Here are the most frequently asked questions about fireplaces – gas and electric fireplaces especially.
These include questions about buying the right type of fireplace, safety tips, installation tips, energy consumption and installation.
General Fireplace Questions
When is it appropriate to install a fireplace in a home?
There are many different types of fireplaces today. So regardless of your situation at home, you can’t miss a fireplace that’s perfect for your space.
For instance, if you live in an apartment, a wood or gas fireplace is out of the question.
If on the other hand you live in your own house or are currently building a home, it’s easier to install a wood or gas fireplace.
Talk to a local electrician, appliance store or builder to recommend the best fireplace for your space, budget and needs.
Do fireplaces use a lot of energy?
Modern fireplaces come with sealed designs that make them much more energy efficient.
Take wood-burning fireplaces for instance.
Traditional styles had wastefully low energy efficiency ratings of just 15%, with most of the heat escaping up the chimney.
Modern wood-burning fireplaces today, however, are often up to 75% efficient.
Modern gas fireplaces are equally efficient. Though they are not yet at the level of high-efficiency gas furnaces, modern direct-vent and vent-free models can be 80% or more efficient.
Electric fireplaces are the most efficient of all. All the heat produced is directed inside the house without loss through the chimney or venting.
All types of fireplaces can help you reduce energy consumption in your home.
When you use the fireplace for supplemental zoned heating, you can keep the thermostat set low and save on utility bills.
Will a fireplace make my home more valuable?
This is something worth considering if you plan to sell (or rent) your home later.
The good news is yes, a fireplace can add more value to your home.
A 2012 survey, found that a fireplace is one of the top 3 amenities that prospective buyers look for in a house.
So not only will a fireplace increase resale value, but it will also bring more buyers to the door.
The actual value they add to home will depend on the type of fireplace and location. A wood or gas fireplace is likely to add more value if your home is located in a cold climate region.
Note that electric fireplaces add the least value to a home and sometimes may not add any at all. This is because they are cheaper and usually don’t produce as much heat as wood or gas fireplaces.
Many are used primarily for aesthetics.
Which type of fireplace should I buy: Wood, gas or electric?
This will depend on your specific situation.
If you already have existing gas lines, it’s easier to install a gas fireplace.
If not, consider a wood fireplace.
If you are living in an apartment or don’t have the budget to install a wood/gas fireplace, then an electric fireplace is a good choice.
Are fireplaces safe for indoor use?
When buying a fireplace, make sure it is rated for indoor use. Then make sure you install it as directed by the manufacturer.
This will ensure there are no hazards such as harmful emissions, fire or electrical damage.
Follow your local building codes and work only with a licensed pro.
When installed and used properly, fireplaces are safe.
Be extra cautious if you have kids and pets. Wood and gas fireplaces get very hot. Use a screen or gate to keep curious babies and pets away from the flames.
You can also opt for an electric fireplace to resolve most of the issues above. It’s much safer since most of it stays cool to the touch. Only the heater vent gets hot.
Another safety advantage of electric fireplaces is that they have no emissions at all.
How much heat do fireplaces emit?
First, check whether the fireplace gives off any heat at all. Some electric fireplaces don’t come with an integrated heater. They are purely for aesthetics.
But most electric fireplaces and all gas/wood fireplaces do produce heat.
The maximum heat output will vary from the fireplace to fireplace.
Gas and wood fireplaces can produce as much as 60,000-80,000 BTUs depending on amount and type of fuel. They are great for whole-home heating.
Most electric fireplaces produce up to 5,000 BTUs of heat although some can go as high as 10,000 BTUs. They can heat spaces measuring 400-1000 square feet.
Do fireplaces have emissions and are they harmful?
Wood and gas fireplaces can produce some harmful emissions that are bad for pets and humans.
You can minimize these emissions by strictly following the manufacturer’s installation instructions and the local building code.
Electric fireplaces have no emissions at all.
Can a fireplace be mounted on a wall?
Yes, some wood, gas and electric fireplaces can be mounted on a wall.
Talk to a pro if you prefer a wall-mounted fireplace. They’ll help you choose the best one for your needs and install it safely.
Can I recess the fireplace into the wall?
This will depend on the type of fireplace as well as your home’s construction.
With electric fireplaces, it’s easy to find models that can be recessed into the wall – check out our favorite wall-mounted units here.
For a recessed wood/gas fireplace, there are a lot more factors to consider. If you are going to go gas or wood, then definitely discuss your needs with a pro for expert advice.
How do I clean the glass in front of my fireplace?
