Gas fireplaces can be considered a completely different type of fireplace compared to electric fireplaces but when it comes to choosing a fireplace for a house, both gas and electric types can be a great choice.
Gas and electric fireplaces both have their advantages and disadvantages but each offer unique aspects of a fireplace experience for your home.
The main differences between gas and electric fireplaces include that gas fireplaces use gas as the source of fuel while electric fireplaces use electricity. Gas fireplaces are more permanent installations and have real fames, while electric fireplace can typically be moved or removed easily but don’t have real flames.
We’ve owned both gas and electric fireplaces for a number of years and so we’ve had first-hand experience with buying, installing and using them and figuring out what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at, and which one we’d have over the other in certain situations.
We’ve therefore outlined in this article all of the main differences and the pros and cons of gas fireplaces and electric fireplace using our own fireplaces as examples.
Differences Between A Gas Fireplace And Electric Fireplace (Pros & Cons)
|Gas Fireplaces||Electric Fireplaces|
|3 main types||1 main type, different forms|
|Easy to use||Easier to use|
|Setup requirements||No setup requirements|
|Uses gas as fuel||Uses electricity as fuel|
|May need electricity||Needs electricity|
|Usable in power outage||Unusable in power outage|
|Real flames||Fake flames|
|No flame-only options||Flames-only options|
|Higher maintenance||Lower maintenance|
|Good efficiency ratings||Higher efficiency ratings|
|Slightly more polluting||Clean burning|
|Higher installation costs||Lower installation costs|
|Permanent installation||Temporary installation|
|Internal or external air supply||Indoor air supply|
|Longer life span||Shorter life span|
In order to fully explain the main differences between gas and electric fireplaces, the main types of each fireplace should first be discussed.
The three main types of gas fireplace include:
- Natural (b-vent) gas fireplaces
- Direct vent gas fireplaces
- Ventless gas fireplaces
Although still all gas fireplaces, these three types are quite distinguishable from each other because of how they vent and so can have different applications.
Natural vent gas fireplaces, also known as B-vent, were traditionally the most common type of gas fireplace and are often found in insert form for installation within existing masonry fireplaces. They vent waste air externally and take air from within the room and so will typically have an open front.
Our own gas fireplace is the natural vent type.
Direct vent gas fireplaces improve in terms of efficiency over natural vent by venting both clean and waste air externally from a home. To keep the air inside these fireplaces separate from the air within a home, they’re typically fronted with a glass panel.
Ventless gas fireplaces burn the fuel cleanly enough to vent internally for both clean and waste air and so don’t need to be located near an external wall of a home like direct vent types.
On the other hand, there is really only one main type of electric fireplace but can be found in a variety of forms.
Electric fireplaces don’t produce any potentially harmful by-products and so don’t need to be vented externally.
As a result, this freedom has allowed electric fireplaces to be incorporated into a range of forms, such as:
- Freestanding ‘stove’ designs
- Logs inserts
- Inserts for masonry fireplaces
- TV stands
- Mantel packages
Our own electric fireplace is the freestanding stove-design type.
Electric fireplaces work by using a light source such as a bulb or LEDs and a rotating set of mirrors to imitate the look of flames on a front panel. For more information we’ve explained how electric fireplaces work in another article.
2) Ease Of Use & Setup
Depending on the type, a gas fireplace can either be relatively complicated to set up and use or be very simple.
Older models of gas fireplace with standing pilot lights that require manually being lit can be considered to be more difficult to set up, but once the pilot has started, using such a gas fireplace can become easier.
See our guide on how to light a gas fireplace for reference.
However, more modern gas fireplaces with electronic ignition systems and wall switches and remote controls can be very easy to use.
Similarly, electric fireplaces are also just as easy, or even easier, to use compared to modern gas fireplaces.
As electric fireplaces don’t have real flames, the flame effects can be started at the switch of a button.
For example, for our electric fireplace we simply need to press a switch and the fireplace will turn on, start generating flames and start producing heat immediately.
The other switches and dials control the heat output and the brightness of the flames.
Gas fireplaces burn gas as the only source of fuel, while electric fireplaces only use electricity.
In order to use a gas fireplace in your home you’ll therefore need consider how the fireplace will be supplied with gas when installing.
For example, our gas fireplace insert (installed in a living room masonry fireplace) had to be fed from the mains gas for the house using a separate dedicated pipe.
It’s here where the pipe is exposed and where we can also turn off the gas to the fireplace when it’s not in use.
On the other hand, electric fireplaces simply need to be plugged into a nearby electrical outlet or wired into the home electrics for some built-in models.
Although the fuel for gas fireplaces is gas and electric fireplace run on electricity, many modern gas fireplaces may still need to be hooked up to the home electrics in order for the ignition system to work.
Our gas fireplace is an older model and doesn’t need a source of electricity, as it uses an ignition that generates its own sparks.
The downside is that it our gas fireplace has a standing pilot light that needs to remain on through winter, while forms of gas fireplace that have electronic ignition can turn the pilot on and off on demand (but require a dedicated electricity supply as a result).
We’ve discussed the requirements of electricity for gas fireplaces in more detail in another article, as well as covering standing and electronic pilot lights here.
Electric fireplaces on the other hand must always have a source of electricity in order to work.
5) Power Outages
You won’t be able to use an electric fireplace during a power outage, but you’ll typically still be able to use a gas fireplace during one.
Electric fireplaces need a source of mains electricity in order to work.
For older gas fireplaces units that aren’t connected up the mains electricity they should be fine to be used during outages.
