If you’ve ever relied on a wood-burning fireplace for heating, you know how frustrating that can be. It seems to take forever for the room to get warm, but gas fireplaces can give you the heat that you need instantly – you need to strategize to make sure that you are getting the most out of it.
Today we’ll talk about gas fireplaces and what kind of heat you can expect from them. We’ll also help you determine what you need to know to calculate the size of the heater you need, how a gas fireplace compares to other heating strategies, and finally, how to maximize the heat you can enjoy from a gas fireplace solution.
Let’s explore the benefits of going with gas!
Do Gas Fireplaces Give Off Heat?
Yes, gas fireplaces give off heat, but only when your gas fireplace is on, and the gas is burning. The heat produced from the fireplace comes directly from the burning gas flame. If you have a fireback, which is a large piece of metal (typically cast-iron) that goes behind your gas flames to collect heat, then your fireplace will still radiate heat after you turn it off.
Otherwise, when the gas is off, so is the heat.
How do Gas Fireplaces Work to Heat a Room?
Gas fireplaces heat your room by igniting gas to use as fuel, so it is providing you heat from a controlled flame. Further, a good fireplace will have a series of vents behind the combustion chamber so that the air is circulated to create a convection current that will heat your room to make it nice and toasty.
How Much Heat do Gas Fireplaces Produce?
Depending on the model of your gas fireplace, you can expect a heat output ranging between as low as 7000 BTUs or as high as 60,000. This BTU rating assumes a base set temperature of about 72 degrees from a primary heating source, central heating, and well-insulated windows.
In the absence of another heating source, you’ll need to do a few calculations to get a better idea of your gas heater’s heated area and overall efficacy. In the next section, we’ll outline this to have the basic math needed to ensure that you are getting sufficient coverage.
What Size Room does a Gas Fireplace Heat?
There are 2 easy ways to determine how much space a particular gas heater will heat adequately. The first is a ‘ballpark figure’ method based on the size of the gas heater. Here is what you can expect as a heat output baseline by the fireplace size:
- Small – A small gas fireplace will typically heat an area of 500 square feet.
- Medium – A medium fireplace should heat an area of 500 – 1000 square feet.
- Large – A large heater will generally be sufficient for a 1000 – 2000 square foot area.
- Extra-large – An extra-large fireplace will be good for 2200 feet and up (check with the vendor for model-specific information)
The second way to get an idea of the minimum BTU you will need to heat a particular room is to measure it. Get out your tape measure and write down the following measurements:
Multiply these 3 numbers together, and this will give you the area of the room. For instance, let’s say you want to heat your living room, and it’s 15 feet wide by 20 feet long and 10 feet from floor to ceiling. We multiply 15 x 20 x 10, and this gives us a square footage value of 3000.
Multiply this number by 4, and you’ll have the minimum BTU that you will need. In the case of this example, 3000 x 4 gives us a minimum requirement of 12,000 BTUs.
How Long does it Take a Gas Fireplace to Heat a Room?
One of the advantages of a gas fireplace is that it works quickly. When you turn on the fireplace, the ignitor instantly lights the gas, and you start getting heat right away. Think of it as a wood fireplace without the waiting.
Instead of lighting some paper to ignite the wood and having to wait 15 or 20 minutes for the wood to reach optimal combustion, you switch on your gas fireplace and enjoy the heat right away!
Electric Fireplace vs. Gas Fireplace
If we want to compare an electric fireplace to a gas fireplace, then consider a few things. First off, an electric fireplace is quite similar to a portable electric heater. Rather than a real flame, the electric fireplace vents warm, heated air out from the heater at its core and produces a simulation of flames for aesthetics.
This heats the room slower than a gas fireplace would, as gas employs an instant and very real flame through the combustion of the gas.
Both are pretty easy to install, so there is nothing special to compare in this area, but that brings us next to running costs. While a gas fireplace is warmer and warms the area faster, it can be more expensive to run than an electric fireplace.
