The following are some of the best natural gas fireplace inserts to consider. We advise that you pay special attention to size (BTU), physical dimensions, and mode of operation.
1. Sure Heat BRO24NG Burnt River Oak Vented Gas Fireplace
Sure Heat gas fireplaces are beautifully designed, environmentally friendly units that are simple to use and easy to maintain. The Burnt River Oak, in particular, features eight highly detailed, hand-painted refractory cement logs that provide a realistic, rearing fire for unmatched ambiance. Better still, the logs are stacked on a tiered grate to recreate the look of a mature fire.
The Oak contains a manually-controlled valve system and is built to work in a vented environment. There is no On/Off valve. It uses an innovative u-shaped dual burner to generate a dancing, life-like flame pattern. High-performance embers glow twice as bright as convectional embers to deliver a real wood-burning experience.
It’s important to note that the unit is a natural gas insert meaning that it goes into an existing wood fireplace. The existing fireplace should be at least 32 inches (front width) x 15 inches (depth) x 24 inches (back width).
- Recreates the look of a mature fire
- High-performance embers
- 60,000 BTU heat output
- Dual-burner system for high performance
- Safety shutoff valve not included
- Takes a bit of time to install
2. Peterson Real Fyre 24-Inch Connection Gas Fireplace
The Peterson Real Fyre is a 24-inch gas log set with vented glass. According to the manufacturer, the hand-painted details are modeled from real-world samples, with the HD bark enhancing the natural wood look. The Peterson’s logs are made from superior refractory ceramics to continue providing heat even after the heater is turned off. For maximum reinforcement, each log has a steel rod insert.
It’s vital to remember that fireplace is designed specifically for use with natural gas. If you’d like to use propane, a few modifications need to be made. The natural gas set features a match light system that uses the existing key valve. A control valve is not included.
The Peterson generates 75,000 BTU of heat at maximum capacity, making it ideal for large spaces. A flexible gas line connection kit is included for easy installation. The kit consists of six gas logs, sand, embers, and a burner. The Peterson only uses one burner.
- 75,000 BTU of heat
- Includes a burner
- Installation kit included
- Superior refractory ceramic logs
- May require professional installation
- Control valve not included
3. Sure Heat Mountain Vernon Oak 24-Inch Natural gas Fireplace
With no ash, no wood, and no hassle, the Sure Heat Mountain Vernon Oak provides another worthy option when shopping for a natural gas fireplace. The beautifully designed unit uses Sure Heat’s innovative U-shaped dual burner technology to provide a superior, realistic flame. It also delivers more than enough heat to your rooms.
Six highly detailed hand-painted ceramic logs surround the golden flame. The logs are stacked on a tiered grate to improve the appearance. Take note that this is a vent-free fireplace. As such, all the heat generated is circulated into your home rather than up a chimney. It’s also an insert which means that it goes into an existing fireplace. The existing fireplace should measure 36 inches (front width) x 25 inches (back width) x 15 inches (depth).
This fireplace is 100% carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) safe. A pilot valve and oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) are included. It’s recommended for spaces between 1,200 to 1,500 square feet and is CSA Certified.
- Up to 40,000 BTU
- Ideal for up to 1,500 Sq. Ft.
- 100% oxygen-depletion safe
- CSA Certified
- Local installation codes apply
4. Emberside by Sure Heat 18-Inch Natural Gas Fireplace
The Emberside by Sure Heat is essentially a smaller version of the 24-inch Mountain Vernon Oak at #3 above. Like the Vernon Oak, it packs six highly detailed, hand-painted ceramic logs stacked traditionally on a tiered grate for a life-like experience. The final setting looks like a beautiful, mature flame.
As an insert, this unit goes into an existing wood fireplace. The physical size is, however, smaller meaning that the ideal fireplace size changes. You’ll need a stove area measuring 28 inches (front width) x 21 inches (back width), and 15 inches (depth). For the best outcome, consider professional installation.
The Emberside is designed for spaces up to 1,500 square feet and features a manually controlled valve system and push-button ignition. It is 100% oxygen-depletion safe and CSA Certified.
- Ideal for spaces up to 1,500 Sq. Ft.
