Wouldn’t it be great if you could have the warmth and light of a fireplace without the mess, hard work, and inefficiency? Would it surprise you to know that there are options for people who live in homes without existing fireboxes and chimneys?
Check this out.
Gas or propane powered fireplace inserts are safer, easier to install, give the same beautiful, flickering firelight, and heat your home more efficiently than old, wood-burning types. They come in so many styles to fit every home décor scheme from classic and traditional wood mantelpieces to sleek, modern styles with black metal and crystal.
The latest ceramic logs look just like the real thing, too. Most are hand-painted and manufactured to glow and spark like natural wood.
We have done the research for you and found the 10 best gas fireplace insert options for a cozy, warm, and attractive home. All you have to do is make the final choice, have it properly installed, and start enjoying the new ambiance and affordable heat throughout the year.
How We Tested
You and your family are sitting in the cozy living room enjoying the warmth and light from what you thought was the best gas fireplace insert when the flames surge out of control, fumes fill your room, or another horrible situation occurs.
Sounds scary, right?
Luckily, you do not have to worry about such things happening because every quality gas fireplace is rigorously tested by the manufacturers and independent sources before they are put on the market. They test gas connections and vents to ensure safety for you and your family.
All materials that go into the construction of these units also go through testing to make sure they do not burn, melt, or emit toxic or noxious fumes when subjected to heat.
The experts also measure BTU output closely to make sure the product descriptions are accurate. Proper BTU rankings mean you know exactly how much space in your home can be heated with each unit. Individual states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have regulations in place to ensure safety for every household that uses one.
How to Choose Best Gas Fireplace Insert
Deciding which fireplace to choose is a tough decision with so many great options on the market. Due to the fact that most are similarly safe and functional, we think the final choice comes down to the size you need to heat the space in your house and what the fireplace looks like.
Simply select the type you want, either an insert alone or a full fireplace with mantelpiece. Then, choose the preferred fuel type or the one you have access to in your location. This could be natural gas or LP liquid propane. Check local rules about vent requirements, too. Some locations do not allow vent-free fireplaces. It’s common for California, for example.
Other options include a gas fireplace insert double-sided, gas fireplace insert with blower, and gas fireplace insert with glass. We have also discovered quite a few ideal gas fireplace inserts for outdoors. Mantles come in metal, faux stone, and wood grain designs.
Advantages Of a Gas Fireplace Insert
Many people love having a fireplace, but they cannot make up their mind whether they should choose wood, electric, or gas. All three have their benefits and disadvantages, which makes the choice confusing.
Every single thing we love about having a fire inside is better, more efficient, and usually safer with gas.
First, they are safer than wood fires. You will never have any exploding wood knots of flying sparks. Second, they are much more efficient than both other options. Gas fireplace inserts with a direct vent offer approximately 75% efficiency, while a vent-free model is nearly 99% efficient. This means all the fuel gets used to make heat that you and your family can enjoy.
Perhaps the best advantage yet?
Who wants to chop and haul wood around, sweep up chips and sawdust, and deal with hot ashes?
Not only is dealing with all that wood back-breaking and messy, it can also cost more than other fuel types.
With the cleanest burning gas or propane fuel, the room will never get that unpleasant smoky smell. You will have no soot residue on your walls, furniture, and ceilings either.
New fireplace means ripping out a wall, building a hearth, box, and chimney with brick or stone, and disrupting everyone’s life for days or even weeks, right?
This sounds like a lot of fuss and bother for something that might look nice, but ends up being an inefficient heat producer.
Believe it or not, you can avoid all that hassle when you choose a gas fireplace instead. The only difficulty may occur if you choose a vented model and do not have an existing chimney or vent available.
Vent-free models are as easy as pushing or carrying it into place, hooking up the gas line or propane canister, plugging it in, and firing it up. You could start heating your home, saving on utility bills, and enjoying the look of real flames in hours rather than days.
Any time gas is involved, things could get dangerous until everything is attached and sealed properly. Of course, this involves some extra expenditure of money, but the peace of mind of knowing no gas or LP is coming into your home may be well worth it.
All Types of Gas Fireplace Inserts
The different types of gas fireplace insert are as varied as the houses to put them in. First, they vary based on the fuel type. Some use propane, others natural gas and still others can use either. Conversion kits come standard with some models and are add-ons for others. Your choice!
Next, there are both vented and vent-free models. They are both safe, efficient, but we suggest the ventless ones since they are much easier to install. Look for ones with air quality sensors for greater peace of mind.
Finally, gas fireplaces come in a vast array of styles. We reviewed a collection with the style of antique gas fireplace inert options with classic wood mantles, gas fireplace inserts that have modern styles with minimalistic metal surrounds, and others that can be inserted into any existing fireplace.
Care and Maintenance
The fireplace is installed, you have enjoyed the light and warmth of it, but now it is time to do some maintenance and you have no idea how to tackle the job.
To put it simply, every gas fireplace insert will come with instructions from the manufacturer. If you follow those, you should be fine. One vital care task is to call in an official inspector or trained technician to go over all the parts and check for damage, deterioration, or dangerous leaks.
In between those annual visits, care for the gas fireplace by keeping everything clean, clearing dust and debris from the vents, repairing or replacing damaged glass, wood, or other surround material, and the ceramic logs.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy a crackling fire at home without worrying about sparks escaping and setting something on fire?