A big part of this will be that your electric fireplace typically runs with a ‘smart thermostat’ that can adjust output as needed to help minimize costs. That said, as far as overall heating, you will usually get more heat and faster heat from a gas fireplace solution.
Finally, there is the safety factor. Gas fireplaces will heat the glass doors in front of the fireplace so that they will certainly be hot to the touch, whereas an electric stove is made from insulating materials, and the only heat will be coming from the vents.
You also don’t have to store gas in the house, and there is no risk of leakage, so this is a factor for some as well. However, with yearly inspections, aside from the heated glass, you shouldn’t have any issues with the gas.
The lines can be inspected each year in the fall, and using your gas fireplace is just as safe as a gas stove, which most of us have used for years without a problem.
Gas Fireplaces vs. Central Heat
When comparing gas fireplaces to central heat then we need to keep things in perspective. A standard gas fireplace will likely not perform as efficiently as centralized heating unless you are going with a balanced flue gas model and implement some circulation and insulation measures to get the most out of your heat.
If you DO, then a gas fireplace is appreciably cheaper to heat the house than centralized heat. Still, if you are not getting that air circulated and insulating against heat loss, your gas fireplace will be best suited as a ‘supplemental’ heat source.
In an ideal scenario, central heating would be used to establish a base temperature in the house, while your supplemental heating strategy would be gas fireplaces in one or more of the most commonly used rooms.
This ensures that energy costs are lower, as central heating wouldn’t have to do as much work, while the cheaper gas solution ensures that the popular rooms of the house are always nice and warm.
Without taking measures to ensure proper circulation of your gas fireplace heat, central heating is generally cheaper because it employs a smart thermostat model that can adjust as needed to keep the house at the temperatures you have set.
You can heat a house entirely by a gas fireplace strategy. Still, unless you use some circulation and insulation strategies, it will be more expensive than central heating, not less.
Gas Fireplaces vs. Space Heaters
If we compare a gas fireplace with a space heater for heating a room, gas is typically going to win out every time. This is because they will produce more heat, which is instantaneous, whereas a space heater takes a moment to warm up.
The only area where a space heater shines is that it is portable, so you can move it to any room that you need. It works similarly enough to an electric fireplace, sans the flame effect, but as far as heating and cost of operation, the gas heater will always be the clear winner.
How to Get More Heat from Gas Fireplace?
You can upgrade your gas fireplace with a few simple strategies that will help you get more heat from the gas fireplace. Here are some tips that can give your gas fireplace a huge power upgrade:
- Chimney damper – Think of this as a ‘lid’ for your chimney. A chimney damper will help to keep heat from leaking out of your chimney vents so that it will stay inside – where you need it.
- Glass doors – Glass doors further help contain the heat and should come with your gas fireplace, but if you don’t have them, you should get them. They look good and give an extra insulation barrier.
- Consider window film – Adding extra insulation to your windows will help to keep that precious heat in during the winter, and an inexpensive way to do that is insulating window films.
- Room to room fans – You can install room to room fans in doorways to draw heated air and move it around the house in a controlled-current strategy. This will improve the range of your gas heater, as, without circulation, a lot of your heat will rise to the ceiling when it could be instead circulated throughout the house.
- Firebacks – We mentioned these briefly, but they are worth a second mention. Get a fireback; they are worth it! All you need to do is put it behind where your gas flames will be burning, and it will absorb heat during burn-times. When you turn off the gas heater, the collected heat will continue to radiate from the fireplace to keep the room warm in the absence of the flames.
Today we’ve explored gas fireplace performance in-depth so that you can determine which size you will need to heat a room adequately and also what strategies you may employ, such as a fireback or room to room fans for circulation, to get the best performance out of your gas fireplace.
We recommend that you use it as a supplemental heat source rather than your primary heating source, but if you want to use the gas fireplace as a primary source anyway, use our tips to upgrade your insulation and create a circulation strategy to ensure your success. With a bit of proper planning, you can look forward to being warm and toasty this winter!