If you’ve always wanted that cozy glow of a fire but not the hassle of a wood-burning fireplace, a gas log fireplace may be right for you. Gas logs offer all the ambience and warmth of a real, wood-burning fire without the mess and maintenance.
We’ll discuss how gas logs work and cover the two types of gas log sets available to help you better understand your options before making a purchase decision.
What are gas logs?
Gas logs are artificial logs that sit inside your existing fireplace. Although they look like real wood, gas logs are usually made of ceramic, which enables them to withstand high temperatures. They can be fashioned to look like virtually any kind of wood, from handsome oak to rustic sassafras to beachy driftwood.
Gas logs come in vent-free and vented options. As the name implies, vented gas logs vent up your chimney, while ventless or vent-free gas logs do not require a flue or chimney and vent the heat and (minimal) exhaust into the room.
Most gas logs are designed to make gas fireplaces more aesthetic, rather than being built for warmth. While gas logs do emit a bit of heat, it is not on the same level as a built-in gas fireplace or gas insert. Just like their real wood counterparts, much of the heat generated from a gas log set goes out the chimney. However, compared to built-in gas fireplaces or gas inserts, gas logs are considerably cheaper, and may be a more attractive option for those on smaller budgets.
Why are these logs a good choice for the home?
There are many benefits of using a gas log fireplace as opposed to a real wood-burning fireplace. These include:
- Less maintenance and mess – With gas logs, there’s no need to hire a chimney sweep to keep your chimney clean. You also don’t have to worry about keeping the hearth free of dust and soot, and perhaps best of all? There’s no need to chop wood!
- Safer – Because there is no uncontrolled flame, gas fireplaces are much safer to operate than their wood-burning counterparts. This makes them safer, especially for homes with small children or pets.
- Better for delicate lungs – Real wood tends to emit smoke byproducts that can irritate lungs. Gas logs have less byproducts, making them more suitable for young kids and elderly folks, or those suffering from asthma or respiratory ailments, thus dispensing the need for a separate air cleaner.
- Warmer – Gas fireplace logs produce more heat than standard fireplaces while retaining more heat, making them more efficient than standard wood-burning fireplaces.
For more information on gas log safety, check out our related entry: Are Gas Logs Safe & Efficient?
How do gas logs work?
Gas logs are available in two different fuel types: liquid propane and natural gas. Liquid propane gas logs burn at a much hotter temperature than natural gas logs but require a liquid propane tank to operate. Natural gas logs, on the other hand, work with a natural gas line, making them an option for many homeowners who already rely on natural gas appliances.
There are two different styles of gas logs: vented and ventless. The type of logs you’ll need depends on several factors, including appearance, efficiency and whether or not you have an existing fireplace.
Vented gas logs
When it comes to a realistic looking fire, vented gas logs are your best bet. They deliver large, yellow flames that resemble exactly what you’d see in a wood-burning fireplace without all the hassle and mess. Additionally, vented gas logs can be installed in an existing fireplace, making it easy for those who want to make the switch from a traditional, burning wood.
Just like a wood-burning fireplace, vented gas logs create carbon monoxide — therefore, they must operate with an open chimney or flue damper to properly exhaust the fumes. The downside of this is that most of the heat escapes, making these types of gas fireplace logs not as efficient as their ventless counterparts. In addition, vented gas logs require more fuel to operate than vent-free gas logs, so if you’re looking to save energy, they may not be the best option for you.
Pros: Vented gas logs look more realistic than ventless logs, making them ideal for those who value ambience.
Cons: Vented gas logs are less efficient than ventless logs and require more fuel to operate.
Ventless gas logs
While ventless gas logs are typically more expensive than vented gas logs, they distribute heat more efficiently throughout the room. Because they do not rely on vents to operate, vent-free logs are much better at keeping heat where it belongs: Inside your home. They also don’t use as much fuel as vented gas logs.
Ventless gas logs do not require a functioning chimney for installation, making them ideal for that old firebox you’re not sure what to do with or newly constructed homes. All you need is a gas line and you’re good to go.
The downside of ventless gas logs? They don’t look as pretty as vented logs, but this may not be an issue if you value efficiency over appearance. Also, if your room is well-sealed and insulated, moisture can build up and create condensation — although a little bit of humidity may be ideal if you live in a dry area!
The last thing to keep in mind about ventless gas logs is that they cannot be installed in a bedroom unless they’re 10,000 BTUs or less. If you’re looking to add heat to your bedroom, consider a ventless heater instead.
Pros: Ventless gas logs are more efficient than vented gas logs and use less fuel. They also do not require a functioning chimney to operate.
Cons: Ventless gas logs do not look as good as vented gas logs.
For more comparison details, check out: Vented or Vent Free Gas Logs: Which Do You Need?
Gas Log Styles
Since gas logs are mainly designed for aesthetic purposes, they come in a wide variety of styles. Popular ones include:
- Oak (natural red or aged)
- Timber (natural or weathered)
Gas logs also come in virgin (newly chopped) or charred options, while others come in whole or split designs.
For more on gas log styles, check out our prior entry here.
How long do gas logs last?
The shelf life of a gas log set is dictated by two factors:
Gas logs are usually made of ceramic, which allows them to withstand very hot temperatures. Log sets that use cement logs will fade in appearance over time. Depending on use, they can begin to lose their appearance in 2-3 years.
A well-maintained ceramic vented log set can last a very long time, in some cases 10 or more years. A well-maintained ventless log set of the same material can also last a long time, but, if heavily used, will begin to wear in 3-5 years.
For more information, read How Long Do Gas Logs Last & Gas Log Replacement.
How to install gas logs
To install gas logs, a gas fireplace system must be set up by a qualified gas equipment professional. Once that’s complete, you can install your gas logs yourself by following the included step-by-step instructions. Make sure you wear gloves while handling the logs, as they can cause skin irritation.
After reading the manual and donning protective equipment:
Step 1: Locate gas supply
Find the gas supply stub, usually located on the side of the firebox. Most log sets place the gas supply at the rear right of the burner system.
Step 2: Connect the gas line
If the system uses a pilot safety kit, install it between the burner and gas supply. Make sure the connections are tight and secure to withstand seasons of use.
Step 3: Seal the connections
Use a pipe dope or tape to seal all non-flared fittings. When in doubt, it’s better to use more tape than too little.
Step 4: Test for leaks
If you don’t have a leak detector, a low-tech solution can be soapy water spread around the gas line and connections. If there are no bubbles, then the gas line is properly sealed.
Step 5: Position logs
Follow the placement chart included with the log set for optimum performance.
For more detailed instructions, check out How to Set Up and Install Gas Log Sets.
All of the gas logs we carry here at Total Home Supply come with their own specific set of instructions. Be sure to follow all instructions carefully to keep yourself and your home safe. If you have any questions regarding our gas logs or other heating products, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re ready to help put you on the path to a warmer, cozier home.