Traditional wood fireplaces not only risk the room they are in but can also cause severe structural damage. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, some chimney fires go undetected.
How scary is that?
Don’t worry. There is a solution besides avoiding fireplaces altogether. Gas fireplace inserts burn clean, may not even need a vent or chimney, and never build up dangerous creosote that can burst suddenly into flames. Many models also come with air quality sensors built in to ensure healthy breathing for everyone in the home.
We believe that warranties are great for any type of product, and so we are happy to see that many of these models offer them.
In most cases, a warranty would not cover user error or damage caused by accidents like getting hit with something. They cover manufacturer defects, although those should be noticed when the gas fireplace insert is being installed. Some could occur after use as well.
Different companies that make these heating inserts offer different warranties. Always make sure you read them carefully before making your final decision about which to buy.
Because these are usually quite heavy and expensive to ship, refund policies are also something that you have to check out. Getting a damaged unit and having to pay to ship it back could cost more than having it fixed locally.
If you have an existing fireplace that you want to upgrade to gas, one of the realistic log inserts is a great option. Someone with experience must run a gas line and seal off the usual chimney and opening into the house when you put the insert in. This makes for extra efficiency overall.
Do not worry if you do not have a fireplace. The wonderful thing about gas fireplaces is that they do not have to be inserted into anything to work well. Standalone models have a fire box, all necessary hardware, attractive surrounding frame or even a full mantelpiece. All they need is access to natural gas or propane and an electric outlet nearby.
The good news is that a gas fireplace can go anywhere in the house you want extra light, style, and heat. Put one in the living room for a classic look and comfortable evenings around the fire. It is just like the old family home minus the inefficient heating, the heavy wood to carry, and the frustration of not lighting the fire the first, second, or even third time.
How about a fireplace in the bedroom? What could be cozier or more romantic than flickering flames? What could be more comfortable than the warm glow on a chilly winter morning? Cozy reading nook? Man cave or den for toasty warmth during the big game? The only limits are your personal tastes.
Compared to traditional wood-burning fireplaces, gas inserts are miles ahead when it comes to safety.
Don’t believe us? Take a look at the following comparisons.
Wood can split, pop, and even explode in a fireplace due to the composition of the wood and moisture content. This can send flaming wood chips out onto the rug or into the face of someone stoking the fire. A gas fireplace completely negates that possibility. No sparks, no potential pieces flying out ever.
Burning wood can create creosote buildup in the chimney. This natural tar-like substance can block air flow or burst into flames. It is possible to have a fire in the chimney itself and never know about it until disaster strikes. Gas options burn clean and leave no residue or noxious fumes behind. Many even have air safety sensors to make sure you have fresh air to breathe.
What about the dangers of gas itself?
It is true that natural gas or propane can cause fires and explosions if there is a leak or an improper seal. In a properly working insert, all the gas burns off cleanly and never escapes into the house. A semi-annual inspection gives you peace of mind that this extreme circumstance will never happen.
This answer might surprise you. Many people seem to think that burning gas or propane all the time to heat a room or the whole house would take a big bite out of their budget. We found that it’s really the other way around.
The basic formula for figuring out how much running the unit will cost is the number of BTUs times the cost of gas or propane per therm and dividing by 100,000. You can find the latter number by looking at your gas bill or contacting the local utility company.
We were happy to see such low costs per hour. For example, if gas costs 90 cents, running your 32,000 BTU fireplace for an hour will be only 29 cents per hour for wonderful heat! Even one of the most expensive rates, around $1.50 per therm, only results in a 48 cent per hour charge.
Just think of all the other expenses you save at the same time. No more buying cords of wood every winter. No more electric bills out of control with space heaters. No more hitting the shops for new sweaters, slippers, and throw blankets just to stay comfortable in your own home.
The simple truth is that one fireplace insert will probably not be sufficient to heat your entire home if it has multiple floors or a high square footage. People who have purchased them regularly say that they heat an entire apartment or home under 1500 square feet with a single unit.
Of course, a solution to the need for more heat is to have more than one installed in various rooms throughout your living space.
How much will a single unit heat?
This depends on the type if it has a vent or not, and the BTUs it puts out.
First, determine what type you need: just gas-powered logs to sit in an old wood-burning fireplace that uses the existing chimney, a full insert for an existing fireplace with a direct vent, or a vent-free standalone unit.
The logs and gas hookup alone will not be much more efficient than the wood-burning fireplace. These are mostly for ambiance. A full insert with direct vent leaves about 70% of the generated heat inside the house. A unit without a vent leaves 99% of heat inside because there is simply nowhere else for it to go.
But that is not all you have to take into consideration if you want to heat your home. BTUs are the other criteria. The amount you need is determined by a simple formula. Simply multiply the square footage of the room, times the ceiling height, times the BTU zone your house is in. These range from #1 in the southern USA to #5 in the north.
The answer to this question depends largely on how much skill and experience you have doing advanced projects around the house. If a vent needs to be installed through the wall, it becomes a larger construction project. If you need to run a natural gas or propane line and make all connections secure, calling in a professional is recommended.
There are many websites and videos online with directions about how to install a gas insert and the one you buy may come with instructions as well. However, only you know your skill level and how comfortable you are making changes to your home.