Gas vs. Electric Fireplace – Pros & Cons. Which Is Best?

Although traditional wood-burning fires offer warmth and a cozy ambiance, they’re not a feasible option for every homeowner. So, many folks are turning to alternatives, including gas and electric fireplaces.

Each option has its merits and drawbacks, and to help you decide which is the best for your home, we put together this detailed guide.

So continue reading to learn all the differences between electric and gas fireplaces.

electric vs gas fireplace

Electric vs. Gas Fireplaces – A Quick Comparison

Electric and gas fireplaces are strong contenders as alternatives to traditional wood-burning fireplaces. Both options square up differently, which the chart below outlines. The chart offers a quick overview of the basics, which we’ll examine in the following sections.

Electric FireplacesGas Fireplaces
Unit Cost$250 to $6,200$2,000 to $7,500
Installation DifficultyMore straightforwardMore complex
Running CostsLess expensive by per-hour costsMore expensive by per-hour costs
Maintenance Minor Moderate 
Safety Low-riskModerate risk
Ambiance Poorer, faux flamesBetter, real flames
Heat ProductionLess More 

Pros

As you debate between gas and electric fireplaces, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of each option. The chart below reviews each option’s pros to help you decide which is better for your home.

Electric Fireplaces

  • Simple and affordable installation
  • Minimal safety risks
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to add to any room
  • Less expensive for unit
  • Little to no energy waste

Gas Fireplaces

  • Produces real flames
  • Clean burning units
  • May increase home value
  • Able to efficiently heat large rooms
  • Easy to add to most rooms
  • Low maintenance

Cons

Although gas and electric fireplaces are excellent options for many homeowners, there are a few drawbacks to each. The chart below outlines the disadvantages of each option.

Electric Fireplaces

  • Higher operating costs per BTU
  • Faux flames, doesn’t produce real flames
  • May not be enough to heat, might require a secondary heater
  • Lower heating capacity

Gas Fireplaces

  • Pricier to install
  • May not have access to natural gas line
  • Higher unit cost
  • Potential for toxic gas emissions
  • Potential for moisture buildup

Gas vs. Electric Fireplace – Which Is Better?

With the pros and cons of each option in mind, let’s examine gas and electric fireplaces in a head-to-head comparison. The following sections compare major considerations, including unit costs, running costs, safety, installation difficulty, and several others.

Cost of Unit

a couple shopping for a fireplace

Winner: Electric Fireplace

The cost of your new fireplace depends on the brand, model, size, and type you get. There are a few different types of gas and electric fireplaces, so prices may vary based on the style you decide to install. However, an electric fireplace has lower upfront costs.

On average, gas fireplace units cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,500, although this may vary based on the style you buy. Common gas fireplace styles include:

  • Ducted gas fireplaces – roughly $2,000
  • Ventless gas fireplaces – $2,300 to $6,000
  • Gel-powered ventless fireplaces – $300 to $700
  • Direct vent gas fireplaces – $3,500 to $7,500

To professionally install a gas fireplace, homeowners should expect to pay anywhere from $2,300 to $10,000, although costs may vary based on the particular unit style and the labor costs in your area.

On the other hand, electric fireplaces are somewhat cheaper than gas fireplaces. On average, electric units cost anywhere from $250 to $6,200. Again, costs vary based on the particular style of unit:

  • Freestanding electric fireplace – $250 to $650
  • Dual-sided electric fireplace – up to $6,200

To have a professional install an electric fireplace, homeowners should expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $300 on average. However, there may be additional costs associated with wiring installation.

Installation

man installing an electric fireplace

Winner: Electric Fireplace

In terms of installation, electric fireplaces are the more convenient choice. Most folks in the U.S. have access to electricity or already have it hooked up to their home (unless they’re off the grid), so installing an electric fireplace is simple.

Electric fireplaces run off standard electrical outlets, although homeowners may have to run a new line or a dedicated circuit for larger systems. Depending on the fireplace, it may take a 110- or 220-volt outlet.

On the flip side, gas fireplaces aren’t as easy to install. Since they run off natural gas, you’ll either need a natural gas line to your home or a propane hook-up. In some areas, homeowners might not have access to a natural gas line, so installing a gas fireplace might not be feasible.

Note: There are vented and ventless gas fireplace units, the former requiring an outside exhaust to vent fumes. The latter isn’t legal in every state, so some homeowners might not have the option of a ventless gas system.

Electric fireplaces are easier to manage in terms of the actual installation process. Some homeowners can manage the process themselves without the help of a professional. However, with a gas fireplace, it’s essential to seek the assistance of a professional, as handling natural gas lines isn’t something every homeowner knows. Moreover, the process can be incredibly dangerous if mismanaged.

Cost to Run

Technician checking the electricity meter

Winner: Gas Fireplace

Running costs are a significant consideration as you weigh the pros and cons of each option.