In many cases, wiping the glass with a moist microfiber cloth is enough. However, you may need to use special cleaners or an ash paste if there are soot and stains on the glass.
Water + vinegar solutions also work well for removing streaks and gentle stains.
That said, there are several different types of tempered glass and coatings used in modern fireplace glass covers. Refer to the user manual for instructions on how to safely clean the glass without damaging it.
How much does a new fireplace cost?
Electric fireplaces are the cheapest with some models selling for less than $300. Gas/wood fireplaces range between $1,000 and $15,000.
Don’t forget to factor in installation costs in your budget, too. Installation is especially expensive for wood and gas burning fireplaces.
Accounting for materials and labor, installation of a gas or wood fireplace can sometimes double the total cost of the fireplace.
Electric fireplaces are not only cheaper to buy, they are also less expensive and sometimes cost-free to install.
Unless the fireplace needs to be recessed or hardwired, you can usually install it yourself.
FAQs About Gas Fireplaces
How safe are gas fireplaces?
They are very safe as long as they are correctly installed. Only hire a licensed pro to install a gas fireplace safely.
Remember that gas fireplaces can get extremely hot, making them a hazard for curious kids and pets. If you have children or pets in the house, use a protective screen or pen.
Can I add accessories to a gas fireplace after installation?
Yes, you can. Just make sure they don’t interfere with the efficiency or safety of the fireplace.
Some popular accessories include faux bricks, faux logs to make it look like a wood fireplace, decorative screens and fireplace media such as crystals and rocks.
Can I adjust how much heat the fireplace produces?
Yes, most gas fireplaces allow you to change the level of heat output. You can lower or raise the thermostat depending on your heating needs.
Check the user manual for instructions on how to adjust the heat for your specific model.
Can a wood fireplace be converted into a gas fireplace?
Yes, it is usually possible to make the conversion.
A pro will need to inspect the existing fireplace and chimney to determine whether it can accommodate a gas unit.
The overall cost to convert a wood fireplace to a gas-burning one can range between $500-$5,000 depending on how much work needs to be done and the type of gas fireplace you plan to install.
Make sure you hire a licensed pro to do the conversion.
Do I need to hire a pro to install a gas fireplace?
You may be able to install the gas fireplace yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you should.
For safety, you should always hire a pro to install a gas fireplace. They have the experience and training to properly install the fireplace in such a way that is safe and maximizes energy efficiency.
The local building code may also prohibit anyone without a license from installing a gas fireplace.
Is it safe to have the TV right above the fireplace?
Electronics are heat-sensitive and operate best in a cool environment.
The smoke and emissions from the fireplace can also damage the electronic components.
If you can, avoid installing the TV over the fireplace.
But if you have no other choice, make sure you leave enough space between the fireplace and the TV. Check the manual to see the minimum distance the manufacturer recommends.
I also recommend getting a professional installer to handle the installation. They will ensure the TV is installed at the correct height without any risk of damage from the heat or emissions.
Note: If you install a TV above the fireplace, it will be higher on the wall. This can cause neck strain for family members as they watch the TV. Either push the sitting area further back or get a tilting TV to mitigate this problem.
Does a gas fireplace require electricity?
If your gas fireplace comes with a standing/vertical pilot, it will ignite even when there’s no power.
Certain fireplaces have electronic ignition systems that won’t work if there’s no electricity. But some have battery backups.
If your fireplace has a fan or blower, then it needs electricity to operate. In the event of a power outage, it will still work, but the heat will not be distributed as efficiently.
Is the glass front of the fireplace removable?
Yes, you can remove the glass panel at the front of the fireplace. This is necessary during cleaning.
But make sure the fireplace has cooled completely before you attempt to touch it. You should wait at least 6-8 hours after turning off the fire before trying to remove the glass.
Refer to the user manual for specific instructions on how to remove the glass panel.
Does a gas fireplace require extensive wall reconstruction to install?
This will depend on the existing construction of your home as well as the type of gas fireplace you plan to install.
Only a pro will be able to determine how much reconstruction will be required.
If you are converting a wood fireplace into a gas fireplace, very little retrofitting will be required.
What are the different types of gas fireplaces?
- Vent-free gas fireplace – this is a fireplace that doesn’t need venting. It uses indoor air for combustion and emits gasses and water vapour into your home. These fireplaces don’t need a chimney or any other kind of venting.
- Direct-vent gas fireplace – this is a fireplace that has a sealed design. It doesn’t use indoor air for combustion nor does it emit gasses indoors. Instead, it vents directly outdoors either through the wall or ceiling.
