Linear Fireplace Buyer's Guide
Looking for a low maintenance modern gas fireplace? Linear fireplaces (also called ribbon or contemporary fireplaces) are an increasingly popular option. This is not only due to their striking style, but also the sheer number of models and options available. More than half of the new electric models are linear, along with growing numbers of gas models.
Both gas and electric linear fireplaces function in much the same way as traditional fireplaces. We'll give an overview of linear models, including some of the options that might differ from standard models. We'll also cover design features, common installation preferences, maintenance tips, and even some brand recommendations.
What are Linear Fireplaces?
Linear fireplaces (both electric and gas) are shaped like a long rectangle. The short, wide shape lends itself to a modern style and shows off your display of fire glass or other forms of fire art. Linear gas fireplaces usually feature one (occasionally two) rows of flames.
A long, shallow burner tube spans the length of the model and creates a row of flames. The units are typically mounted at eye level for the greatest impact. The height of the flames depends on the model and can range from 2 to 12 inches.
Reasons to Consider a Linear Gas Fireplace
- Nova Electric Fireplace
Linear fireplaces dominate the category of modern gas fireplace appliances. Unlike traditional fireplaces that offer modern styles as an afterthought, linear fireplaces were designed with a modern aesthetic from the beginning. You'll find a wide variety of artistic options and high-tech features to complement your modern decor.
Linear fireplaces put more emphasis on reflective media like fire glass or fire art. Select and combine materials to create a unique display for your fireplace.
The interior of the fireplace is usually coated with reflective material to dramatize the light from the fire. Interior LED lights allow you to enjoy the aesthetic of your fireplace even when the flames are not turned on. It helps keep the unit from looking like a "black hole" when not in use. Many LED systems offer many colors that you can adjust manually or through a smartphone app.
Types of Linear Fireplaces
There are three main categories of linear fireplaces: vent-free gas, direct vent gas, and electric. The electric options are often the most versatile because there is no need to supply a gas line. Within each category, there is a wide range of styles and options with indoor and outdoor models.
Vent-Free Gas Linear Fireplaces
- Linear 50 Inch Gas Fireplace
As the name implies, vent-free gas fireplaces do not need a chimney or venting system. Instead, they burn fuel so efficiently that the tiny amount of byproduct leftover can be vented into the room. This is convenient, but there are some limitations to consider.
First, you need to install any vent-free gas appliance in a room that has enough space and ventilation. Manufacturers will specify the necessary space requirements for each model. This is to ensure that the fireplace has enough oxygen without depleting the room's supply. Even though the smoke and byproduct the fireplace releases are minimal, you need enough space for ventilation.
Vent-free gas appliances are not recommended for anyone who is especially sensitive to air quality. This includes people with asthma, severe allergies, or bronchitis.
- Lit fire pit with glass media
Gas linear fireplaces have special features to keep an even flame height across the width of the burner. Without them, the flames would burn high near the gas input and taper down near the other end. Some manufacturers progressively enlarge the holes in the burner the farther they are from the gas input. Another option is to divide the burner into different sections and supply separate gas feeds to each section.
Vent free gas linear fireplaces are usually limited to approximately five feet long. This is due to the fact that the vent-free models are limited to 40,000 BTU input ratings. The limit helps maintain safe oxygen levels since high BTU appliances consume more oxygen. A BTU input of 40,000 can only maintain an even flame level for about five feet. If the burner stretched beyond five feet, the flames farthest away from the input would begin to falter.
Direct Vent Gas Linear Fireplaces
- Superior Direct Vent 42 Inch Linear Fireplace
Unlike vent-free models, direct vent fireplaces require an outside vent. The dual vent pipe has a larger outer pipe to draw oxygen from outside and a smaller pipe to vent exhaust. The venting pipe can be routed vertically or horizontally. The interior portion of the fireplace is completely sealed off so the air exchange is through the outside vent.
Since the oxygen supply and exhaust vent are routed to the outdoors, there aren't any BTU limitations. As a result, manufacturers are able to produce larger burner designs. However, there is still a balance between design and overall heat output. Large direct vent fireplaces with high BTU ratings run the risk of making small rooms uncomfortably hot. Pay attention to the heat output ratings when choosing a fireplace for a particular room.
Check out our Buyers Guide on gas fireplaces for more information about how these models work.
Control Options For Linear Gas Models
Modern decor often goes hand in hand with cutting-edge technologies. It's common for manufacturers to show off their latest control options on the linear gas models. While plenty of models still operate with a basic on/off switch, many companies such as Napoleon , Empire , and Superior offer higher-end control systems.
Some control systems are product specific. A good example is the SIT Proflame II all-in-one remote. The remote controls the heat settings, flame height, circulating blowers, and pilot light. It also controls the ambient LED interior lights.