- 99.9% energy efficient
- 100% CO and CO2 safe
- CSA approved
- Professional installation required
- Heavily location-regulated
5. Pleasant Hearth 42 Intermediate Heritage Natural Gas Fireplace
A beautiful, vent-free unit with a rich heritage finish, the Pleasant Hearth is a 42-inch natural gas fireplace that can also be converted into a propane burner. The fuel conversion must, however, be done by a licensed professional to avoid any safety risks. The fireplace brings incredible style and gentle warmth into your home.
Unlike other gas fireplaces, minimum clearance is required for this fireplace. Indeed, the Pleasant Hearth is approved for wall and corner installation. The fireplace features an adjustable thermostat for convenient temperature control. It, however, doesn’t support remote control. Being a vent-free model, the unit’s installation is heavily location-regulated.
The Pleasant Hearth packs 27,500 BTU and can comfortably heat spaces up to 1,000 square feet. It’s a freestanding fireplace made from wood and metal and measures 42 x 28 x 42.25 inches (L x W x H).
- Beautiful rich heritage finish
- Programmable thermostat
- Ideal for up to 1,000 Sq. Ft.
- Dual fuel technology
- No remote control
- Use is location-regulated
6. Napoleon Grandville VF Series GVF36-2N 37-Inch Natural Gas Fireplace
Another dual-fuel gas heater that burns natural gas and propane, the Napoleon Grandville GVF36-2N is a gorgeous 37-inch unit that comes in a multitude of design options. It uses Napoleon’s Phazer logs and implements advanced burner technology for efficiency and life-like ambiance.
The fireplace turns On and Off at the flick of a button. A remote control device is included for smooth operation. You even get to choose from two remote devices – the F45 and F60. A 50% heat/flame adjustment option is provided for maximum comfort and heating efficiency. Since vent-free gas fireplaces can pose a few risks, the VF is equipped with a 100% SafeGuard technology to protect you and your family from potentially harmful emissions.
A safety screen to protect you from the open flame and an oxygen depletion sensor are included. A louver kit and trim kit are available too but sold independently. An optional blower is also available separately.
- A multitude of design options
- 30,000 BTU heating
- 100% SafeGuard technology
- Remote controlled
- Installation kits sold separately
- It’s a bit expensive
7. Plazmafire VF31 Series WHVF31N Vent Free Natural Gas Fireplace
Finally, the Plazmafire VF31 Series WHVF31N is another vent-free gas fireplace that generates beautiful flames for ideal ambiance. The fireplace comes with a black surround, but you can also choose a diamond dust surround. The stylish finishes make the WHVF31N a great choice for modern and contemporary settings.
The Plazmafire offers endless installation options, with the 30-inch by 15-inch viewing area and standard Topaz Crystalline ember bed creating a great viewing experience. The slate brick panel, meanwhile, adds a modern look. Other features of the VF31 include catalytic filtering, fuel-saving electric ignition, optional LED light kit (two), and an oxygen depletion sensor.
The 21,000BTU fireplace measures 28 x 43 x 9 inches and comes with an optional safety screen and a President’s Lifetime Warranty. Since vent-free gas fireplaces are heavily regulated, it’s essential to check your local area codes before making the purchase.
- Clean, contemporary design
- Endless installation options
- Dual fuel technology (natural gas and propane)
- President’s Limited Lifetime Warranty
- Complete with switch and wiring harness
- Use is location-regulated
As you’ll have noticed from the reviews, there are several types of natural gas fireplaces. The fireplaces also differ in many other aspects, including features, safety, size, and style. The rest of this guide is dedicated to helping you select the right product for your needs.
How Does a Natural Gas Fireplace Work?
There are different types of gas fireplaces as we’ll find out shortly. How they work depends on the model in question.
Benefits of Natural Gas Fireplaces
Gas fireplaces offer many advantages over both wood-burning and electric fireplaces. Wood fireplaces, for example, are more challenging to maintain while electric fireplaces don’t produce realistic flames. The following is a summary of the reasons you should opt for gas;
Reliable fuel source
Gas supply is more reliable than both electricity and wood fuels. Electricity is heavily dependent on the weather. During bad weather, power outages occur without warning, which could render your fireplace unhelpful. Wood, on its part, is difficult to source. Finding a reliable supplier and keeping your logs dry at all times isn’t an easy task. Gas is easy to come by, and the supply is more reliable than electricity. Unlike wood, you also don’t have to worry about transportation.
