Just the thought of converting a classic wood-burning fireplace to gas is borderline blasphemous to some fireplace purists. You can liken it to vinyl records — as the needle strikes the vinyl, there’s a faint hiss, as though the record player were a hotplate, with music notes sizzling in place of bacon and eggs. Then, a voice, sounding as clear and packed with raw feeling as the day the song was recorded decades ago, begins to emerge. The audio is not just crisp, but also warm and all-encompassing. You can still dust off those old 45s, of course, but why would you when there are comparable, more efficient and convenient products on the market?
Mull over these facts about wood-burning fireplaces as you continue with your decision-making process:
Some homeowners eventually give up on their wood-burning fireplaces altogether. Henceforth, it sits empty; the coziness it provided becomes a mere memory. Converting to gas can be an acceptable alternative since it allows you to regain much of the aforementioned coziness and, in some cases, the lost heat as well. Continue reading as we cover the three most popular options available to you, should you decide to go this route.
If you’re in the market for a realistic-looking wood-fire substitute at a budget friendly price ($100-$1,200 depending on the scope of the job), a vented gas log set will fit the bill quite nicely. The logs can simulate many different species of wood, and the flame and embers are pretty similar to their real-wood counterparts. They are convenient—no stacking, chopping or hauling wood is required. Some models even come with remote-controlled ignitions and adjustable flame controls, and none leave behind a mess.
However, because gas logs have the same open combustion as wood, many of the same dangers and health hazards exist. Nor do they provide appreciably more heat. The damper on your chimney must remain permanently open as the fire continually draws in your room’s air; some manufacturers even recommend keeping a window cracked during use of their vented gas logs. In addition to the obvious hazard of an open flame, older or defective vented log sets can circulate explosive gas into the air.
Vented gas logs are an economical, convenient replacement for those of you who are looking for the ambiance of real-wood units without the cleanup hassles associated with them. Keep in mind, however, that they are practical only for their ambiance.
These units are the most appealing and sensible solution for a wood-to-gas conversion, but they have a much higher price tag associated with them ($2,000-$4,000 depending on the scope of the job). Springing for a gas insert can provide you with a beautiful fireplace that incorporates all of the desirable features that their wood-burning counterparts lack.
Unlike vented gas logs, inserts are actually more like heaters that operate at around 85% efficiency. They exhaust air to the outside, keeping byproducts out of your house and hourly operating costs to a few cents. As a natural gas product, they also add little in the line of outdoor pollution. Remote control operation adds another level of convenience.
Their flames and glowing embers are every bit as mesmerizing as those of a wood fire. No electricity is required to run the majority of gas inserts, which is a huge plus in the event of a power outage; you’ll still be able to snuggle up with that special someone.
When you start to weigh the deciding factors — convenience, ecology, safety, health, efficiency and ambiance — converting your wood-burning fireplace to gas makes sense. The first step is to make peace with the past and your attachment to your wood-burning fireplace. It’s all downhill from there! Be sure to buy the correct-sized log set or insert for your specific space, as using a heater with greater heat output than recommended may be harmful to your health. We’re standing by to help you through the entire wood-to-gas conversion process.