For newer gas fireplaces that have electronic ignition and have a mains electric supply, many have built in backup battery units that allow them to still be usable even during outages.
Gas fireplaces produce real flames while electric fireplaces don’t.
Gas fireplaces burn gas using a real fire to produce real flames and associated heat.
Electric fireplaces on the other hand project the imitation of flames onto the front using lights and mirrors.
You’ll therefore get more realistic looking flames with a gas fireplace compared to an electric one.
However, electric fireplaces can still look very realistic thanks to modern day technology and one of the bonuses electric fireplaces have over gas are that they typically offer the function of being able to produce flames without any heat.
This can be great for times when you just want the ambience of a fire but without the heat, such as in the warmer months.
For example, we can have the flames going on our electric fireplace without the heat by simply turning off the switches that relate to heat output.
You can expect higher maintenance requirements and therefore higher ongoing costs with gas fireplaces compared to electric fireplaces.
Gas fireplaces typically need to be serviced at least per year by a certified gas professional to ensure they remain safe and effective to use.
Gas fireplaces may also need more thorough and regular cleaning because a real fire is produced.
Electric fireplaces require very minimal maintenance, with only periodic cleaning required of the air vents to keep them free of dust typically required.
As electric fireplaces don’t produce any real flames, they can be considered to be 100% efficient.
All of the electricity used by an electric fireplace goes to producing either the flames and/or the heat (in which in-built space heaters or infrared heaters are used). They also don’t need venting because there are no wasteful by-products produced.
Gas fireplaces are typically less efficient compared to electric fireplaces because much of the heat can be lost outside as a result of the venting requirements, but again this can differ depending on the type of gas fireplace.
Gas logs and gas inserts for use in existing masonry fireplaces are typically the least efficient.
Direct vent gas fireplaces can be pretty good in terms of efficiency but ventless gas fireplaces can be very efficient.
As a result, electric fireplaces don’t release any pollutants into the atmosphere and so can be considered to be extremely clean burning, while gas fireplace can be good or bad in terms of pollution depending on the type.
Gas fireplaces will still be far less polluting than burning wet firewood, however.
Expect more onerous installation requirements and therefore increased installation costs for gas fireplaces compared to electric.
As gas fireplaces will need a dedicated gas supply and most gas fireplaces will require some sort of external venting, there can be multiple things to consider when installing a gas fireplace and you’ll have to choose a location in your home that works for that fireplace.
Electric fireplaces don’t have to follow the same requirements for venting and the many electrical outlets typically found around a home can be mean that there can be plenty of options to choose from in terms of location for either placing or installing an electric fireplace.
Many electric fireplaces come as freestanding units, such as our electric stove.
We can locate it in our home anywhere near an electric outlet and move it around as we please.
Electric fireplaces that require some sort of installation such as wall-mounted types, installation can still be fairly simple by mounting the fireplace on a bracket screwed into the wall.
Gas fireplaces are therefore considered to be more permanent installations and can’t easily be moved or removed without professional help and larger expense.
Many electric fireplaces can be moved around a home with ease and therefore be temporary installations if needed.
10) Life Expectancy
Due to the number of internal mechanical and electrical components found in electric fireplace compared to gas, the life expectancy for electric fireplaces can be lower than those for gas.
Warranties for gas fireplaces can also typically be longer than those for electric fireplaces.
For example, the warranty for our gas fireplace was a couple of years while the warranty of our electric fireplace was only one year.
The actual life expectancy of a gas or electric fireplace can depend on a number of factors but there are also no user replaceable parts for our electric fireplace while there is for our gas.
This means that if there’s a fault with our electric fireplace then we’d have to get a new one, while if there’s a problem with our gas fireplace then it can usually be sorted by a professional with a replacements part or fix.
Electric fireplaces can often be noisier than gas fireplaces during operation.
Electric fireplaces typically come with a space heater installed inside, which relies on a blower to force the air over the heating elements to provide warmth the room. This blower can typically be fairly noisy during operation.
The only exception would be if an electric fireplace uses an infrared heater rather than a space heater. Electric fireplaces can also be very quiet if the heater is turned off and only the flames are running.
Older models of gas fireplace that don’t utilise a blower can be very quiet but expect a higher level of noise from a more modern gas fireplace that has a blower incorporated into it.
12) Heat Output
Both electric and gas fireplaces can put out great amounts of heat.
The amount of heat each fireplace can produce can depend on their size and heat output.
From our own experience both our gas and electric fireplaces heat their respective rooms very well.
Is It Cheaper To Use An Electric Or Gas Fireplace?
It can often be cheaper to run a gas fireplace compared to an electric fireplace, but with installation and maintenance costs typically higher for gas fireplaces the whole life costs between the two can often be similar.
However, the running costs for either gas or electric fireplaces can largely depend on the prices for gas and electricity for your particular area of residence, so always check fuel prices before you decide.
Is Gas Better Than Electric For Fireplaces?
A gas or electric fireplace can’t easily be defined as better or worse than the other.
Both forms of fireplace offer different sets of pros and cons and one type may be better for one particular situation over another.
Where purchase and installation costs need to be lower, or where there isn’t the possibility of being able to adequately vent, electric fireplaces can be more desirable over gas.
However, the downside is that electric fireplaces don’t generate real flames and so may not provide as good of an experience as gas.
See our other articles below for more information on both gas and electric fireplaces, such as more in-depth pros and cons of each, to help you better decide which type of fireplace is best for you and your home.