How Much Does it Cost to Run a Gas Fireplace?


One thing’s for sure – a gas fireplace sure makes having a real fire in your living room easy. There may be nothing to beat a wood fire, but after a few days of raking out the ashes, setting a new fire and lighting it, some of the magic has gone. You can’t beat the convenience of simply turning a knob and getting instant flames. No-fuss, no hassle, no waiting and no mess. And no hauling wood! What’s not to like?

We’ve come a long way from the days of blue flames and obviously artificial logs. Today’s gas fireplaces boast flickering red and yellow flames playing over logs you would swear were the real thing. They come in three types:

Log sets: just gas burners that sit in an existing fireplace. They look good but don’t give off much heat.

Inserts: For those who want to replace a wood-burner with something easier to use.

Built-ins: can be sited anywhere.

Both inserts and built-ins provide real heat, just like a wood fire. All three can be found in versions that either need an outside vent or are completely vent-free. If you want a living fire in your home, a gas fireplace is a perfect solution for any situation.

How much does it cost to run a gas fireplace?

The other great thing about gas fireplaces is that they are pretty cheap to run, and natural gas about the least costly power source available. The amount of gas a fireplace uses depends on the model, but is often measured in the arcane-sounding British Thermal Units.

One BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Alternatively, the figure is given in kilowatts, with one kilowatt equal to 3,412.14 BTU per hour. You’ll find your gas fireplace’s fuel consumption figures in the manual and almost certainly on the fire itself.

If you look at your gas bill, you will discover that gas is measured in “therms.” One therm is the same as 100,000 BTU. So, to determine the cost of running your gas fireplace, simply divide its BTU rating by 100,000 and multiply that figure by the cost of a therm.

Is it cheaper to run a gas fireplace or a furnace?

A gas fireplace and a gas furnace use the same fuel source, but that doesn’t mean they cost the same to run as both efficiency and heat output are part of the equation.

A modern furnace is more efficient in turning gas into heat than a gas fireplace. This means that although a furnace costs more to run per hour than a gas fireplace, it turns more of that energy into heat and can warm a whole house rather than a single room.

A well-maintained furnace will have an efficiency rating of approaching 95%, while a gas fireplace is likely to be below that (though some are in the 90% class) and will therefore cost more per therm. Bear in mind that a real wood fireplace has an efficiency of just 30%.

How much does it cost to run a gas fireplace per hour?

So, in figures, how much does a gas fireplace cost to run? The BTU rating of gas fireplaces varies widely depending on make and model. Let’s say, for example, that a gas fireplace uses about 38,000 BTU/h when fully on. That means it is going to use (38,000 ÷ 100,000) 0.38 therms an hour.

The average price of natural gas in the US in 2020 was around $11 per thousand cubic feet 1, equating to about $1.06 per therm. That means that a 38,000 BTU gas fireplace costs approximately $0.40 an hour to run.

The price you pay for natural gas fluctuates depending on market conditions, time of the year and where you live. For example, natural gas costs more in Florida 2 and Massachusetts than it does in Texas or Indiana and is usually more expensive in the summer than in the winter.

How many hours can you run a gas fireplace?

It won’t harm a gas fireplace if you have it on 24/7 so long as it is properly vented. However, there are some risks. While a properly sealed and vented gas fire should not cause a threat, there is always a chance, however slim, that a fault will lead it to emit carbon monoxide into the living area. Carbon monoxide is tasteless and odorless but is very dangerous. When inhaled, it stops your blood from receiving enough oxygen and causes headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains and nausea. Eventually, you may pass out or even die.

This threat of poisoning is why the advice is always to turn off your gas fireplace when you go to bed, however chilly it gets. It is just not worth the risk. In any event, every home should have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors fitted and correctly maintained.

Do gas fireplaces give off heat?

Although log sets give little heat, both inserts and built-ins are good providers of warmth. They give radiant heat and suck in cold air. In fact, glass-fronted gas fires built into a wall or hearth are a very efficient way of heating a room and rival furnaces in their ability to convert power into heat.

Open front gas fires not only look good but can be over 70% efficient, while glass-fronted models may reach nearly 90% with a few high-efficiency types going into the mid-nineties. Modern gas fireplaces are far better than wood burners in the heating stakes and all at the touch of a remote.

Can a gas fireplace heat a whole house?

A gas fireplace is not designed to heat a whole house. While some variants are very good at heating a room, even a large one, heating a whole house is not feasible. Even if you designed a unit with the capacity for large-scale heating, it would need some sort of distribution system to get to every room. That’s what central heating systems are designed to do.

It is better to think of gas fireplaces as alternatives to wood burners – a single heat source that gives a room a focal point and makes it feel cozy. If you have gas fireplaces in more than one room, they will certainly contribute to the overall warmth of your home, but they are not meant to be a stand-alone substitute for a centralized heating system.

What is the most efficient gas fireplace?

In terms of heating efficiency, the ultimate gas fireplaces have to be ventless models that require no connection to the exterior. Instead, they use a catalytic converter, similar to the one in your car engine, to remove harmful emissions. They also feature a self-monitoring system that detects if the room's air quality deteriorates, as it would if the catalytic converter were to malfunction. In this event, the fireplace would shut itself down. Although they are somewhat limited in power compared to fireplaces that need a vent, they are close to 100% efficient in turning energy into heat.

Is the cost of a gas fireplace worth it?

Gas fireplaces start at a few hundred dollars but can cost thousands – plus the cost of fitting. Whether that’s for you depends on your situation, but there is no denying that a modern fireplace using natural gas for fuel is cheap to run and almost maintenance-free.

While a wood fire may have a nostalgic place in our hearts, a gas fireplace is ultimately far more convenient and creates no mess or smoke. They also provide instant heat and flames at the touch of a button.

If you look around, there are gas fireplaces for every style imaginable, from the quaint and old-timey to the ultra-modern and slick. Whatever decor you prefer, there will be a gas fireplace that fits right in and makes the room more comfortable, snug and welcoming.

Gas fireplaces have come of age. Technology has allowed designers to reimagine the fireplace and make it once more the center of the room. They can be installed anywhere, and a vent is no longer mandatory. Heat, movement and ease of use – a gas fireplace can make an ordinary room into a remarkable space, one that feels friendly and relaxing.

A gas fireplace has all the charm of a traditional fire with none of the drawbacks. The products available today are an efficient and sophisticated answer to heating and style. There can hardly be a room that would not be improved by the installation of a gas fireplace.

Sources:


  1. eia.gov/naturalgas/monthly/pdf/table_03.pdf 

  2. eia.gov/dnav/ng/ngprisumaEPG0PRSDMcf_m.htm