Fireplace Buying Guide

A fireplace is a fantastic addition to homes. Beyond simply offering warmth in the cold winter months, its aesthetic appeal provides a homey atmosphere whenever friends or family gather around the fireplace.

In this guide, we explore the three main types of fireplaces and gas log sets, the pros and cons of each, installation, usage and more.

3 Main Types of Fireplaces & Gas Log Sets

There are three types of fireplaces: gas, electric and wood-burning. Gas fireplaces have the option of vented or ventless gas logs, depending on the setup of the fireplace. Some gas fireplaces also have the option of using glass instead of log sets for a contemporary look.

We carry complete gas and electric fireplace systems as well as customizable fireboxes. Fireplace systems, like the White Mountain Hearth VFD26FM30 Vail 26” Special Edition Vent Free Fireplace System with Mantel, come with everything you need (gas logs, burner, firebox), while a standalone firebox requires you to purchase gas logs and other components separately.

Gas Fireplaces

For those who are seeking the allure and aesthetic of a wood-burning fireplace without the cleanup and hassle, a gas fireplace is the way to go. The ease of use and minimal maintenance benefits of this type of fireplace make it a solid pick.

With such a wide variety of gas fireplaces and gas logs available, choosing a unit that reflects the aesthetic design of your existing interior and fits your budget is entirely doable.

Regardless of which type of gas fireplace you choose, it’s wise to have your fireplace serviced annually by a qualified gas professional. This will help keep your family and home safe and ensure optimal performance from your fireplace.

Price range: Vented gas fireplaces range in price from about $1,000 to $3,000, while vent-free gas fireplaces are a bit less expensive (ranging from about $750 to $2,500).

Vented gas logs range from about $325 to $1,500. Vent free gas logs start around $250 and can go above $1,200.

All About Gas Fireplaces

Why are these fireplaces 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 a controlled flame, gas fireplaces are much safer to operate than their wood-burning counterparts.
  • 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 about gas fireplaces and their associated costs, see our blog entry:

Top Picks for Gas Fireplaces 

The White Mountain Hearth DVLL41FP92N Boulevard Contemporary Direct Vent Fireplace installs directly into a wall or mantel for a contemporary look. This modern gas fireplace offers plenty of room for customization, including decorative glass and pebble options and termination/blower kits. 

The White Mountain Hearth VFD32FB0L Deluxe 32 Breckenridge Vent-Free Firebox makes a great solution for those who want to convert their existing firebox into a gas fireplace. With no venting required, this vent-free gas fireplace solution features a narrow design that’s perfect for tight spaces. (Note - this model does not include gas logs and burner, but these can be selected and added on the product page.)

Gas Log Sets

Buying your first set of gas logs only has a couple of factors to include, and shouldn’t be a hassle. You’ll need to know your fuel source, whether you need vented or ventless, and just a few other important things. Gas log sets can either be used in an existing wood burning fireplace or a gas log firebox. We’ll discuss the different types and features below. 

Vented vs Ventless Gas Logs 

The term gas logs refers to a gas burner covered by artificial wood made either of ceramic fibers, ceramic clay, or refractory cement. Each of these composites is designed to withstand high heat and resemble natural wood as closely as possible. Each set usually includes a burner system and a grate. Gas logs are especially versatile because they can be used in a pre-existing wood fireplace, making installation requirements minimal. 

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, wood burning fireplace.

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. Vented gas logs also have the option to burn brightly with little heat, which means you can enjoy the appearance of a fire on a summer evening without heating the house. 

Cons: Vented gas logs are less efficient than ventless logs and require more fuel to operate. 


Ventless gas logs 

Ventless gas logs 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 fireplace 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 vented 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 nice as vented gas logs. 

Some log sets, like White Mountain Hearth’s 24″ Sassafras Gas Log Set, are available in both vented and vent-free configurations. 

For a more detailed comparison between vented and ventless gas logs, see our blog entry:

Propane or Natural Gas Logs? 

