Gas vs. Electric Fireplace Comparison Guide

Deciding between a gas or electric fireplace can be a difficult choice. Both offer distinct advantages and disadvantages that are important to weigh when selecting the right fireplace for your needs. This comprehensive guide examines the key differences between gas and electric fireplaces to help you make an informed decision.

How They Work

The primary difference between gas and electric fireplaces is the fuel source they use to produce flames and heat.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces utilize natural gas or propane as their fuel source. The gas is burned to create realistic-looking flames and heat. The gas line is plumbed directly to the fireplace.

There are two main types of gas fireplaces:

  • Vented – Vented gas fireplaces are installed with a chimney or vent that releases exhaust outside. This allows for more heat output but requires professional installation and venting.
  • Ventless – Ventless gas fireplaces, also called zero-clearance fireplaces, do not require venting to the outdoors. The flames are fully contained inside the fireplace and use room air for combustion. The heat output is lower than a vented gas fireplace.

Gas fireplaces use a pilot light to ignite the gas flame. The amount of gas flow can be controlled with a valve or remote control to adjust the flame height and heat output.

Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces use electricity to power flames and blowers that circulate heated air into the room. There is no actual fire inside an electric fireplace. Instead, they utilize:

  • Glowing embers – Electric coils or “embers” that glow and resemble burning coals.
  • Flame effects – Light projections or LED/LCD technology is used to mimic the movement of realistic-looking flames.
  • Blowers – Internal fans forced heated air into the room. The heat is generated from the heater inside the electric fireplace.

Electric fireplaces are available as built-ins or wall-mounted units. Many offer flame effects that can be used with or without the heat turned on.

Installation and Maintenance

Installation and maintenance requirements differ quite a bit between gas and electric models.

Gas Fireplace Installation

Proper installation of a gas fireplace requires specialized skills. Gas lines need to be installed and ventilation may be required. Always hire a professional installer for gas fireplaces to ensure proper setup and safety.

Vented gas fireplaces require:

  • Installation of a chimney or venting system.
  • Framing an enclosure for the fireplace with protective hearth pad.
  • Running a gas line directly to the unit.

Ventless gas fireplaces are simpler to install as venting is not required. However, they still should be installed by a professional technician.

Electric Fireplace Installation

One of the biggest perks of electric fireplaces is how easy they are to install. Electric fireplaces can operate virtually anywhere with a standard wall outlet present.

Built-in electric fireplaces may involve some framing, but typically require much less construction than a gas fireplace.

Wall-mounted electric fireplace units can be hung on the wall in minutes. No professional installation required.

Maintenance and Repairs

Gas fireplaces require more frequent maintenance and repairs than electric models.

It’s recommended to have your gas fireplace professionally inspected and serviced annually. This involves:

  • Cleaning the pilot assembly and burner
  • Inspecting the venting system
  • Conducting a leak test
  • Testing the flame patterns

Repairs tend to be more complex and costly with gas fireplaces as you must deal with gas lines, valves, pilots, and ventilation.

Electric fireplaces have very little maintenance. The only part that may need periodic replacement are the glowing embers elements which can burn out over time. Any repairs needed are typically simple and inexpensive.

Heating Ability

When it comes to effectively heating a room, gas fireplaces are the undisputed winner.

Gas Fireplace Heating

Gas fireplaces offer superior heating capabilities, producing ample warmth for even large, open concept rooms.

Here are some key advantages of gas fireplace heating:

  • Produce more heat than electric with ratings of up to 50,000 BTUs.
  • Heat an entire open concept room effectively.
  • Heat is spread through convection and infrared radiation. Convection moves the warm air while infrared heats objects directly.
  • Adjustable flame height allows you to customize the heat output.
  • Heat output is not impacted by power outages.

With their greater heat output and ability to warm floors and objects, gas fireplaces are better at making a room feel warmer.

Electric Fireplace Heating

Electric fireplaces can provide supplemental zone heating, but cannot match the heating power of gas models.

Here are the heating capabilities of electric fireplaces:

  • Heat output ranges from 5,000 – 9,000 BTUs on average.
  • Primarily heat through forced hot air convection. Does not provide infrared radiation.
  • Best for heating smaller rooms around 400 square feet.
  • Heat turns off if power goes out.
  • Wall-mounted units direct heat forward in one direction instead of heating an entire area.

The lower heat output makes electric fireplaces best for providing some extra warmth and ambiance rather than fully heating a larger room.


When evaluating fireplace costs, you need to factor in both purchase price and long-term operation.

Gas Fireplace Costs

Gas fireplaces have a higher initial purchase and installation cost. However, they are less expensive to operate long-term than electric models.