Installing a gas fireplace is much easier than installing a wood-burning fireplace. You don’t need a mantel or a foundation. Depending on the model, you may also not require a chimney. Freestanding models are even easier to install. The reduced installation requirements mean that initial costs are much lower than installing a wood-burning fireplace. You can also install some models on your own!
Unlike with wood fireplaces, you don’t have to worry about soot and ashes. Gas fireplaces also don’t produce environmentally harmful pollutants. The main reason wood produces a lot of pollutants is incomplete burning. Incomplete burning is rarely an issue in gas fireplaces. Thus, there’s a negligible risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Gas fireplaces pose no immediate danger to room occupants. You rarely have to worry about CO poisoning. Also, the risk of burning and fires is negligible. Although any heating appliance is a fire risk to some extent, most gas fireplaces are equipped with multiple safety features to minimize the risks. As such, the fireplaces can be used in a range of applications, from living rooms to bedrooms and even the patio.
Finally, modern gas fireplaces are very easy to control. The majority are digitally controlled from a wall switch/timer. More advanced models are even controllable from a remote control device, meaning you can change temperature settings without leaving the sofa. Built-in thermostats enable even greater climate control.
Types of Gas Fireplace Venting
There are three main venting styles to choose from when shopping for a gas fireplace – direct vent, natural vented, and vent-free. Here’s what you need to know about each option;
Direct Vent Fireplaces
The most popular type of gas fireplace, direct vent units employ closed-combustion, a technology that is also known as zero-clearance. In closed combustion, the fireplace has a glass door that is securely sealed to prevent leaks of combustion products into the room. It also has two vent pipes made from coaxial tubes (pipe within a pipe). One pipe draws air from outside the house into the fireplace to feed the flame while the second pipe directs cold combustion gases out.
The vents are often installed in a two-layered piping system. Direct vent fireplaces can terminate horizontally or vertically through the roof, wall, or chimney.
The glass door/panel is critical to the operation of a direct vent gas fireplace. You cannot operate the fireplace without the panel. Also, it’s vital to choose the right glass. A few years back, there were issues with reflection and glares. But the emergence of tempered and ceramic glass has eliminated these issues. Many direct vent gas fireplaces use ceramic glass doors as the material provides a clear view while collecting less heat than tempered glass.
One downside of direct vent fireplaces is that you can’t customize the unit. Although you can still play around with things like flame height, the logs and burner are married to the fireplace forever. Vent-free models offer greater flexibility here.
That said, however, direct vent fireplaces are more realistic than vent-free models. The flames wrap around the artificial logs beautifully, creating a very realistic experience. Direct vent fireplaces are also very efficient. Most of them are rated at 78% efficiency or higher.
Natural Vent (B-Vent) Fireplaces
Also known as B-Vent fireplaces, natural vent gas fireplaces have been fading in popularity in recent years. Regardless, they remain an option when shopping for a vented gas fireplace.
Unlike their direct-venting cousins, natural vented fireplaces are open systems (open combustion). They use vertically-terminating single-walled B-vent pipes to pull air from the room into the fireplace for combustion. They can terminate either through the chimney or the roof via a B flue.
It’s important to note that B-Vent pipes are smaller than Class A chimney pipes typically used in wood-burning stoves. B-vent pipes are also cheaper.
The main problem with naturally vented fireplaces is low efficiency. Since they are open systems, the fireplaces use air from within the home for combustion. As a result, most of the heat produced is lost through the flue. This makes B-Vent fireplaces a poor choice for home heating.
What you’ll like about the fireplaces, however, is the low initial costs and aesthetics. B-vent gas fireplaces often cost less than half the price of similarly rated direct vent models. They are also much more beautiful than direct-vent models and offer more remote ready controls and ease of service. The fireplaces also resemble traditional wood-burning more than the other two gas fireplace options.