Electric and gas fireplaces have low operating costs. However, despite the higher cost of gas, gas fireplaces tend to be cheaper to run because they heat larger areas much faster than electric fireplaces. So, although you might pay more for the gas fireplace, it might come out as the less expensive option in the long run.

Of course, this can vary based on your location.

For example, consider the national average electricity cost, roughly 13 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). On the flip side, the national average price for natural gas is approximately $1.22 per therm (100,000 BTU).

So, operating a 1.5-kilowatt electric fireplace that puts out 5,000 BTU will cost you about 19.5 cents per hour. For comparison, consider a 25,000 BTU gas fireplace, which costs roughly 30.5 cents per hour to operate.

Note: If you choose propane to power your gas fireplace, you can expect to pay around two to three times more.

You may have to pay more to run a gas fireplace per hour, but you might not have to run the system as long. Again, a gas fireplace heats large spaces much quicker than an electric fireplace. Of course, this can vary based on the system’s efficiency, but this tends to be truthful across the board.

Maintenance

a technician servicing a gas fireplace

Winner: Electric Fireplace

While wood-burning fireplaces require extensive maintenance and upkeep, gas and electric fireplaces are relatively easy to maintain. For the most part, they require little to no maintenance, although this can vary based on the particular type.

You can expect minor maintenance tasks if you decide on a gas fireplace. You’ll need to inspect the system annually, focusing on the vent and flue for cleaning and inspection. Although, there are ventless gas fireplaces too.

On top of that, you’ll also need to check the gas valve for leaks. You may have to re-light the pilot light if it goes out.

You can always hire a professional to look things over for you, but it’s essential to check the system at least once a year.

On the other hand, electric fireplaces are incredibly low maintenance. After installing an electric fireplace, you’ll need to replace burnt-out bulbs as necessary and inspect the wiring yearly to check for damage.

If you want an ultra-low-maintenance fireplace, an electric fireplace is the winner in this category. That said, both options are relatively simple to maintain, especially compared to traditional wood-burning fireplaces.

Safety

Hands in front of an electric fireplace

Winner: Electric Fireplace

Since gas and electric fireplaces produce heat, they present a fire hazard. However, both options are rather safe. Of course, there are a few considerations to keep in mind associated with safety.

Gas fireplaces naturally produce toxic fumes as they burn through the fuel, so if you improperly install, poorly maintain, or it is faulty, the fumes might not vent out of your home.

Aside from carbon monoxide emissions, you’ll also need to consider the moisture buildup. Additionally, the glass doors can become quite hot to the touch.

On the other hand, electric fireplaces are fairly safe. Since they don’t produce toxic fumes, they don’t require a ventilation system, and there isn’t a risk of harmful emissions lingering in your home. The primary concern with this system is an electrical fire resulting from damaged wiring.

So, an electric fireplace might be the better option if you have small children or pets. There isn’t a concern about toxic fumes, accidental burns, or moisture buildup with these fireplaces.

Ambiance

a photo of a gas fireplace with real flames

Winner: Gas Fireplace

In terms of ambiance, a gas fireplace is the clear winner because it produces actual flame and a soothing crackling sound.

On the other hand, electric fireplaces project an image of a burning log (often using LEDs). Although it looks similar to the real thing, it doesn’t quite offer the same ambiance as an actual campfire or wood-burning fireplace.

That said, some electric fireplaces produce popping and crackling sound effects to mimic the sounds of an actual fire. In addition, some models even emit the smell of pine to create a more realistic ambiance.

Heat Production

Photo of a gas fireplace.

Winner: Gas Fireplace

Both fireplaces produce heat as soon as you activate them. However, since gas fireplaces have a higher heating capacity, they usually produce more heat faster than their electric counterparts.

If you’re in a large room standing far from the fireplace, you’ll probably feel the heat from a gas fireplace faster than you’d feel it from an electric fireplace.

On average, gas fireplaces produce between 7,000 and 40,000 BTUs depending on the particular model and size. On the other hand, electric fireplaces usually run on 120 volts of electricity and produce anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 BTUs.

The difference is considerable, so it’s no surprise that gas fireplaces tend to heat larger spaces much faster than electric fireplaces.

Conclusion

Adding any type of fireplace to your home is an excellent way to produce heat and a cozy ambiance in a particular room. However, since wood-burning fireplaces aren’t the sensible choice for many homeowners, gas and electric fireplaces are solid alternatives.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages, so while a gas fireplace might be best for one scenario, an electric fireplace might be the superior choice for another homeowner. Ultimately, the choice is yours – you must decide what works best for your home!

About The Author

Jonathon is a mechanical engineer with over ten years of experience in the HVAC industry. He has hands-on experience with all types of HVAC systems.

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