Before choosing a fireplace, you need to determine the source of your fuel, as you’ll be purchasing your logs to match your source. If you’re not sure which you have, propane is usually delivered to your home and stored in a tank outside. Natural gas is delivered by an underground pipe directly to your home. When purchasing a gas log set, you’ll be able to choose the appropriate gas type for your installation.This is important as burners cannot be converted from one fuel type to another. 


Gas Logs Size 

Sizing is important when it comes to gas logs. 

Log sets that are too large will overcrowd or not fit in your fireplace, and gas logs that are too small will leave your fireplace looking sparse. But choosing the wrong size gas logs for your fireplace affects more than aesthetics. Improperly sizing gas logs can impact your equipment’s ability to operate properly. Buying a log set that is too large may cause your fireplace to overheat, leading your gas log system to malfunction.


How to Measure a Fireplace for Gas Logs 

When measuring your fireplace, take the following metrics into consideration: Rear Width (A), Depth (B), Front Width (C), Height (D). 

To understand what size gas logs you need, you’ll need to take a few different factors into consideration, including the size of your fireplace and the size of your gas logs’ fuel control system. 

Step 1: Measure Your Fireplace 

The first thing you’ll need to do is measure your fireplace. Begin by measuring the front width, back width, height, and depth of your fireplace. In order to accommodate gas logs, your fireplace should be at least 12-14 inches deep, although some options are available for fireplaces as shallow as 9.5 inches

Step 2: Ensure Proper Clearance 

Next, you’ll need to pay attention to something that can be easily overlooked: the clearance needed for your gas logs and equipment. You’ll also want to make sure to take the size of the fuel control system (i.e. pilot light or manual on/off valve) into consideration. All of our product listings will list the specific minimum clearance requirements for each log and burner system. 

Step 3: Measure Gas Logs 

Once you know the size of your fireplace and how much clearance you’ll need for your gas logs and respective equipment, you can measure your gas logs for your fireplace. The length of your gas logs should not exceed the width of your fireplace.


Gas Logs Styles 

Once you’ve determined the above factors, the next step is to decide the appearance and overall ambience you’d like your new fireplace to provide for your home. And while selecting “more charred” logs vs. “less charred” might seem silly or unnecessary, it’s an essential part of the process. And so is determining the type of material your gas logs will be made from. 

For more information about the different gas log sets and styles, see our blog entry:


Gas Log Materials 

Manufacturers use molds of actual wood to create the realistic look of gas logs, whether made from ceramic fiber, ceramic clay, or refractory cement. Each material is rated to withstand high amounts of heat, and you shouldn’t need to replace your gas logs for at least 2-5 years, depending on frequency of use. A good way to determine when your gas logs need to be replaced is to keep an eye on their appearance; if they seem faded and start to show signs of wear and tear or are beginning to crack or crumble, it’s time to replace them. 


Things to Keep in Mind:

Ceramic gas logs tend to last a little bit longer than cement logs due to their high heat rating, and won’t fade with long-term use as quickly as the cement ones. Consider replacing cement logs after about 2-3 years of frequent use. Ceramic logs can usually go 3-5 years before being replaced. 

Some ceramic gas log models are reinforced with steel bars to keep them from cracking and bending, and will make them even more durable in the long run.

As for their safety and efficiency, see our detailed entry here:


Gas Logs Appearance 

You want your gas logs fireplace to appear as natural as possible. Fortunately, there’s a lot of realistic models to choose from, and in the end, it’s going to come down to your personal preference and the ambience you want to create in your home. Some gas log sets come with “extras”, like wood-style grates, glowing embers, or sand granules for placement beneath the logs themselves. Keep in mind that some sets are aesthetically designed to be viewed from all sides, and work particularly well in island, peninsula, or see-through type fire boxes, so placement of your gas logs is important as well. Most sets are designed to prevent controls from being visible, and this is especially true of any designed for fireboxes that are see-through. 


Top Picks for Gas Log Sets 

If you’re looking for a realistic charred log set, the White Mountain Hearth Whiskey River Vented/Vent Free Gas Log set is a great choice. These refractory logs are available in 18”, 24”, or 30” sizing to ensure the right fit for your fireplace, and the set can be used in either a vented or vent-free unit. Each log is hand-painted, which provides nuanced details that are extremely realistic and every set is made up of 7 logs total. Flames shoot up between the logs and also glow like embers from beneath, providing the perfect resemblance to a real fire and offering plenty of warmth. 