Finally, you can also choose to go with a vent-free gas fireplace. As the name suggests, vent-free models don’t have vents (pipes to dispose of combustion gases). The reason they can work without venting is that they don’t produce any harmful pollutants. Up to 99% of the exhaust is made up of water vapor and carbon dioxide. And, even the carbon dioxide is produced in minimal amounts.
Also popular as “no-vent” fireplaces, the units draw the air they need for combustion from the room. They also release every bit of heat produced to the room – no heat is lost via vents. As such, they make better space heaters than both direct vent and B-Vent fireplaces. They are also a great option in smaller rooms where it would be impossible to build a chimney.
As you’d expect, though, there are several issues with vent-free fireplaces. First, the exhaust from the fireplace stays in the room because it has nowhere else to go. Even though the heaters burn cleaner flames at near 100% combustion, what is there is a malfunction? You’d be putting yourself and your family at risk of CO, foul odors, soot, and several other potentially-harmful combustion byproducts.
As a safety measure, all vent-free fireplaces are equipped with oxygen depletion sensors (ODSs) to cut off the gas supply in case indoor oxygen levels drop below a preset level. Also, the fireplaces are still heavily location regulated. Before you go shopping, check to confirm that their use is allowed in your area.
Features to Consider When Choosing a Natural Gas Fireplace
Gas fireplaces vary in so many ways. The following are seven key factors to consider when choosing one for your home;
Aside from the venting options, gas fireplaces can be categorized as inserts, built-in, or freestanding.
- Inserts: Inserts, as the name suggests, are installed into an existing hearth. One of their main advantages, therefore, is that they don’t take up additional space on your floor. Also, the installation process is more straightforward because you don’t have to dig out a portion of the wall. Be sure to measure the size of the existing hearth so that you don’t end up with an insert that doesn’t fit in the space.
- Built-ins: Built-in fireplaces look like inserts, but require a fresh installation. You must pull out a portion of the wall, build a frame in the created space, and install the fireplace in that space. Built-in fireplaces are typically more bulky and difficult to handle but offer great heating output.
- Freestanding: Freestanding fireplaces stand on their own feet. They don’t hang or recess into the wall or even go into existing hearths. Instead, they stand, sometimes on castors, and can be moved around as you wish. Since they are self-standing, installation isn’t required. Some assembly might be necessary though.
- BTU value and heating efficiency
The second thing you need to consider is the size of the fireplace (in BTU) and the efficiency of the unit. With regards to size, gas fireplaces come in a wide range of options, from around 3,000 to over 25,000 BTU; the choice is yours. When it comes to efficiency, the fireplaces are generally more efficient than wood-burning models. While wood fireplaces have a heat output of around 30%, gas models have outputs of 70% plus, with some boasting 99% heating efficiency.
To make selection slightly easier, gas fireplace manufacturers often indicate the recommended coverage. Check the product label for this coverage value and only pick a unit whose coverage is close to the space you’re looking to heat. Remember, however, that the values apply for homes with 8-foot high ceilings and standard insulation. If you’re dealing with a lower or higher ceiling and stronger or weaker insulation, adjust the BTU needs up or down as appropriate.
Most advanced gas fireplaces allow the user to control several aspects of the flame such as brightness, speed, and even color as they wish. Does the model you’re looking at allow such control? If so, how many brightness and flame color choices do you have? How many flame speeds are provided? Also, consider whether you can have the flame without the heat.
Presence of thermostat
Since most gas fireplaces also double up as heaters, you must check for the presence of a thermostat. A thermostat allows you to control heating within the room. You can raise or lower the temperature as you wish. Additionally, consider the type of thermostat you’re getting. Is it in-built? Is it programmable? Where there’s no thermostat, you’ll have to purchase one separately.
Ignition type and backup
The majority of gas fireplaces use electric ignition. Electric ignition eliminates the need for a pilot light, thus boosting efficiency. This form of ignition also saves approximately $12 per month in fuel costs. What you also want to consider is ignition backup. Electric ignition needs electricity. So, what happens when there is a power outage? Make sure that a backup ignition is provided. Most of the fireplaces use battery backup.
Style and aesthetics
Finally, ensure that the fireplace is stylish enough to add a bit of class to your room. What type of glass is used? How’s the flame bed? What flame colors are available? Does the fireplace incorporate smoke effects? These are just some of the questions you want to ask. Also, check out for accent lighting. Some models use LED lights to add various lighting effects to boost ambiance.
