A fireplace is a welcome addition to any home, especially if you live in an area that has to endure cold, bitter winter weather. However, wood-burning fireplaces come with a hefty installation cost and they require extensive maintenance to ensure the fireplace, flue, and chimney are all properly cleaned and in good working order.
Instead, many people are opting for gas or electric fireplaces, which are easier to install, more affordable, and have very few maintenance requirements. If you are interested in putting in a new fireplace, but aren't sure about which is best between gas and electric, then this guide is a great resource to help you get a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of each. Use this gas vs. electric fireplace comparison guide to make an informed decision about the best type of fireplace for your home.
Gas vs. Electric Fireplaces: Major Differences
When you are looking for a new fireplace, it's necessary to consider the key benefits and drawbacks of both gas and electric fireplaces in order to find the best option for your home. Gas fireplaces tend to look more like a traditional fireplace, including having real flames. These fireplaces are relatively easy to clean and maintain, as long as you regularly inspect the fireplace and gas lines for leaks. It's also important to keep the fireplace and vents clean. Just keep in mind that gas fireplaces typically need to be professionally installed, so you may end up paying between $2,750 to $7,300 for a built-in gas fireplace that will last about 25 years.
Electric fireplaces don't have the same authentic look, but they do come with visual features, like LED lighting, videos of burning wood, and even hologram imaging. Cleaning and maintaining these fireplaces is easy. Just make sure to inspect the wiring for any damage and replace the bulbs as needed to keep an electric fireplace working. This type of fireplace is easy and affordable to install, costing about $700 to $2,250. Electric fireplaces last about 20 to 25 years, though the bulbs may burn out about once every three to five years.
|Gas Fireplace||Electric Fireplace|
|Appearance||More realistic with real flames||Features like LED lighting, videos of burning wood, or hologram imaging|
|Care and Cleaning||Minor cleaning required, but users must regularly inspect for gas leaks and be careful to avoid burns during operation||Clean the fireplace as needed and be careful to avoid damage to the electrical wire and burns during operation|
|Durability and Maintenance||Inspect the fireplace for gas leaks, as well as keeping the fireplace and vents clean||Inspect the electrical wire for damage and replace the bulbs as required|
|Installation||Requires a professional installer to run a gas line and install the built-in fireplace||Can be set up by the user in most cases, though a built-in unit may require professional installation|
|Cost||About $2,750 to $7,300||About $700 to $2,250|
|Lifespan||Lasts up to 25 years||Lasts up to 20 years and may require semi-frequent bulb replacement|
Neither gas nor electric fireplaces look exactly like a traditional wood-burning fireplace, but gas fireplaces tend to fall closer to the traditional appearance. You can find portable, gel-fuel gas fireplaces for indoor and outdoor use, though most gas fireplaces are built-in models. This built-in design allows installers to put in realistic brick surrounds to hide the gas connections. Paired with the real burning fire, gas fireplaces tend to edge out electric fireplaces in appearance.
The main benefit of an electric fireplace is that it doesn't produce soot, creosote, or debris as a byproduct of heating and lighting. Instead, electric fireplaces rely on LED lighting, videos of burning wood, and hologram imaging of dancing flames to simulate the appearance of a fire. Some units even have sound effects to mimic the sound of a crackling fire. However, unless you are really squinting your eyes, an electric fireplace does not have the traditional appearance or realistic flame that is possible with a gas fireplace.
Best for Appearance: Gas Fireplace
Gas fireplaces tend to be the more attractive option, with traditional designs that resemble wood-burning models, real flames, and built-in fireplace surrounds to increase the aesthetic appeal.
Care and Cleaning
Both gas and electric fireplaces are relatively easy to keep clean. With a gas fireplace, you need to inspect and clean the vent or flue, if the unit has one, though there are gas models that do not have these components because they use a fuel that doesn't require venting. Before and after using a gas fireplace, it's important to inspect the unit and the gas line for any leaks or signs of damage that could cause problems in the future. Additionally, the glass doors on the fireplace become hot during use, so make sure to avoid touching the glass until it has had enough time to cool.
Similar to gas models, electric fireplaces really don't have any cleaning requirements. Just wipe the fireplace down every so often to keep it free of dust, dirt, and debris. Before and after using the fireplace, it's recommended to inspect the wiring to ensure that there isn't any damage. It's also important to avoid touching the front panel on the fireplace when it is on to prevent burns. Since these units use electricity to generate heat and light, you don't need to worry about harmful emissions or cleaning a ventilation system.