With sizing options the same as the Whiskey River set, the Everwarm Low Country Timber Gas Logs is a versatile model made of refractory cement. Designed specifically for vent-free units, this gas log set also has the option to add a remote (when purchased with the millivolt burner), giving you easy control over your heating source from anywhere in the room. Lightly charred effects on the highly durable logs bring a realistic and cozy feel. 

If you’ve been trying to find the perfect gas log set for your peninsula or see-through firebox, the White Mountain Hearth Rock Creek set is it. Hand-painted refractory logs provide a realistic look from any angle. Size options are available, and the number of logs included in the set varies with sizing (18” – 9 logs, 24” and 30” – 11 logs). Designed for use with a vent-free firebox, the flames flicker around and through the logs much as a real fire would, and you can choose the propane or natural gas option, which gives you even more freedom.

For more gas fireplace and log set options, refer to our Brand Guide:

Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces are no stranger to the skeptics who wonder how great a flameless fireplace can actually be. There are many benefits of owning an electric fireplace. When comparing the difference between gas and electric fireplace units, however, there are two major distinctions:

1. The flame. Using an innovative LED light system coupled with strategically configured reflective mirrors, electric fireplaces create a remarkably realistic illusion of a true fire without the mess or the hassle of a wood-burning fireplace, and without the hazard of a real flame. 

2. The option to enjoy a fire with or without heat. Because the flames are just reflected light, the heating component may be switched off separately, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of dancing orange flames all year long. It’s important to note that electric fireplaces should be used as supplemental heat sources, since they don’t offer as much heat as gas fireplaces. Most electric fireplaces only put out about 4,500 BTUs of heat. 


5 Benefits of Electric Fireplaces 

1. Electric fireplaces are more environmentally friendly 

Dimplex fireplaces operate using their patented LED flame technology, which means there is no combustion (and therefore no carbon monoxide or other particulates or emissions released into the air), no smoke, smog, soot, or ash, and no need to rely on the use of natural resources such as wood, coal, or fossil fuels. Electric fireplaces make for overall better indoor air without compromising the outdoor environment, and are 100% energy efficient, converting all input energy to heat for enjoyment without the waste. 

2. Electric fireplaces are more cost-effective than regular-burning fireplaces 

Aside from electric heating being exceptionally easy and cheap to install, an electric fireplace will provide you with outstandingly low lifetime costs. All of Dimplex’s electric fireplaces cost between 1 and 4 cents an hour to operate without heat, and less than 9 cents an hour to operate with heat cycling at 50%. Because there is no need for wood or coal, the money that would otherwise be used to replace fuel and combustion materials stays in your wallet as well.

3. Electric fireplaces require less maintenance and concern 

No cutting, stacking, or handling firewood; no sweeping out partially burned wood and ashes; no chimney sweeping; no manual combustion or any effort to light the unit beyond the click of a button; no risk of explosion, accidental fires, or carbon monoxide poisoning. Dimplex electric fireplaces are constructed to ensure the utmost safety and convenience for you and your home, saving you time and money and taking your mind off of everything except that stunning electric flame.

4. Electric fireplaces are a good fit for any indoor space 

Electric heating is exceptional in that it does not require a flue or pipe-work for installation, and therefore concern over building codes and regulations is virtually obsolete. Flexible and versatile, electric fireplaces can be installed almost anywhere in any room, allowing for freedom of design and ideal “zone heating” solutions (heating the rooms you use the most as opposed to the entire house or only where the pipe-work allows the fireplace to be installed). Electric fireplaces are available in many installation types: wall mount, floor standing, mantels, stoves, as well as media consoles, and are available with traditional log sets or contemporary glass or rock beds. 