Here are the typical costs for gas fireplaces:

  • Purchase price – $2,000 to $4,500 installed. Higher end custom builds can cost $6,000 or more.
  • Installation cost – $500 – $1,500 for venting, gas lines, framing the enclosure, etc. Done by a professional.
  • Operation costs – Gas fireplaces use natural gas or propane. Operating costs are around $0.40 to $0.90 per hour for propane and $0.25 to $0.40 per hour for natural gas.

Electric Fireplace Costs

Electric fireplaces provide a more budget-friendly upfront purchase price. However, the operating costs are higher long-term than gas.

Here are the typical costs for electric fireplaces:

  • Purchase price – $150 to $2000 depending on type and size. Wall units are most affordable while built-ins cost more.
  • Installation cost – Minimal, often $0 to $500 for built-ins. Wall units require none.
  • Operation costs – Average electricity cost to run is around $0.08 to $0.15 per hour, but can go higher with frequent use.

Over 5-10 years, the lower operating costs of gas fireplaces often offset the higher initial purchase and installation costs.


Both gas and electric fireplaces can provide beautiful flame effects and aesthetics. Here’s how they compare:

Gas Fireplace Aesthetics

  • Natural, realistic looking open flames.
  • Fireplaces with logs or stones provide an authentic look.
  • Wide variety of media options including logs, glass, river rock, steel/glass pan burners.
  • Flames and media bed are customizable with various colors and patterns.
  • Visually indistinguishable from wood-burning fireplaces.

Electric Fireplace Aesthetics

  • Electric flame effects have improved greatly in realism but still have an artificial look.
  • LED/LCD flames mimic the movement and color variations of real fires.
  • Media options are limited but some models have faux logs or stones.
  • Flame visuals only, does not provide the crackling sounds of a real fire.
  • Built-in electric fireplaces can closely resemble modern gas fireplaces.

If you want the most realistic fire aesthetics, gas fireplaces are the best option. Electric fireplaces trade off some realism for convenience.


Important safety precautions should be taken with both electric and gas fireplaces. However, gas fireplaces do require extra diligence.

Gas Fireplace Safety

Gas fireplaces involves an open flame and dealing with a gas fuel source. Adhere to the following safety tips:

  • Have the fireplace installed by a professional certified in gas fireplace installation.
  • Conduct annual maintenance and inspections.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near the fireplace.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Carefully supervise children and pets around the fireplace.
  • Turn off the gas supply to the fireplace when not in use for long periods.

Electric Fireplace Safety

Electric fireplaces offer some inherent safety advantages:

  • No worries about gas leaks, carbon monoxide, or open flames.
  • Surfaces remain much cooler than real fireplaces.
  • Child-safe since they don’t produce extreme heat.
  • Don’t require as much diligence for use around pets.
  • No need to completely turn off the power supply between uses.

However, electric fireplaces still produce heat and require basic precautions:

  • Keep away from curtains, furniture and avoid contact when hot.
  • Ensure no moisture gets into the unit which can cause electric shock risk.
  • Don’t leave operating unattended. Turn off when not in use.
  • Guard against pets or children knocking over a floor unit.
  • Follow all manufacturer safety notices.

Electric fireplace win in overall safety, but some care is still required. Gas fireplaces involve dealing with combustion and require the most safety considerations.

Environmental Impact

Electric fireplaces provide a cleaner, greener option over gas models.

Gas Fireplace Environmental Impact

Gas fireplaces have a greater environmental impact:

  • Burning natural gas or propane emits carbon dioxide, soot, and nitrous oxides.
  • Ventless models also produce moisture and combustion byproducts that remain in your home.
  • Not as efficient or green as other home heating options like a heat pump.

Electric Fireplace Environmental Impact

Electric fireplaces offer a lower carbon footprint:

  • No emissions or byproducts produced in your home.
  • Consider purchasing from a renewable energy provider. This allows your electric fireplace to be powered from 100% renewable sources like solar or wind.
  • More efficient than gas since all the energy is used to produce heat rather than lost through venting exhaust.
  • Greener than gas fireplaces or wood-burning fireplaces.

For the most environmentally friendly option, electric fireplaces are the better choice.


Both gas and electric fireplaces can provide soothing ambiance. Here’s how they compare:

Gas Fireplace Ambiance

  • Natural flickering flames provide mesmerizing ambiance.
  • Makes crackling sounds just like a real wood fire.
  • Flame height adjustment allows you to set the perfect mood.
  • Casts a warm glow throughout the room.

Electric Fireplace Ambiance

  • Many electric fireplaces offer life-like flames with vivid colors and variations.
  • Flame visuals can be used without the heat on.
  • Wall-mounted units don’t provide as much overall room ambiance.
  • Flame effects lack the natural movement and sounds of real fires.
  • Still provides a warmer glow than television or lamps.

