Are you in the market for a fireplace, but you’d rather not deal with all the soot, smoke, and ashes that would inevitably come with it? You might want to consider an alternative to the traditional wood-burning fireplace: the gas fireplace insert.
There are multiple different kinds of gas fireplace inserts, namely the ventless inserts, direct vent inserts, and natural vent inserts. The focus of this article will be direct vent inserts.
You’re going to need to know the difference between direct vent inserts and the other kinds of inserts, though, so we’ll outline this in our Buyer’s Guide, as well as everything else you might want to know when in the market for a gas fireplace insert.
This will include the benefits of a gas fireplace insert over a traditional fireplace, the types of fuel used, the heat efficiency rating, and the most common extra features.
But before we get to the Buyer’s Guide (and the answers to some of the most common queries concerning gas fireplace inserts), here are four recommendations for direct vent inserts.
One of the more stylish gas inserts on the market, this would be best suited to a contemporary living room. The venting can be either horizontal or vertical, meaning you can fit it into an existing fireplace if you so wish.
The fire effects on most non-traditional fireplaces tend to be impressive, and the faux hot embers at work here are no different. You can adjust the flame effects with a remote control, and there’s also LED lighting that helps to accent the overall effect.
The insert comes with a built-in door for increased safety, and you can also choose to get a blower thrown in as well (thrown in with the fireplace, not… thrown into the fireplace), but that will cost you more.
The output of this gas insert is 24,000 BTU, and it’s 77.6% efficient if you go with natural gas, and 79% efficient if you go with propane.
Vent-free inserts tend to be quite a bit more efficient than both of those, but for a direct vent insert, 77 to 79% efficiency tends to be the standard. You can find the fireplace on Woodland Direct.
- Impressive Visuals - the logs and embers that look remarkably like the real thing. The LED lights enhance this effect even more.
- Venting can be vertical or horizontal - offering you plenty of choice and customization.
- The built-in door lock - offers plenty of safety
- It’s quite a bit more money for the blower.
Another great direct vent option is the Empire Tahoe Deluxe. The company is highly regarded for their high quality, reliable products, and the Deluxe is no exception. Its BTU output is 20,000, which should be enough to heat around a thousand square feet.
This insert also boasts millivolt ignition, meaning it’ll heat the room almost instantly. It’s 83% efficient, too, which is a lot higher than the majority of direct vent inserts.
This particular model will run on natural gas (hence the ‘NG’ in the name), but they also offer a model that runs on propane.
It’s best suited to fireplace openings that are fairly shallow, given the depth is 16 inches. It can vent either from the back of the insert or from the top of the insert.
The only major downsides of this insert are the lack of a door/screen and remote control. Both of these components are available, but you need to pay extra.
You can find the Empire Tahoe Deluxe insert on Amazon.
- Reputable company - so you don’t need to worry about using your fireplace
- Ignition control - gives you heat immediately when you need it most!
- Choose from a top or back vent - to give you plenty of customization options
- For remote control, you’re going to need to pay a little more.
- The door or screen will also cost you extra. Most inserts of this kind come with the door included.
Also from Empire, this is another direct vent insert from a highly regarded manufacturer. You’re not going to find a fireplace insert more efficient than this; at 99%, the DVL25 is operating at the gold standard for direct vent inserts.
Just like with most of the inserts offered by the company, you can have the DVL25 installed in a wall, in an existing opening, or at floor level. You can also choose between horizontal or vertical venting, depending on what your home requires.
This insert has a BTU output of 20,000, and just like the Tahoe Deluxe, this will provide heat to an area of 1,000 square feet. It can be set to either intermittent pilot mode (which is adjustable) or millivolt pilot (which will mean the insert remains on permanently).
A blower is included for accelerating the spread of the heat, but for remote control and the automatic thermostat you’re going to need to pay a little more. Both propane and natural gas are options, and you can choose from a variety of colors for the crushed glass.
You can find the Empire Loft DVL25 on Woodland Direct.
- Diverse insert - can be fit into your home regardless of the type of space you’re working with.
- Affordable option - makes it ideal for a range of budgets.
- Range of choices - allows you to find the right fireplace for your room
- For an automatic thermostat and to control your insert remotely, you’ll need to pay quite a bit more.
This insert can either run on propane or natural gas. There are two different models on offer, the 32-inch, and the 27-inch. The 32-inch insert has a BTU output of 28,000, while the 27 inch has 25,000 BTU.
Both models come with a blower, the speed of which you can adjust to your preference.
It’s best suited as a replacement for your existing fireplace. Venting can be either vertical or horizontal, and the insert offers electronic ignition. It’s 70% or 78% heat efficient.
You can find the Superior DRI2000 Gas Fireplace Insert on Woodland Direct.
- Two size options - you should find one to one fit your space.
- Different from other models - thanks to its free blower.
- Great for larger rooms - as it heats larger spaces with ease compared to others on the market.
- For the ability to control your fireplace remotely you’re going to need to pay more. Not every insert features a remote control, so this isn’t out of the ordinary, but the fact that the blower is included in the base price is surprising.
- It’s not the most efficient direct vent unit available.
When you’re deciding on a gas fireplace insert, you need to know the differences between each type, of which there are three: natural vent, direct vent, and vent-free.
There’s a lot more you need to be thinking about, though. The following will break down everything you should be looking for when you’re buying a gas fireplace insert.
Type Of Venting
Before you can decide on a gas fireplace insert, you need to know which type will be suitable for your home. Each type of insert needs a specific kind of venting.