5. Electric fireplaces can be enjoyed year-round, not just in the fall or winter 

Keep the ambience – ditch the heat. Unlike opting for gas or wood-fueled fireplaces, going electric gives you the choice of enjoying the flame with or without the option of heat, allowing you to enjoy the look of a fire even when the feel of one is not needed or desired. While non-electric hearths become abandoned in the heat of the summer, the flame from your electric fireplace can keep going strong. 

For more information about electric fireplace advantages in terms of safety and efficiency, visit our blog entry:


3 Electric Fireplace Disadvantages 

Electric fireplaces are not reliable as a sole heat source. Because electric fireplaces don’t emit as much heat as gas or wood burning fireplaces, they’re ideal as supplementary heat, not as a primary heat source. 

Electric fireplaces do not offer as much ambience as other types of fireplaces. Since electric fireplaces do not utilize real flames, they can appear cheap or fake to some homeowners. 

Electric fireplaces cannot be used in a power outage. It should go without explanation that if the power goes out, you won’t be able to use your fireplace. 


Other Details about Electric Fireplaces 

For further customization of an electric fireplace’s aesthetic, our electric fireplaces come featured with either a set of sculpted logs or a glass ember bed. The glass ember bed option, as seen in Dimplex’s BLF50 Synergy 50″ Wall-Mount Landscape Electric Firebox, creates a captivating contemporary feel that’s perfect for dining rooms and restaurants, while the logs give off a rustic vibe ideal for family rooms and vacation homes. 

Electric fireplaces do not require a pre-existing hearth for installation, as many electric fireplace units may be purchased with a mantel. Or, perhaps you would like to save floor space and opt for a wall-mount electric fireplace instead. No matter your vision, we’re sure to have a style you’ll love. 

Price range: Electric fireplaces are typically much more affordable than gas fireplaces. They range in price from about $99 to $2,500. 


Top Picks for Electric Fireplaces 

The Dimplex PF3033HG 33” Multi-Fire XD Electric Firebox offers a blend of both contemporary and classic fireplace features. A glass ember bed (available in multiple colors) adds an elegant and modern look, while built-in energy saving features help you reduce electricity consumption. 

Gas vs Electric Fireplace 

Though fundamentally different as night and day, gas and electric fireplaces actually have quite a few shared benefits between them. 

Both gas and electric fireplace units offer a safer alternative to wood-burning fireplaces, producing heat and ambience without the threat of dangerous sparks jumping out of the hearth. Gas fireplaces produce minimal emissions compared to wood-burning fireplaces, while electric fireplaces do not produce emissions at all. 

Furthermore, because gas and electric fireplaces do not rely on burning wood, they are able to provide consistent heat for as long as you want or need, not just for as long as the logs remain burning. A simple On/Off switch, for both fireplace types, also significantly cuts down on the time (and frustration) it often takes to ignite a wood-burning fireplace. 

If you’re still not sure which option is best for you, consider these main points before making your decision: 

  • Electric fireplaces are less expensive upfront and easier to install.
  • Gas fireplaces deliver more heat than electric fireplaces.
  • Electric fireplaces are more efficient than gas fireplaces.
  • Gas fireplaces more closely resemble wood-burning fireplaces.
  • Gas fireplaces will operate during a power outage.

Wood-burning Fireplaces 

A timeless favorite, wood-burning fireplaces, have been warming homes throughout the ages. Along with heat, wood-burning fireplaces offer a certain ambiance that’s equally as captivating as it is cozy. Plus, some people can’t get enough of the smell of a wood-burning fireplace! 

Although wood-burning fireplaces have stood the test of time in providing comfort and warmth for centuries, they do come with some drawbacks. 

When the fireplace burns wood as fuel, the wood emits carbon monoxide and other toxins in the form of smoke, which is expelled from the home through a flue or chimney. Consequently, much of the heat gets lost in the process, making wood burning fireplaces the least efficient of fireplaces. 

On top of losing heat through the flue, wood-burning fireplaces require a lot of upkeep. You’ll need to make sure you have plenty of wood on hand to warm your home, which means either chopping it yourself or going to the store to buy firewood. When the fire is burning, you’ll have to pay close attention to maintain its warmth by stoking and adding wood to the fire. You’ll also need to keep an eye on the fire to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand and cause a house fire. 