- B-vent or natural draft gas fireplace – this is a type of fireplace with a vertical vent that carries hot gasses (and some heat) up and out of the house. The fireplace draws air for combustion from inside the house.
Discuss your situation with a licensed pro to determine the best type of gas fireplace to install.
What’s the difference between propane and natural gas?
Natural gas and propane are both clean fuels for gas fireplaces.
Natural gas is a mixture of several gasses, with propane being one of them. At gas processing facilities, propane is separated and packaged for distribution.
Propane is usually more expensive, but it packs more energy than natural gas. So you need less of it to keep the fireplace burning.
Overall, however, most homeowners find natural gas to be more cost-effective.
Propane is the more environment-friendly of the two fuels. It doesn’t cause greenhouse warming either before or after combustion.
When is a gas fireplace the best option?
When you need more heat output than an electric fireplace can provide, but you don’t want to deal with the hassles of a wood-burning fireplace.
A gas fireplace is also better if you are looking for a cleaner fireplace with fewer emissions.
Where can I vent a gas fireplace?
The closest wall is usually the best choice for venting a gas fireplace.
But if it is a B-vent fireplace, you may need to vent it through the roof.
Note that vent-free fireplaces don’t require any venting at all.
Do I need to break down part of the wall to install a gas fireplace?
That’s usually not necessary. In most cases, only small holes need to be made in the wall for the venting and probably gas lines.
FAQs About Electric Fireplaces
Do I need any permits to install an electric fireplace?
Most electric fireplaces don’t need any permits to install. But if you plan to do a major retrofitting, check whether the local building code requires any special permits.
If a pro is installing the fireplace for you, they’ll tell you if you need any permits.
Can I safely plug an electric fireplace into a standard outlet?
Most electric fireplaces are rated at 110/120V, meaning they can be safely plugged into a standard outlet.
But always check the voltage rating and manufacturer recommendations first.
Built-in electric fireboxes have more powerful heaters and hence need to be hardwired to a direct circuit.
Note: Even if a specific electric fireplace is safe to plug into a standard outlet, it can still be hazardous if the outlet is on a loaded circuit. Make sure there are no major appliances on the same circuit.
How big can an area an electric fireplace heat?
It will depend on how powerful the heater is.
Most electric fireplaces have a 1500W heater that is good for spaces up to 400 square feet.
Some infrared heaters of the same wattage can heat significantly larger rooms up to 1000 square feet.
Built-in electric fireboxes have more powerful heaters that can heat large rooms to 800-1000 square feet.
Are electric fireplaces energy and cost-efficient?
In most cases, they are.
They are definitely more energy-efficient than gas or wood-burning fireplaces, hence are cheaper to operate. They can also help you reduce your utility bill by providing zoned heating.
Can I safely move the electric fireplace to another room once it is installed?
It will depend on what kind of electric fireplace you have.
If it is a built-in electric firebox or a wall-recessed fireplace, you cannot move it.
If it is a stand-alone fireplace, a mantel-style fireplace or a wall-mounted electric fireplace, you can.
How many watts does an electric fireplace give off in an hour?
It depends on the capacity of the heater in the fireplace. Most average about 5,000 watts an hour. But some higher-wattage models give off more heat.
Do I need to vent an electric fireplace?
No, you don’t.
Electric fireplaces don’t burn fuel, and there are no actual flames.
That means they don’t need any air for combustion nor do they produce any emissions.
So you don’t need a vent or chimney.
That’s one of the reasons electric fireplaces are much easier and cheaper to install.
Do electric fireplaces produce any gases or fumes?
No. They are the best option for families who are looking for a healthy environmentally-friendly fireplace.
What kind of maintenance does an electric fireplace need?
Since there are no flames or soot or ashes, there is minimal cleanup and maintenance required with an electric fireplace.
Most manufacturers recommend occasionally wiping the glass screen and fireplace media (faux logs, crystals etc.) with a dry microfiber cloth.
You’ll also need to keep an eye on the LED bulbs used to simulate the flames and glowing logs. They last about 3-5 years and need to be replaced as soon as they burn out.
Other than that, there’s nothing else you need to do.
Read our electric fireplace insert buying guide for more about buying and installing an electric fireplace insert.
If you are thinking about buying a new electric fireplace, see our top 15 recommendations in 5 categories in our recently-published in-depth electric fireplace buying guide.
If you have questions about fireplaces, electric or otherwise, feel free leave a comment below!