Natural vent inserts will need vertical ductwork that ends up at the roofline, while direct vent inserts can either have vertical ductwork that terminates at the roofline or horizontal ductwork that goes in an exterior wall.
Vent-free inserts, on the other hand, don’t need any ductwork.
Type Of Fuel
When it comes to fuel, all gas inserts will need either propane tanks or natural gas to run. The benefit of models that use natural gas is that they tend to give off more heat than the alternative, but they require a gas line.
A model that uses propane won’t require a gas line to be installed but will need to be replenished with propane regularly.
The heating efficiency of a gas insert depends mostly on the venting type of the model in question. The inserts with the lowest efficiency percentage tend to be natural vented inserts because the heat gets lost due to the flue or the open damper.
Direct vent inserts tend to have better efficiency than natural vent inserts because the outside air is drawn outside and the exhaust requires less ductwork.
For the most efficiency, you’ll usually be looking at an insert that is free of vents. This is because these models don’t require any ductwork. Not only do the majority of ventless models promise 99% when it comes to efficiency, but they also produce very little carbon monoxide.
One thing worth noting, though, is that oxygen levels must be monitored carefully when you’re using an insert that doesn’t have vents. If you’re going with a ventless model, look for one that comes with a sensor for oxygen depletion.
Gas Fireplace Inserts Versus Traditional Wood-Burning Fireplaces
So, what are all the main differences between a traditional fireplace and a gas insert? The main benefit to a gas insert over an ordinary fireplace is that it’s far more efficient than a wood-burning fireplace. Because the heat from a normal fireplace tends to go up through the chimney, a lot of this heat is essentially being wasted.
As well as this, the smoke and soot from a traditional fire will eventually result in staining, and you’ll always be cleaning up the ash. Also, every time you need to remove hot ash, you’re risking getting burnt.
Unlike traditional fireplaces, the combustion chamber of gas inserts is enclosed, which is cleaner, safer, and requires far less maintenance. These are all just bonuses, the headline is that they’re far more efficient. Even at their lowest efficiency, you’d be looking at around 70%. If that sounds low, compare it to the average efficiency of traditional wood-burning fireplaces- 5 to 10%.
With a gas fireplace, all of the heat generated will go towards the room, and the cost will be far lower too.
Some of the pricier models come with extra features. Sometimes these features will be offered not as part of the base model, but for an extra cost.
The standard for gas inserts is electric ignition, but some offer millivolt ignition, which will heat up your room almost instantly. Millivolt is simple and self-contained, as is piezoelectric.
Some models come with an automatic thermostat, which will let the unit know when to turn itself on and turn itself off, to balance the temperature of the space.
Some units also come with remote control. The options available via these controls can vary. Some will allow you to adjust the thermostat, while some let you change the flame effects. A lot of the more modern inserts are also compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Other fireplaces will let you sync up your fireplace to their smartphone app, where you’ll be given a range of options: tutorials, event programming, room control, and device control.
Another fairly common feature in modern gas inserts is ambient LED lighting, which provides a space with a little more atmosphere.
A lot of the more modern gas fireplace inserts will allow you to adjust the effects of the fire itself, to make it look more real, or to provide the space with a little more ambiance depending on the mood, or the time of day.
This option, whether you can control it remotely or not, gives you a chance to personalize the feel of your fireplace, in a way that would require a lot more hands-on work if your fireplace was a traditional, wood-burning one.
A lot of people go with a gas log set, to lend their gas fireplace a more timeless aesthetic. These artificial logs will usually be made from either concrete or ceramic fiber, and tend to be very durable.
A lot of the time they’re cast from genuine logs to make the finished products look as realistic as possible (without being actual logs), at which point they’re painted by hand.
Fire glass is also a common choice, although you’ll only really find this in the more modern fireplaces.
Fire glass comes in a variety of different colors, so you can pick which kind of fire glass would best suit the rest of your decor. On a functional level, they’re the same as log sets.
All of these features can help you to achieve your style.
Installation In A Mobile Home
It may come as a surprise to some, but a lot of gas inserts can be installed in mobile homes, just as long as the mobile home is compatible with that kind of unit- they won’t all be.
A lot of the time the gas fireplace in a mobile home will be all the heat you need, given the size. They also tend to reduce the size of your energy bills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can A Blower Or A Fan Kit Be Installed On A Gas Fireplace Insert?
A lot of the inserts on the market allow for this option. The purpose of a fan or a blower is to more effectively distribute heat, and a lot of people like to have the option.
It’s not always an option, though, so be sure to check the specifications of the inserts you’re interested in. Some of them will offer a blower for an additional charge.
Are There Toxicity Levels Associated With Gas Inserts?
Gas fireplaces are generally very safe, but they do produce carbon monoxide, which can be lethal without sufficient ventilation. They tend to be vented outdoors, meaning they’re ultimately harmless if everything is operating correctly.
Gas inserts that don’t have vents should come with sensors that will detect when the fumes reach levels that are potentially harmful.
Do Gas Fireplace Inserts Require Professional Installation?
Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s best to let an expert install your gas fireplace. That’s not to say you need to leave all the work to professionals, though. If you’re experienced in carpentry then it shouldn’t be much trouble to install your firebox.
When it comes to the more serious stuff, though, like the installation of vents, a gas line, or an electrical circuit, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
How Deep Do Gas Fireplaces Tend to Be?
There’s no direct answer to this question, as the depths of gas inserts really can vary. Some of the smallest inserts you’ll find on the market are as little as nine inches deep, while the bigger inserts can have a depth of as much as 27 inches.