electric Corner Fireplace
- Southern Enterprises Grantham Faux Stone Corner Electric Media Fireplace
- Vitesse 50 inch Wall Mounted and Recessed Electric Fireplace
As you can see, there are quite a few options for electric fireplaces. Keep in mind that a wall-mounted or recessed model will be more difficult to install and may require that you hire a professional to do the installation.
The Gas Model Fireplaces that We Prefer
In the following list, we share our top five favorite picks for gas fireplaces that are highly rated:
- Duluth Forge DFS-400R-2GR Dual Fuel Ventless Gas Fireplace-32,000 BTU
- Duluth Forge Dual Fuel Vent Free Insert-15,000 BTU
- Duluth Forge FDF300T Dual Fuel Ventless Gas Fireplace-26,000 BTU
- Empire Boulevard 48-In Vent-Free Linear IP Natural Gas Fireplace
- Peterson Real Fyre 24-inch Live Oak Log Set With Vented Burner and Gas Connection Kit
All of these fireplaces are great options for gas fireplaces. However, if you are having trouble deciding on the best option for you, check out your local hardware store and talk to a store representative for more information. If you are wondering, the higher the BTU rating, the more heat that fireplace can produce.
Do Electric Fireplaces Really Heat A Room or House?
An electric fireplace can heat a room, just do not expect it to happen quickly. The average electric fireplace can heat a room by a little less than three and a half degrees every hour.
An electric fireplace functions much like your electric space heater does. You have to be patient as electric fireplaces will not instantly fill a room with warm air or radiant heat like a gas fireplace will.
With a gas fireplace, you can detect an almost immediate warmth in the room, which is quite different from an electric fireplace.
Do Electric Fireplaces Look Real?
Electric fireplaces can look very realistic. The electric fireplaces on the market today look much more reminiscent of real flames compared to the electric fireplaces of the past. However, if getting the best-looking flame is what you most desire, you may need to invest in a higher-end option.
Most options come with a simulated flame that you can turn on and off, separate from the heat settings. This allows you greater control over the feel of your home. For example, maybe it is a warm day, but you want the ambiance of a fire. An electric fireplace gives you that option.
In Summary: The Gas Fireplace Is The Better Option
While an electric fireplace has its clear perks, the gas fireplace wins out in this comparison. A gas fireplace offers constant heat at a low and efficient cost.
While an electric fireplace is safer and easier to install than the gas option, gas fireplaces offer a superior look and aesthetic for your home. However, if you have young children or pets, the electric option may be your best choice because it is safer.