Gas fireplaces have been one of the most popular ways to heat a home for over a century. However, in recent years, electric fireplaces have become an increasingly common alternative. Both varieties of fireplace have their own unique features and benefits that make them appealing, but which type of fireplace is better?
If you're planning on installing a fireplace but don't know whether to choose gas or electric, then this is the article for you. Here we'll guide you through the differences between the two types of fireplace, as well as the pros and cons of both. We'll also compare the two varieties head-to-head, to try and prove which fireplace is better for you.
So let's get right into it!
Gas and Electric Fireplaces: What's the Difference?
If you're unfamiliar with fireplaces, you might be wondering how these two types of fireplaces differ. Apart from the obvious difference in their fuel source (electricity versus ethanol or natural gas), there are a whole host of things that set these two fireplaces apart from each other.
Here we'll go through some similarities and differences between gas and electric fireplaces.
The design of a gas fireplace is much more similar to traditional wood-burning fireplaces than an electric fireplace. There are no exposed flames, and instead the flame is hidden behind glass panels.
While it's easy to tell that the fireplace isn't powered by traditional wood or coal, the visual aspect of seeing the live flame is still present. Because the fireplace is fueled by gas, there isn't as much need for the bulk of a traditional fireplace; as a result, gas fireplaces are much sleeker and less obtrusive.
Meanwhile, electric fireplaces don't use a flame at all, instead functioning similarly to other forms of space heaters. Many electric fireplaces simulate the appearance of a flame with lights, videos, or even holographic imagery.
Additionally, you can find electrical fireplaces that use crackling sounds to further mimic a traditional fireplace.
Although the fake flame in some electrical fireplaces can look highly convincing, it's no substitute for the real thing and gas fireplaces win in the visual aspect.
However, electric fireplaces have a major design advantage over gas fireplaces through their size; gas fireplaces may take up less space than a traditional fireplace, but electric fireplaces need no fuel at all and can take up next to no space depending on the model.
You also don't need a chimney for an electric fireplace, while gas fireplaces benefit from a flue to get rid of fumes, soot, and excess heat.
While gas fireplaces are typically more powerful and effective than electric fireplaces, they aren't necessarily more energy-efficient. In fact, electric fireplaces are much more environmentally-friendly and use less power to run. With that said, there are some factors that can actually make a gas fireplace the better option.
Electric fireplaces take longer to heat up, and don't radiate heat as well as a gas fireplace. This means that they are less effective at warming larger rooms and you might need to wait a while for the fireplace to reach the right temperature. Contrastingly, gas fireplaces are similar to wood- or coal-burning fireplaces in their effectiveness at heating up an area quickly.
So although a gas fireplace may look less energy-efficient on paper, depending on your circumstances it could be the more eco-friendly option. For instance, while an electric fireplace is ideal for warming up smaller spaces, you might end up wasting more power than you save if you're struggling to heat up a larger space.
One of the biggest concerns when choosing a fireplace is safety. Both types of fireplace have safety risks, but by using them appropriately and properly these risks are minimized. There are also several protective measures in place to prevent any possible issues from occurring.
Because gas fireplaces use a real flame, this is typically covered by a glass window. While this confines the flame to the inside of the fireplace, the glass itself can grow extremely hot and can be dangerous to touch. They also produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if it builds up.
Fireplaces will have ventilation to remove the carbon monoxide as it forms, but there is still the risk that it will build up to harmful levels and it's recommended to get a carbon monoxide alarm.
Electric fireplaces tend to be safer, as there aren't any flames in the equation. However, like any other form of space heaters it can overheat if left on for too long. Many electric fireplaces will have a built-in off switch that automatically shuts off the fireplace if it grows too hot.
They are also liable to the same risk of electrical fires as any other electronic, and you should make sure that you dust and clean them frequently and switch it off when it's not in use.
Electric fireplaces are cheaper to install and maintain than gas fireplaces. All you need for an electric fireplace is the unit itself, the installation fee, and the electrical bill for keeping it running. In total, you can expect to pay anywhere from around $750-$2000 for a high-quality electric fireplace.
Gas fireplaces, on the other hand, cost a lot more to use. On top of a higher cost for the unit itself, you also need to pay for installation, fuel, and several possible hidden costs you might not have factored in.
For instance, if you don't have an existing gas line you'll need to pay to have one installed (and even if you do there's a possible hookup fee). You may also need to pay for a chimney to be built, although this is only really necessary in certain circumstances. Overall, you're looking at $2000-$7500 plus if you want to install a gas fireplace.
There are plenty of benefits to both kinds of fireplace and, in the end, the best type comes down to your personal preference. Electric fireplaces offer a much cheaper and energy-efficient option, but there is something unmatched about cozying up next to an authentic fireplace.
So whether you're looking for the comfort and efficiency of a gas fireplace or the value and environmental benefits of an electric one, either way you can look forward to a much warmer home!