How to Install a Natural Gas Fireplace
The process of installing your gas fireplace will depend on the model you choose to buy. Fortunately, freestanding and insert models are pretty easy to install. With freestanding models, especially, you don’t have to worry about the installation at all. In most cases, all you have to do is assemble the unit. In some cases, though, even assembly isn’t required. You take the unit home, position it correctly, plug it into the power outlet, and the heat and flame come on!
Inserts require a bit of work, even if not much. You need first to measure the size of the existing hearth then choose a fireplace that would comfortably fit into the area. Also, a few finishing touches are required. It’s a process that should take no more than a few hours.
The most difficult to install fireplaces are built-in (recessed) designs, especially direct vent models. Here, you must pull out a portion of the wall and carefully install the fireplace into the created hole. If you’re not confident in your DIY abilities, it would be best to hire a technician for the job. Otherwise, proceed as follows (for models that vent through the wall);
- Choose a location: Make sure that a natural gas line is readily available at the site. Also, make sure that the area is convenient for heating the room, hooking up the necessary electricity, and installing ventilation.
- Do a test-fit: Experts recommend doing a mock-up installation to verify whether you’re ready for the real installation. The test fit will also tell you if the location you chose is an ideal spot.
- Build the piping: Secure the first piping to the fireplace collar with stove cement. Then, sketch a line onto the wall around the piping to mark out the spot for cutting the ventilation hole.
- Cut the ventilation hole: The fireplace package often comes with a wall-pass-through component. Use this to determine the size of the hole. As you cut the hole, check to ensure that it sits between studs and there are no plumbing pipes or electrical wires in the way. Use lumber to frame the inside of the cut hole.
- Install the piping: Begin by lining the frame in the hole with high-temperature caulk. Then, slide the pass-through component into the hole and secure it with screws. Once this is done, put the fireplace in position and connect the rest of the piping, Caulk the fire stop to the pipe and install the outside fire stop and drip cap.
- Hook up the electricity and gas: This step is best left to a licensed professional. If you decide to go with DIY, be very careful.
- Finishing up: Once you’re through with step #6, the fireplace should be ready for use. Feel free to add a mantle and frame to boost aesthetics while supporting the weight of the fireplace. Then, repair the drywall
Natural Gas Fireplace FAQs
Have questions about gas fireplaces still? The following are answers to some common FAQs to help you understand the heaters better.
- Are natural fireplaces expensive to run? No. Running a gas fireplace is even cheaper than operating a wood-burning fireplace. The cost per hour is calculated as; ((BTU rating x cost of gas)/100,000).
- Do natural gas fireplaces produce carbon monoxide (CO)? Yes. Even though gas fireplaces are very efficient at 99.9% efficiency in many cases, incomplete burning is still a possibility. So, be careful.
- Is it okay to leave pilot light ON in gas fireplaces? There is no one right answer here. Leaving the pilot light ON creates an inherent safety risk. It also costs up to $20/month worth of fuel to keep the pilot light on. Turning it OFF, meanwhile, invites spiders, creates the risk of corrosion, and opens the door for chills. Which risk would you rather take?
- Can you leave a gas fireplace ON overnight? Yes, but it’s not a good idea. Leaving the fireplace ON overnight creates a safety risk and is also very costly. That said, if you need the heat, some safer direct-vent models allow for overnight use. Caution is advised, though.
- How often should a gas fireplace be serviced? Gas fireplaces are low maintenance. Still, it’s recommended that you schedule annual service to keep the unit looking great and functioning optimally.
- Can I remove the glass from my gas fireplace? No. The glass panel on direct vent fireplaces cannot be removed. Even if you intend to return the glass, removing it would tamper with the closed combustion.
- How do you maintain a gas fireplace? Clean the glass as needed, clean the interior too, clean the logs, replace batteries, and schedule inspections.
Summary – no conclusion
Jesse Pinkman is a passionate HVAC professional writer who grew up repairing any home appliance on which he could lay his hands. He is responsible for ensuring that every article we publish is SPOT ON. When he’s not in the office, he enjoys hiking, watching football, and spending time with his family.