Another popular option is having control via an app on a smart device. A good example is Napoleon's eFIRE remote app. It controls the same features as the SIT system but is compatible with smart devices and home automation systems.
How Are Gas Linear Fireplaces Installed?
Gas linear fireplaces require a gas line and 120-volt electrical power. They are often framed into the wall at eye level. The manufacturer will provide detailed instructions regarding the framing and support. Some models are quite heavy. We recommend at least three people to lift the fireplace into position.
- Gas valve on/off switch
It's important to note which side the gas line connects to. The low profile and crowded components make it difficult to route a flexible gas supply line through the bottom of the fireplace. Manufacturers often offset the gas valve to the far left or far right of the unit. This way you can connect the gas line without weaving it through the length of the unit. Ideally, the gas line supply should be on the same side as the gas valve of the unit.
The same consideration applies to electronic components. The outlet for the electronics is usually mounted to one side of the fireplace. It's best to make sure the power is routed to the correct side of the unit during the framing process.
Electric Linear Fireplaces
Electric linear fireplaces provide an excellent aesthetic. They may not have the heating capabilities of gas linear fireplaces, but they are versatile and cost-effective. Developing technology has produced models that are both lifelike and reliable. Electric fireplaces are often inexpensive and easy to install. They also have no size restrictions due to heat output.
For those who want a little extra warmth, there are models equipped with a heater. Typically the heater is controlled separately from the flame display so you can choose whether you want flames with or without the heat.
Most 120-volt models generate up to 5,000 BTUs. A handful of 240-volt models exist that produce 10,000 BTUs. The heating element and blower assembly is shielded by the facade of the unit. This protects from accidental burns, making it safer for homes with pets or children. The lower BTU output also allows you to install the fireplace closer to combustibles.
The appeal of modern electric fireplaces is partly due to the high quality LED lighting systems. Some models offer over a dozen color options so you can pick a color that suits your mood or decor.
Linear electric fireplaces have a shallow media tray in front of the lighting display. The tray allows you to customize with different sizes and
colors of fire glass or stones.
Control Options For Electric Linear Fireplaces
Most electric linear models have similar control features to their gas counterparts. Basic models without multiple LED color options or heaters will have an on/off switch or a touch screen control panel on the front of the fireplace. More advanced models include more lighting and heating options and a handheld remote.
How Do I Install an Electric Linear Fireplace?
Electric linear fireplaces are both easy and versatile to install. You don't need any gas lines or vent system. All you need is an outlet and the right framing or mounting hardware. We recommend hiring an electrician to install an outlet behind the fireplace to conceal power cords.
If you frame the unit into the wall, you can route an electrical circuit for the fireplace during the framing process. With a wall-mounted unit, it is ideal to install a recessed outlet behind the unit prior to installation. Some models are configured to be hard-wired instead of plugged into an outlet.
You can use an existing electrical circuit if there is not a heavy demand on that circuit, but it's better to use a dedicated circuit. A certified electrician should easily be able to route a dedicated circuit to supply your appliance.
- Mounting bracket
Wall-mounted linear fireplaces come with a mounting bracket and a template for hanging the fireplace. The spacing for the fasteners usually accommodates wall studs that are either 16 or 24 inches apart. It's always best to attach the mounting bracket to wall studs. If you must anchor to the sheetrock only, we recommend using screw-in or toggle-bolt style anchors. Some units are heavy enough that they require wall studs and cannot be anchored to sheetrock alone.
Electric linear fireplaces are lighter than gas linear fireplaces, but they are still cumbersome to mount. We recommend at least two people to install the unit into the framed opening or wall mount.
You can find more information in our guide to electric fireplaces.
Outdoor Linear Fireplaces
The linear fireplace market has a growing number of outdoor options in both the gas and electric category. Because there is no oxygen limitation, the 40,000 BTU limit for vent-free models does not apply to outdoor units. (Covered patios or outdoor rooms with windows or doors that could restrict air supply still may fall under the BTU restrictions.)
A linear fireplace makes the perfect anchor for your outdoor living space. These units are similar to their indoor counterparts but more weatherproof.
Vent Free Linear Outdoor Fireplace
- Napoleon Clearion 50 Inch Electric Fireplace
Gas outdoor fireplaces that are single-sided and fit in a free-standing enclosure or wall are usually vent-free. Stainless steel promotes longevity and a spark ignition system prevents pilot light outages. The 40,000 BTU limitation does not apply in outdoor spaces with unrestricted oxygen supply. With the extra BTU output, it's easy to find larger models with higher flame height.
Direct Vent Linear Outdoor Fireplace
Some direct-vent linear options are available as see-through models. This means they are open on both sides and designed to be installed into a wall between two rooms, with the fire visible from both rooms. Some see-through models were designed for indoor use but can be retrofitted for an indoor/outdoor installation.
