Gas fireplaces are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners because they are easy to use, less expensive than wood burning fireplaces and easy to clean. In the past, many people have shied away from gas fireplaces since in the original models both the logs and the fires looked cheap and fake. Gas fireplace manufacturers have made impressive improvements since they first started making gas fireplaces in the late twentieth century, however and today's gas fireplaces are another story. In fact, if you were to look at a modern gas fireplace, you might not even be able to tell that it was gas. The logs and the fire look that realistic. You can even choose specific species of wood for your fake logs. Unlike a wood burning fireplace, though, you won't have to chop down that wood and cart it into your house yourself. You just flip a switch and your fireplace goes on. You have two types of gas fireplace to choose from. Both are very popular and which one you prefer depends on what qualities are most important to you.
Originally, you could only find vented gas logs for your fireplace and you can still get these today. These days, however, you can also get vent free gas logs invented by the Europeans. These vent free logs are more environmentally friendly and energy conscious.
In order to install a vented log gas fireplace, you need to have a working chimney. Vented log gas fireplaces produce an extraordinary amount of heat. They also produce a ton of toxic carbon monoxide. Thus you need to open your fireplace damper when you operate your vented log gas fireplace, just like you would if you had a regular wood burning fireplace. Otherwise, you risk poisoning yourself and your family. Once you open that damper, up to 90 percent of the heat produced by your vented log gas fireplace escapes out of your chimney.
A vented log type gas fireplace works by combusting gas in a low tech burner. Gas escapes from a single pipe that has holes drilled into it. The pipe rests at the bottom of the fireplace, beneath the fake logs, and is covered by silica sand. The gas escapes from the holes in the pipes, is combusted and then makes it appear as though the sand on the bottom of your fireplace beneath your logs is on fire.
In a vent free log gas fireplace, the burners are hidden inside of or behind the fake logs instead of beneath them. Hot air is supplied to these burners to combust the gas with efficiency so that they do not produce massive amounts of carbon monoxide. In fact, these logs must be approved by the American Gas Association and are equipped with oxygen depletion sensors. These sensors have technology that shuts off the gas produced by the burners before a dangerous level of carbon monoxide accumulates so you won't accidentally poison yourself. Unfortunately, since you can't cover the burners of vent free logs with sand, you can't achieve a burning ember look with these logs. They don't look quite as realistic as the vented log gas fireplaces.
Before you decide whether you want a vented log gas fireplace or a vent free log gas fireplace, you should also be aware that you may encounter a problem with water condensation. When you burn natural gas, you produce a lot of water. If you have a vented log set, water vapors travel up your chimney. If it gets very cold, they might condense and run back down. With a vent free log system, however, all of this moisture will be trapped in your house. Condensation from the vapors will end up forming on any cold surface. If this happens in your attic or between your walls, you may find yourself with a mold or mildew problem. If you heat your house with radiators, on the other hand, these vapors may just restore humidity to your air.
For the sake of safety, if you are going to install a gas fireplace, install a carbon monoxide detector. This way you will avoid being poisoned if your fireplace were to somehow malfunction. This is especially important if you install a vented log gas fireplace. If you forget to open your damper with a wood burning fireplace, you are immediately made aware when your house fills with smoke. With a vented gas fireplace, however, if you forget to open the damper you won't necessarily notice your house filling with carbon monoxide. This mistake could turn out to be deadly.