When it comes to fireplaces, most people immediately think of wood as a heat source. But wood is actually one of the most inefficient ways to heat up a room, a space, or your home. Enter the natural gas fireplace.
Gas fireplaces are an alternative to wood fireplaces, and many people actually prefer them for different reasons.
So let’s learn: what is a natural gas fireplace, and how is it better than a wood-burning fireplace? What type of gas fireplace should you get, and how do you clean a gas fireplace?
Natural Gas vs. Wood Fireplaces: Which Is Better?
While wood fireplaces make for great pictures and setting the ambiance, they can’t win against a gas fireplace when it comes to heat generation and energy-efficiency.
Energy Efficiency. A traditional wood fireplace converts only 15-30% of the wood’s potential energy to heat. Natural gas is highly energy efficient and converts around 80% of the gas’ potential energy to heat.
Pollution. Gas burns cleaner than wood. Natural gas produces about 70% less carbon dioxide than burning wood.
Cleanup. Cleanup with a natural gas fireplace is a breeze. With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ll have to deal with removing ash from the fireplace. With natural gas, there is no ash, and a once annually cleaning is all you’ll need.
Fuel Cost. A natural gas fireplace is a winner in terms of fuel cost as well. Natural gas is a highly efficient fuel when it burns. One energy site has calculated that costs around $40 in natural gas to get the same heating result as burning one cord of wood. In some states, like Georgia, Ohio and Michigan, you can shop online to get the best natural gas price for your home.
Annual Maintenance. With a wood burning fireplace, you’ll want to get your chimney cleaned annually. That’s because burning wood will produce soot and creosote, a natural by-product that can build up in your chimney, causing a fire hazard. With a natural gas fireplace, you’ll need to have the vent or chimney checked once a year. Since natural gas is handled by plumbers, you can usually get this includes in your annual HVAC inspection.
Visual Effect. When it comes to the visual effect, a wood fire wins, hands down. It gives the traditional look and sound and adds ambiance to your room.
If you’ve been won over by any or all of these reasons, you’d be glad to know that it’s fairly easy to convert a wood-burning fireplace into a gas fireplace. But what type of gas fireplace will you have?
Types of Natural Gas Fireplaces: Vented, Direct Vent, or Ventless?
Natural gas fireplaces are grouped in three types, depending on their vent structures. Here are the differences between the three:
Vented Gas Fireplaces
A vented gas fireplace is usually made when a wood-burning fireplace is converted into a gas fireplace (or built original to the house). The gasses produced in burning the gas travel out of the house using these existing vents and chimneys.
To convert from wood to natural gas, you can just call up a professional to inspect and repair your chimneys if needed, and have them install a gas line that will allow you to use gas logs for heating. You should never have a wood fireplace converted without proper inspection of the chimneys first.
Direct Vent Gas Fireplaces
A direct vent is simply a vent that goes from the fireplace and directly out of the house. The two layers of the pipe used for the vent can draw air from the outside and expel air and gasses from the inside at the same time, which decreases the risk of carbon dioxide poisoning to virtually nothing. This means that, among all types of gas fireplaces, direct vents are the safest.
All emissions are released outside of the house using a sealed system. These fireplaces can look like traditional fireplaces, and ceramic gas logs can even look like natural wood. The only drawback though, is that you’ll have to install the fireplace on an exterior wall.
Ventless Gas Fireplaces
These are exactly what you think they are: gas fireplaces that you can put anywhere inside the home. Because they come without vents, you can place them against interior and exterior walls. You can place them on the ground floor or on the upper ones. You can even place them in the middle of any room that satisfies square footage requirements.
Without the vents though, it means that all emissions from the burning gas is released inside your home. Most ventless gas fireplaces also have an oxygen detection system, which automatically turns off the fireplace if the oxygen levels within the room fall below certain thresholds. A ventless gas fireplace that’s operating incorrectly would put you at risk of carbon dioxide poisoning.
Always read and follow the installation and operation guide for your ventless gas fireplace.
How to Clean Your Gas Fireplace
While your gas fireplace doesn’t produce ash, an annual cleaning can help remove any dust and dirt that may accumulate.
Step 1: Turn off the gas
Turn off the gas and leave it off for a while before starting to clean. Hot gas logs and fireplace glass don’t look any different from cold ones, so give them time to cool down before you start cleaning.
Step 2: Open the fireplace
This next step depends on how your fireplace was designed. Some have glass screens while some have metal screens. Some even have fences to keep pets and small children away from the fireplace. Disassemble the components to be cleaned and take them outside if you want. You don’t want soot or dust in your carpet or floors.
Step 3: Brush, wipe, and vacuum
With a clean paint brush or a hand broom, brush away the dirt from the logs, stones, glass, and any decorative component. Never use water or any liquid to clean any gas fireplace component that goes into the burner unit. Get rid of inserts with cracks and holes in them.
On the gas unit itself, use a brush or a broom to just sweep away any dirt from the vents. As for a glass cover, you can use a soft, damp cloth and a fireplace glass cleaner to clean away soot and prevent scratches.
With a dry cloth, wipe away dirt from the pilot lights, gas line, mantle, and hearth. You can get rid of dust, dead insects, and dirt from other fireplace components using a vacuum.
Step 4: Put all the components back in
Once they’re all clean and dry, put them all back into position. You can also check exterior vents to see if they need any cleaning before using the fireplace again.
You should also get an annual check-up of your natural gas fireplace. A technician will check for natural gas leaks in the system, and make sure it’s venting properly. They will also check to make sure there aren’t any carbon monoxide leaks.
Your local plumbing company can service your natural gas fireplace to make sure it’s in tip top shape for the heating season. You may also be able to schedule your annual water heater inspection for the same day.