- Vector Linear 50 Inch Fireplace
For example, you could install the fireplace in an outside wall of your home. One side could face an interior room and the other could face the outdoor living area. The retrofit pieces include a frame and/or glass front to protect the outdoor side of the fireplace. The extra protection also helps insulate the fireplace.
Electric Linear Outdoor Fireplaces
Outdoor electric linear fireplaces have just started taking hold in the market. The electrical components in earlier models were not able to handle constant moisture. Manufacturers turned to weatherized components to make newer outdoor models weather tight. They also modified the design to protect the interior and components from wind-driven rain.
- Superior - This manufacturer offers a variety of both direct vent and vent free linear models to fit most applications. Inclusive control options, heat dispersal systems, and dazzling media options make for a strong complement to any contemporary decor scheme.
- Flare - With fireplaces that are built in a modular expandable chassis, Flare models offer very low profile and clean view fireplaces that have some of the largest and unobstructed viewing areas on the market. Their units are also available in a large range of configurations, such as see-through, peninsula, and bay styles.
- Amantii - Electric linear fireplaces have grown in popularity by leaps and bounds in recent years. Amantii has taken advantage of this trend by building a monumental offering of linear models that use cutting edge flame presentation technology and control options. Few electric manufacturers can match the development prowess of Amantii electrics.
- Empire - An early player in the gas fireplace industry, Empire soon realized the potential of linear fireplaces and developed the now extremely popular Boulevard series of linear direct vent and vent free gas models. Offering broad viewing areas, a range of liner options, and unique media kits, the Empire Boulevard series continues to be a strong seller.
Maintenance Tips For Linear Fireplaces
Maintenance for linear models follows the same principles as other gas and electric fireplaces. The best advice is to read and follow the manufacturer's care and maintenance instructions for your particular model. Other basic tips include checking the venting and dusting the components.
Electric models are the simplest to maintain. Periodically clean the glass and vacuum the interior to keep it looking like new. You should also check that the electrical wires are in good condition with no rodent damage or fraying.
Vent-free linear fireplaces should have an annual inspection to check the components. You can also remove the access panels and vacuum any dust buildup.
With direct vent linear fireplaces, check to make sure the vent pipe termination isn't damaged or clogged. You can also inspect the gas valve components to make sure they stay free from dust and debris. The glass is removable and can be cleaned with a water-based cleaner.
Outdoor models may need more frequent maintenance since they are exposed to more dirt and debris.
How Will My Linear Fireplace Ship?
Because both gas and electric linear fireplaces tend to be large, they can be cumbersome to ship. To prevent damage, manufacturers and suppliers ship the units via freight/LTL carrier. They also use specialized skids or crating to protect the units.
- Wall-Mounted Linear Electric Fireplace
Linear fireplaces are a trademark of modern fireplace design. With both gas and electric models and a host of sizes and styles, you'll be able to find the right one for your space. You can customize it even further with all of the great fire media and LED light settings.
It's hard to go wrong with a linear fireplace. Just make sure you choose one that is rated for the space you intend to install it. If you go too big, you may end up with way more heat than you want!
As always, if you have any questions about gas or electric linear fireplaces, reach out to our NFI Certified Specialists. We love helping customers find the perfect appliance for their home!
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Linear Fireplaces Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
from San Diego asked:
August 16, 2020
Can I recess my direct vent linear gas fireplace by 2" into the wall?
Typically, no, the unit should be flush with the wall.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on August 17, 2020
from Whittier, CA asked:
June 27, 2020
Do you need makeup air from outside to the fireplace?
Direct vent gas fireplaces utilize the outer wall of a double-wall direct vent gas pipe to provide combustion air for the fireplace. Vent-free models utilize room air for combustion, but these are not permitted for installation in California.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on June 29, 2020
from London asked:
April 23, 2020
Can I replace my glass bead flame with a log set?
Whether or not you can make such a conversion will depend on the manufacturer and model information of your fireplace and/or burner assembly.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on April 24, 2020
from Ontario, CAN asked:
January 8, 2020
How well does a gas fireplace heat up the room?
Different types of gas fireplaces provide heat in different ways; some more than others. For more information, please see our Gas Fireplace and Stove Buying Guide
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on January 8, 2020
from email@example.com asked:
June 14, 2019
Do you have a 36” linear Vent-Free gas fireplace with a blower?
While we do have a couple of 36" linear vent-free gas fireplaces, they do not offer an optional blower. For the most part, linear vent-free units do not offer blowers, as opposed to the traditional style models with log sets.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on June 17, 2019
from Los Angeles asked:
March 12, 2019
I am looking for a gas fireplace with the depth of max 12" Linear 40" wide. What options do you recommend?
Unfortunately, the minimum width in linear units that we carry is 13 3/4". I apologize for any inconvenience.
on March 12, 2019