Electric vs Gas Fireplace

Electric Fireplace

   PROS
  • Inexpensive
  • Fast and easy installation
  • Cheaper to run
  • Little to no maintenance
  • Little safety risk
  • Increases resale value of home
  CONS
  • Does not produce real flames
  • Does not heat as well
  • Less environmentally friendly
  • Can take longer to feel the heat produced
$600 - $1,750

(installed)

Get free advice and estimates from fireplace contractors in your city.

Gas Fireplace

   PROS
  • Produces real flames
  • Heats the room quickly
  • Can reduce the use of furnace
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Low maintenance
  • Increases resale value of home
  CONS
  • Costs more to run
  • Costs more to purchase and install
  • Glass doors are hot enough to burn
  • Potential for gas leak
$3,650 - $7,800

(installed)

Get free advice and estimates from fireplace contractors in your city.

Nothing beats sitting next to a fireplace on a cold day. If you do not already have a chimney and firebox 1 in your home, the simplest solution is to add either a gas or electric fireplace. Both produce steady warmth and ambiance for the room, but the way they look and function are very different. We outline these differences below so that you can make a more informed decision about which one will work better in your home.

Appearance

While you are not going to mistake either gas or electric fireplaces for a traditional wood-burning model, both come in a range of beautiful designs that can complement many rooms. Of the two, gas fireplaces have the more realistic look because the gas produces a flame you can see and heat you can feel.

An electric fireplace does not produce flames in the same way but still produces heat. Instead of flames, they project an image of a burning log. Depending on the model you purchase and its quality, this image can be either convincing or artificial in its appearance.

Energy-Efficiency

When it comes to energy-efficiency, both types of fireplaces have a wide range depending on size and model. Gas fireplaces use between 7,000 and 16,000 BTUs, are between 70 and 90% efficient at converting energy to heat, and cost around $60 a year to run.

Electric fireplaces use between 5,200 and 8,900 BTUs and convert all their energy to heat. They cost around $25 a year to run.

Keep in mind, however, that while an electric heater is more efficient on the surface, it will not warm the room as well as a gas fireplace. Therefore, you may find that with a gas fireplace, you can turn down your thermostat 2 and still stay warm. With an electric fireplace, you will likely have another heat source running, which may negate the savings.

Installation

Both gas and electric fireplaces are much easier to install than a wood-burning fireplace. A gas fireplace requires that the gas line be run to the area, and a small vent is needed for most models. Non-venting units are available if you are unable to run a vent. The unit is then set in place and hooked up.

Electric fireplaces simply plug into where they will be used. If you do not have an outlet there, it is a simple process to have one installed, and then the unit can be placed.

Ideally, both should be installed by a trained professional if an outlet or glas line needs to be installed first. Otherwise, most homeowners can set up an electric unit by themselves, while a gas fireplace will need professional assistance every time.

Costs

A pre-built gas fireplace can range from $1,500 to $3,000 for the unit itself. A small gas exhaust pipe 3 for running and venting the unit can range from $500 and $1,000, including installation. Additional installation of the gas-burning fireplace components cost between $1,500 and $3,000. The price of a gas line hookup if you have an existing gas line runs between $150 and $300. For a new line, the cost will range between $300 and $800. This makes the total cost for a gas fireplace between $3,650 and $7,800.

Electric fireplaces do not need vents or special plumbing. You simply need an outlet where you want it to go. The cost of a built-in unit ranges from $600 to $1,000. If you need a new outlet, there is an additional cost of around $200 to $750 depending on location. This makes the total for an electric fireplace between $600 and $1,750.

Maintenance

Gas fireplaces are considered low maintenance when compared to wood-burning fireplaces, but they do require some yearly maintenance. The vent must be inspected yearly and cleaned as needed. Valves should also be checked for leaks and to make sure they are operating properly.

Electric fireplaces have no regular maintenance because they do not burn gas or require vents.

Safety

Gas fireplaces become hot very quickly. While they are generally considered safe, the glass doors that house the unit can become hot enough to burn if they are touched. Like any gas appliance, a gas leak may occur if the unit is not maintained properly, which can cause significant health problems and a fire hazard if not detected and dealt with quickly. Most units have a gas shut off valve in this event.

Electric units have fewer safety concerns, but like any space heater, they may cause electrical fires if they become damaged. Most new units have automatic shut-off features that kick in if the unit becomes overheated, helping to prevent fires.

Needed Time to Heat

Both electric and gas fireplaces begin producing heat immediately. The heat from a gas fireplace may be felt more quickly within the room than an electric unit, depending on how far away you are.

Environmental Concerns

Gas fireplaces are considered efficient because they convert up to 90% of their energy into heat. However, gas is a non-renewable resource, and burning it releases some particles into the atmosphere. Gas is considered clean-burning and does not produce harmful levels of carbon dioxide.

Electric fireplaces use less energy and do not directly release particles into the air, but the process of producing electricity to power the unit gives off harmful levels of CO gas into the atmosphere. Electricity is also a non-renewable resource.

Resale Value

Adding a built-in 4 fireplace to a home that does not already have one can increase resale value in any home, regardless of the type of fireplace you have.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Firebox: The chamber in a fireplace that contains the fire. It is usually lined with firebrick so it can withstand the extreme heat that it is exposed to. Manufactured fireplaces have fireboxes made of sheet metal
2 Thermostat: A device that senses and regulates temperature by turning heating and cooling devices on and off
3 Exhaust pipe: A pipe through which the by-products of gas combustion, such as in a gas engine or a gas fireplace, for example nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide, are released outside
4 Built-in: An item of furniture, such as a bookcase or set of cabinets, that is built directly into the structure of the room. Built-ins are therefore customized to the room and not detachable

Cost varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

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+4%
Bangor, PA
+13%
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0%
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+16%
Buffalo, NY
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Caldwell, ID
-35%
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Chicago, IL
+40%
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+13%
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-15%
Colonia, NJ
+39%
Columbia, TN
-29%
Concord, NC
-15%
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-11%
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+23%
Gig Harbor, WA
-2%
Golden, CO
-18%
Greenwood, IN
-20%
Harrisburg, PA
+2%
Houston, TX
+24%
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+5%
Knoxville, TN
+10%
Lake Zurich, IL
+41%
Lanham, MD
+16%
Lexington, KY
+1%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Lowell, MA
+36%
Lusby, MD
-20%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Naples, FL
-3%
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North Canton, OH
+4%
Norwalk, CT
+46%
Opelika, AL
-26%
Osseo, MN
+18%
Panama City, FL
-20%
Park Ridge, IL
+45%
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Roanoke, VA
-18%
Roswell, NM
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Saint Louis, MO
+16%
Salem, OR
-15%

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