With the advantages and options available in gas and electric fireplaces many homeowners are opting to convert to a gas system or even install an electric fireplace instead. Since wood-burning fireplaces demand so much time, maintenance and attention, a gas or electric fireplace may prove to be a more efficient option overall.

A Few Tips to Using Your Wood-Burning Indoor Fireplace 

Cleaning/Preparing the Fireplace 

  • Checking for cleanliness is important as creosote from the logs starts to build up in the chimney.
  • Inspect your fireplace with a mirror and high-powered flashlight to check for dust, cobwebs, or discolored brick. Red or pink brick indicates no creosote buildup, as opposed to a black and furry substance all on the inside.
  • Creosote build-up can cause smoke from the fire to be pushed back into the room instead of up through the chimney, and so you will need to make sure your chimney is creosote-free before anything else. You can clean the chimney yourself with store-bought creosote remover, but we recommend calling a chimney sweep to give the fireplace one good, annual cleaning.

Also important to remember when preparing your fireplace for use, is to open the glass doors (if your fireplace has them) about 30 minutes before you intend to light your fire. Cold air builds up in the space inside your fireplace when the doors are closed, and if this space isn’t given time to warm up a bit you’ll be left with a downward draft that will push smoke back into your room. Allowing the space inside your fireplace to warm to room temperature pushes the draft up, so the smoke goes where it should – up and out the chimney. Unfortunately, much of the heat tends to go up and out the chimney as well. 

Choosing the Wood 

Softwoods like maple, elm, or sycamore may work to give you a big, bold outdoor fire, but are not well-suited for indoor use because they create less-contained flames and more smoke. For indoor fireplaces, choose hardwoods like oak, hickory, ash, or locust. Hardwoods burn slower and create smaller flames, but that’s exactly what makes them better and safer for indoor use

(Pro Tip: Never use woods like pine for an indoor fire, as the sap can create a sticky build-up in the chimney and congest the flue over time). 

Building the Fire 

First, reach into the chimney and open the damper. This does the very important job of preventing smoke from pouring back into the room. 

Next, place two logs (split side facing down) on top of the grate so that they’re parallel, not touching each other – space between the logs is very important to ensure proper air circulation. Place two more logs diagonally on top of those logs, split side facing down and, again, with space between them. Place shredded newspaper under the grate to act as kindling. 

With a long match (many stores sell specialty fireplace matches, but an oven match will work as well), light the kindling and keep a close eye on the flames as they work their way on to the logs. 

As the fire spreads and burns more of the log, you may notice the flames start to get smaller. When this happens, carefully use the fireplace poker to shift the position of the logs, so the fire can reach new parts of the wood. If you find the flames are still getting smaller as a result of this, simply (but carefully!) throw a new log on top.

Extinguishing the Fire 

If you quit adding new logs, the fire will eventually extinguish itself, having no fresh wood to catch on to. Pouring sand on the flames will speed up the extinguishing process, though, and it may be a good idea to throw some sand on seemingly extinguished logs anyway, just to make sure. 

Once you are absolutely positive all fire and sparks are out and the ash is cool, use your handy-dandy fireplace tools to sweep the ash from the fireplace and grate, and dispose. Never dispose of hot ash, for obvious safety reasons. 


Comparison Summary 

While wood-burning fireplaces have their place in the world, they don’t offer the convenience compared to gas and electric fireplaces. If you’re looking for a clean, safe and efficient heat source, consider adding an electric or gas fireplace to your home this season. You’ll be able to enjoy a reliable source of heat without sacrificing the ambience that comes with a cozy fire. 

For a more detailed comparison between the three fireplace types, read our blog entry:

If you have any further questions about choosing the best fireplace for you, please contact us and a member of our team will be happy to help. 

We hope this guide has made the fireplace buying process easier, but if you still have questions please do not hesitate to reach out to us, or contact us at 877-847-005! Our trained sales representatives are here to help you through the entire process, from sizing your rooms all the way through installation questions. We know you will love your new fireplace, whether it's traditional, gas, or electric!