Electric fireplaces are very popular, and for good reasons. The colored lighting effects, several different media options, super convenient and easy to use are just some of the reasons why electric fireplaces are so prevalent in homes today.
If you’re thinking of an electric fireplace for your home, there may be some questions you’ve been contemplating. In this article, we’ll shed some light on several that often arise when discussing electric fireplaces.
CAN ELECTRIC FIREPLACES BE CONVERTED TO GAS?
The short and direct answer to this question is: absolutely not! Never try it, it would be extremely hazardous.
There are several reasons for this:
1) Gas appliances must be vented; electric fireplaces do not.
2) Clearance requirements are necessary for gas units, as they produce significantly more heat and get much hotter than an electric appliance.
3) Any UL or safety listings would be non-existent with an electric to gas conversion.
4) No manufacturer’s warranty would cover this type of installation.
5) An electric fireplace is not designed to withstand a direct flame.
If you’re interested in converting an electric fireplace to gas, DON’T! Think replacement, not conversion! Since there are many sizes and styles of gas fireplaces, the odds are high that you will be able to find a unit that is similar in height and width dimensions, with a similar electric fireplace footprint. However, because of the firebox and burner assembly, the depth of a gas fireplace will be more than the depth of an electric. Also, remember that a gas model will require a vent pipe connection, either horizontally or vertically, to the outside. Most gas units will require a minimum of 9 – 10 inches of space for these venting components to be correctly installed.
ARE ELECTRIC FIREPLACES BETTER THAN GAS?
This is one of those questions where the best answer is, it depends! It depends on your wants and needs. Both fuels come in lots of traditional and linear sizes. Both have several media options for a unique and customized look. But, are you looking for much heat? If the answer is yes, go with gas.
If space limitations and/or venting issues make the project difficult, an electric fireplace would be a great choice. If a little supplemental heat in the room is all you’re after, go electric. Maybe you would like to enjoy the flames and lighting effects year-round. If so, operating an electric without the heat option will work out well.
If you want to use some zone heating techniques and stay comfortable in those two or three rooms of the house where you spend most of your time, a gas fireplace would be a solid option.
Heat, price and installation details are the three main variables to consider when contemplating an electric fireplace vs. a gas unit.
IS A GAS OR ELECTRIC FIREPLACE CHEAPER?
You will likely spend less money on an electric fireplace than a similar size gas model. A gas fireplace is a more complicated piece of equipment with an ignition system, adjustable gas valve, gas pressure and air to fuel adjustments, an insulated firebox and a coaxial venting system.
The flames and lighting effects on an electric fireplace are basically on or off. The heating element is either on high, low or off all together. Although both gas and electric models are operated with a remote control, electric equipment is not nearly as complex as its gas counterparts.
IS IT CHEAPER TO USE ELECTRIC HEAT OR GAS FIREPLACE?
This is another question where the answer could be, it depends. The main 3 variables here are:
- Your electric rates.
- The current cost of gas.
- How much do you use your fireplace monthly?
Remember that BTU’s are what it takes to heat your home or warm up a room. Gas fireplaces produce significantly more BTU’s/hour than an electric fireplace. That being said, the two examples below should help give you a rough idea of the operating costs of an electric vs. a gas fireplace.
Let’s talk electric first. Many electric fireplaces, stoves and inserts use 1500 watts of power on the high setting and half that, 750 watts of power on low (1500 watts converts to 5118 BTU’s/hour).
For the example below, we’ll assume:
- The fireplace is on for 10 hours a day.
- Heating element uses 1500 watts of power on ‘high’ and 750 watts on ‘low’ for each hour.
- With the heating element off, the motor and LED lights consume 50 watts/hour.
|ELECTRIC RATE||5ȼ per kWh||10ȼ per kWh||15ȼ per kWh||20ȼ per kWh|
|High Heat On||78ȼ/day||$1.55/day||$2.33/day||$3.10/day|
|Low Heat On||40ȼ/day||80ȼ/day||$1.20/day||$1.60/day|
|No Heat/LED’S & Motor Only||2.5ȼ/day||5ȼ/day||7.5ȼ/day||10ȼ/day|
Try to extrapolate your estimated cost per kWh or the length of time the fireplace is on each day. Since we’re using 10 hours a day in this example, let’s say your appliance is only operating for 5 hours a day. Then use half, or 50% of the cost listed above. If it’s on for only 2½ hours a day, use one quarter or 25% of the cost. Then, multiply that cost by the number of days in the month that you’re using the fireplace.
Next, let’s discuss operating costs for gas equipment. The burner on most gas appliances is adjustable. The more gas that’s burned, the more heat you’ll get from the fireplace. To figure an approximate cost to run the fireplace, remember these key points:
- Natural gas is measured in therms. One therm equals 100,000 BTU’s of heat.
- LP gas is measured in gallons. One gallon of LPG equals 91,500 BTU’s of heat.
- For this example, the burner size is 30,000 BTU/hour.
- For each hour of fireplace operation, figure a bit less than 1/3 of one therm of NG.
And, about 1/3 of one gallon for LPG.
- Apply your current fuel rate.
- Adjust actual usage up or down, based on burner consumption.
Let’s take a quick example. Using the numbers above, a NG fireplace operates for two hours. The rate is $1.00/per therm. For each hour of operation, figure about 30ȼ. For LP, figure roughly 33ȼ/hour if the rate is $1.00 per gallon. This is nearly 6 times more BTU’s/hour than the electric example above.
ELECTRIC FIREPLACE, PRO’S & CON’S:
There are lots of pros and cons when it comes to electric fireplaces. The most significant boil down to heat output, price and details with the installation. Hopefully, this chart sheds additional light on comparing the advantages and disadvantages of an electric vs. gas fireplace.
|ELECTRIC FIREPLACE||GAS EQUIPMENT|
|Heating Capacity||Low||Moderate to high|
|Difficulty w/Installations||Easy, no venting needed||Easy to moderate|
|Operating Convenience||Easy w/remote control||Easy w/remote control|
|Maintenance||Essentially none||Every few years by a certified tech|
|Lighting Effects||Many color options||Some units to enhance ember bed and back & side refractory|
|Operating Expense||low to high||Low to moderate|
|Efficiencies||100%||Up to 85%|
|Sizes and Styles||Many||Many|
|Equipment & Installation Costs||Low||Moderate|
|Flames||Lights and mirrors||Real|
|Can Operate Without Power||No||Yes|
|Design & Décor Possibilities||High||Moderate|