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What to Know When Buying Gas Logs

When we asked some eFireplaceStore.com customers recently what their most pressing concerns were when presented with the process of selecting gas logs online, the results surprised us. We expected mostly technical questions, but what we heard were statements like "I don't know how to get started", "All of the gas logs look the same", and "I'm afraid that I'll choose the wrong gas logs and I won't be able to use them or they won't work right". After considering our customers' concerns, we decided the best approach was to provide a simple, straightforward walkthrough to take the guesswork out of the process of choosing the perfect gas logs. The good news is that if you're reading this, then that walkthrough is exactly what you've found! Without further delay, then, let's get started.

Natural Gas or Liquid Propane?

This part of choosing gas logs for your home is fairly simple, and many customers already have a fuel source in mind when they begin shopping. For those who don't, however, let's take a side-by-side look at the good and bad points of each fuel commonly used with almost all gas logs: natural gas and liquid propane.

Natural Gas Liquid Propane
Advantages:
  • Usually has a lower purchase price than propane gas logs
  • Lighter than air, dissipates into atmosphere after combustion
  • If your home already has appliances like a natural gas water heater or oven, natural gas logs will probably be an easy choice as your home is already set up for natural gas use
Advantages:
  • Contains more carbon dioxide than natural gas and burns nearly three times hotter
  • Can be operated independently of natural gas lines or appliances
  • Can be used in areas where natural gas service is unavailable
Disadvantages:
  • Must be hard-piped to any appliance from buried gas service lines
  • Natural gas service is not available in some areas
Disadvantages
  • Generally more expensive than natural gas logs
  • Usually requires installation of a dedicated tank outside of your home
  • Often requires contracting with a propane dealer to refill your tank

When deciding on which gas log fuel source is right for your home, remember this – natural gas service is not available everywhere and neither natural gas nor liquid propane are practical in every situation. Gas logs are almost always installed by a plumber or contracted gas log professional, so contact your local natural gas service provider or a local propane dealer before you purchase any gas logs.

Vented Gas Logs vs. Ventless Gas Logs

Now that you’ve solved your fuel dilemma we can tackle the other major question: which gas logs make more sense in your home – vented gas logs or ventless? Once again, this doesn’t need to be as intimidating a question as it can sometimes seem, but you do need to have your facts straight before you make a decision.

The basic principle separating the two types of gas logs is that (not surprisingly) vented gas logs require some means of venting the combustion by-products and exhaust resulting from the burning of any kind of fuel, and ventless or vent-free gas logs do not. In practical terms this means that lots of things (including some heat) go up the chimney or out the vent pipe when using vented gas logs, and almost everything (especially heat) is contained in the home when dealing with vent-free logs. Let’s take another side-by-side look to compare the two types:

Vented Gas Logs Ventless (Vent-free) Gas Logs
Advantages:
  • Generally less expensive purchase cost compared to ventless logs
  • Ideal for homeowners seeking ambiance from their gas logs as opposed to heating capacity
  • Venting allows for a much higher yellow flame than vent-free logs, creating a more realistic-looking flame
  • Does not require a carbon monoxide (CO) detector
  • Since these logs must be operated with an open damper, whatever smell is produced goes up the chimney
Advantages:
  • Much better heat output than vented gas logs, vent-free gas logs are much more suitable for heating a room or home than vented logs
  • Because the fuel must burn almost completely in ventless gas logs, they produce less pollution
  • Slightly less fuel consumption than vented logs
  • No requirements for venting and can be used in a fireplace or in a self-contained cabinet
Disadvantages:
  • Provides significantly less heat than ventless gas logs (probably won’t fully heat most rooms)
  • Usually uses slightly more fuel than vent-free logs
  • Requires a chimney or other venting system
Disadvantages:
  • Burning fuel cleanly produces moisture, so ventless gas logs introduce some moisture into the home’s atmosphere
  • Burning vent-free gas logs gradually depletes the oxygen in the area, so burning them for long periods of time requires cracking a window, allowing in oxygen and some cold air that can offset some heating benefits
  • Illegal in California and some municipalities, so check your local regulations. Also, vent-free gas logs must be used with the vent open
  • Require an ODS (Oxygen depletion system) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector in the home
  • Smaller, less realistic blue flame compared to vented gas logs
  • Can produce a slight odor most people compare to burning kerosene (although many customers report enjoying the light odor)

As you can see, there are positive and negative aspects to both vented and ventless (vent-free) gas logs. Every home and every homeowner has different requirements. Bear in mind that there are legal requirements involved with either type of gas logs in many municipalities, so check with your local gas and housing authorities before purchasing. After that, though, the above information should give you a good indication as to where to begin when choosing the right gas logs for you.

Read part 2 of our guide about choosing which size gas logs to install.

Read part 3 of our guide about selecting gas log accessories.

What to Know When Buying Gas Logs
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