For the most realistic and hypnotic fireplace ambiance, it’s hard to beat a real wood-burning or gas fireplace. But modern electric fireplaces can still provide enjoyable atmosphere.

Zone Heating Ability

Electric fireplaces have an advantage when it comes to effectively heating smaller spaces.

Gas Fireplace Zone Heating

Gas fireplaces are better at heating larger open spaces:

  • Distribute heat through both convection and infrared radiation throughout a room.
  • Not ideal for only heating a small zone area. Too much heat would be wasted heating an entire room.
  • Heat output cannot be easily directed to a specific zone.

Electric Fireplace Zone Heating

Electric fireplaces excel at heating specific spots:

  • Compact electric fireplaces can be installed almost anywhere.
  • Wall-mounted units direct heat forward in a zone right in front of the fireplace.
  • Perfect solution for heating a smaller seating area or reading nook.
  • Heat output can be precisely controlled for the zone you want to heat.
  • Operate without heating an entire large room.

If focused zone heating is your goal, electric fireplaces are likely the better choice. Their flexibility and compact sizing makes them ideal for heating smaller spaces.


One major advantage of electric fireplaces is their lightweight and portable design.

Gas Fireplace Portability

Gas fireplaces cannot be moved once installed without major work.

  • Permanently installed into framing and connected to gas lines.
  • Weigh over 100 pounds on average.
  • Removal requires disconnecting gas, removing framing, patching holes.
  • Impossible to take gas fireplace to another home.

Electric Fireplace Portability

Electric fireplaces offer excellent portability:

  • Wall-mounted units weigh 25-60 pounds on average.
  • Freestanding units have casters to roll from room to room.
  • Can be plugged into any standard wall outlet.
  • Easily taken with you if you move to a new home.

The ability to bring an electric fireplace to different rooms or homes makes them a versatile option.

Customization Options

You can achieve very different looks with gas and electric fireplaces.

Gas Fireplace Customization

  • Widespread options for media beds including various rock colors and shapes, logs, glass beads, river stones and more.
  • Can mix and match materials like logs on glass beads for unique look.
  • Customize flame patterns and colors with various reflective materials.
  • Inserts available for existing wood-burning fireplace openings. Requires venting.
  • New features like Wi-Fi app controls and lighting effects.

Electric Fireplace Customization

  • Media options are more limited but available such as faux logs, crystals, pebbles.
  • Fewer flame colors and patterns to choose from.
  • Wall units are framed with trim kits or built-in to your own custom cabinetry.
  • Can be combined with your own media like driftwood or stones for unique look.
  • Flame projection patterns can be changed on some models.

Gas fireplaces offer far more options for achieving a distinct fireplace look. But electric fireplaces can still be customized to complement your décor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gas and electric fireplaces both provide wonderful benefits, but have distinct differences. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about comparing gas vs. electric fireplaces:

Which provides more heat, gas or electric fireplaces?

Gas fireplaces provide far more heating power, capable of warming even large spaces. Electric fireplaces offer zone heating for smaller rooms.

Are electric fireplaces cheaper to operate than gas?

No. Electric fireplaces are less expensive to purchase but cost more per hour for everyday operation. Gas fireplaces are more costly upfront but cheaper to run long-term.

Can you put an electric fireplace where there was once a gas fireplace?

Yes, you can safely install an electric fireplace in a spot where a gas fireplace previously was. Just be sure to completely cap off the old gas line.

Do electric fireplaces give off carbon monoxide?

No, electric fireplaces do not burn fuel so they don’t emit any carbon monoxide. Only gas fireplaces produce carbon monoxide.

Which type of fireplace looks more realistic, gas or electric?

Gas fireplaces produce realistic open flames giving them an authentic look. Electric fireplaces have improved greatly but still look less natural.

Are ventless gas fireplaces safe to use?

Ventless gas fireplaces are safe when professionally installed. They use room air for combustion and limit oxygen depletion. But a carbon monoxide detector should still be used.

Can you mount an electric fireplace over a gas fireplace?

Yes, you can safely install a wall-mounted electric fireplace over an existing gas fireplace opening as long as the gas line has been properly disconnected and sealed.


When deciding between an electric or gas fireplace, there are many factors to weigh from cost to heat output to aesthetics and more.

Gas fireplaces offer a traditional open flame, ample heating capabilities, and unmatched aesthetics. But they do require professional installation, venting, and caution when using around children.

For their convenience, flexibility and affordable price, electric fireplaces make an appealing choice. While they can’t match the heating power of gas, they make up for it with portability and safer operation.

Carefully consider your heating needs, usage requirements, and décor goals. This will dictate whether a gas or electric fireplace is the best fit for your home and lifestyle. Both offer wonderful benefits that make them cozy additions to any space.