Best for Care and Cleaning: Electric Fireplace
Given that electric fireplaces do not have ventilation systems and they do not produce soot, creosote, or other emissions during use, it's much easier and less time consuming to clean and care for an electric fireplace.
Durability and Maintenance
There are very few maintenance tasks you need to address with a gas fireplace. Simply make sure to inspect and clean the fireplace, flue, and vents. Check the gas line and gas valves for any leaks and call in a professional gas fireplace repair technician if any issues are detected.
After putting in an electric fireplace, the only real maintenance is to clean and inspect the unit for any signs of damage to the electric system. About once every three to five years, you may also need to replace any burn-out bulbs.
Best for Durability and Maintenance: Tie
Both gas and electric fireplaces are relatively easy to maintain. With a gas unit, you only need to worry about inspecting the gas lines for leaks and cleaning the ventilation system. Electric fireplaces should also be inspected for damage to the electrical system, but they don't have a ventilation system. Instead, you may need to replace any burnt-out bulbs about once every three to five years.
There are some portable or freestanding gas fireplaces that burn gel fuel. These units are easy and affordable to install because they don't require a ventilation system. However, most gas fireplaces are built-in models that burn natural gas or propane. These units need to be professionally installed and typically require a new gas line to hook up the fireplace, which can increase the cost of the installation.
Most electric fireplaces are plug-and-play units that can be set up almost anywhere in the home with an available electrical outlet. Simply plug the power cord into an available outlet and turn on the fireplace for instant heat and light from the simulated fire. Wall-mounted units may require a professional carpenter or general contractor to move any studs and mount the unit to the wall.
Best for Installation: Electric Fireplace
Installing an electric fireplace is significantly easier, less time consuming, and more affordable than installing a gas fireplace. Most electric fireplaces can be set up in minutes by the user, instead of needing to hire a professional to complete the job.
The cost of a gas fireplace is about $900 to $3,000. However, the installation of the fireplace can cost an additional $1,500 to $3,000. You will also need to pay to run a small gas exhaust pipe and venting, which ranges from about $200 to $500. If you have an existing gas line, then hooking it up to the gas fireplace will only cost about $150 to $300, though a new line will cost about $300 to $800. Overall, you can expect to pay about $2,750 to $7,300 for the initial installation and about $60 per year in fuel costs to operate the fireplace.
Electric fireplaces tend to be more affordable than gas fireplaces. The cost for an electric fireplace is about $300 to $1,000. If you need a new electrical outlet installed, you may need to pay an additional $200 to $750 for this service. Similarly, if you are opening the wall to install a recessed unit, you may pay another $200 to $500 in installation fees. All in, you will need to pay about $700 to $2,250 for the initial installation and about $25 per year in electricity costs to run the fireplace.
Best for Cost: Electric Fireplace
The cost to purchase and install a gas fireplace is significantly higher than the cost to purchase and install an electric fireplace. So if cost is a primary factor, opt for the electric fireplace to save money on your purchase.
After installation, a gas fireplace will typically last for about 15 to 25 years before it needs to be replaced. However, the life of the fireplace is dependent on the frequency of use and the degree of care and maintenance. If you use your gas fireplace regularly, make sure to keep it clean and have it inspected once a year for any problems.
In most cases, an electric fireplace will last for about 20 years. These units are easy to take care of and tend to last a long time even with minimal maintenance. Just make sure to replace the bulbs every three to five years if necessary, or the fireplace lighting will not function properly.
Best for Lifespan: Gas Fireplace
On average, gas fireplaces tend to last longer than electric fireplaces. Additionally, users may need to change the bulb or bulbs on an electric fireplace once every three to five years to keep it working properly, while this isn't necessary for gas fireplaces.
Whether a gas or electric fireplace is right for your home depends on the factors discussed above, as well as your personal preferences. Gas fireplaces offer a more traditional appearance, with real flames and built-in designs that mimic the appearance and function of a wood-burning fireplace. However, they also cost a significant amount more to install and require more time and effort to maintain than an electric fireplace.
Electric fireplaces don't have the same traditional appearance, but they do come with unique features, like built-in sound effects or flame-only settings that allow you to enjoy the look of the simulated flame without the heat. Additionally, these fireplaces cost less and require minimal care, cleaning, and maintenance to operate.
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