Top 5 Gas Fireplaces Reviews and Buying Guide

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When most consumers think of purchasing a gas fireplace, the cost is one of the first things to come to mind. While it can be an expensive endeavor, you may not need to break the bank. It all depends on your existing system at home, the location, and whether you are remodeling or building something entirely new. The best gas fireplace could simply be a highly efficient insert or a completely new fireplace depending on your needs.

The Best Propane and Natural Gas Fireplaces

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American Hearth Boulevard VFLB60SP

American Hearth Boulevard VFLB60SP

  • Fuel: Natural Gas
  • Style: See-Through
  • Venting: Ventless
  • BTU: 40,000
  • Dimensions: 12”H x 60”W x 11”D
  • Warranty: Tiered
Empire Tahoe

Empire Tahoe

  • Fuel: Natural Gas
  • Style: Built-in
  • Venting: Direct Vent
  • BTU: 26,000
  • Dimensions: 37.6”H x 39”W x 19.8”D
  • Warranty: 3 years
Pleasant Hearth VFF-PH20NG

Pleasant Hearth VFF-PH20NG

  • Fuel: Propane
  • Style: Freestanding
  • Venting: Ventless
  • BTU: 20,000
  • Dimensions: 38.7”H x 35.7”W x 26.5”D
  • Warranty: 2 years
Duluth Forge FDF400RT

Duluth Forge FDF400RT

  • Fuel: Duel Fuel
  • Style: Freestanding
  • Venting: Ventless
  • BTU: 32,000
  • Dimensions: 44”H x 44”W x 15.7”D
  • Warranty: 1-year
Cal Flame FRP906-2-1

Cal Flame FRP906-2-1

  • Fuel: Propane
  • Style: Outdoor
  • Venting: N/A
  • BTU: 55,000
  • Dimensions: 59”H x 48”W x 38”D
  • Warranty: 1-year

With more than a half-dozen styles, three vent types, and hundreds of sizes to consider, choosing the best natural gas or propane fireplace can be a tall order for even the experts. Part of the reason is because of the variables involved with installing a gas-powered fireplace, but also due to the fact that everyone has different tastes and décor. With that in mind, here are five models we feel represent the best fireplaces from a number of different areas.

#1 American Hearth Boulevard Linear Fireplace

The Best See-Through Fireplace

American Hearth Boulevard VFLB60SP

American Hearth is one of Empire’s sub-brands, and they have one of the larger lineups of contemporary and modern fireplaces. That includes several see-through models like the VFLB60SP, a large linear fireplace an excellent array of features.

This fireplace hails from American Hearth’s collection of linear fireplaces dubbed the Boulevard series. With a width of 60”, it will take up a large portion of your wall and has a see-through design compared to traditional fireplaces. That means you can install this fireplace between two rooms indoors or on an exterior wall if you want an indoor/outdoor fireplace.  

The VFLB60SP will breathe new life into any room of your home, and the vent-free nature of this system allows for more flexible installation options. It’s not the most high-powered unit on our list at 40,000 BTUs, but homeowners felt it put out plenty of heat. This efficient fireplace has an intermittent pilot light with a thermostat variable remote control, but it’s most eye-catching feature lies between those two panes of glass.

American Hearth installed a row of LEDs beneath the stainless steel burner on this fireplace, and they are programmable. When combined with colorful crushed glass in the bottom of this system, it puts on quite the show. There are a variety of accessories available for this fireplace as well, including liners, log sets, glass media, and trim kits. More information on what’s included, along with rough-in measurements, can be found here.

Our Verdict

It’s hard to beat this Boulevard when you’re interested in a see-through fireplace that will be the centerpiece of any room. Well, two rooms considering the design. While this fireplace does come with non-combustible boards, standoff brackets, and almost everything you need to get started, you’ll need to purchase glass for the bed separately. That’s disappointing given the price, although the tiered warranty is a bonus with a limited lifetime and 5-year guarantee on certain components.

#2 Empire Comfort Systems Tahoe Premium Fireplace

The Best Direct Vent Gas Fireplace

Empire Tahoe

You don’t have to look hard to find a gas-based fireplace insert but typically need to turn to a specialty retailer for a true built-in fireplace. Empire is one of a handful of brands that have systems available through many major retailers, and the Tahoe is one of the best options for a direct vent fireplace.

The Empire DVP36FP30N Tahoe is an all-in-one system designed for homeowners that want a gas fireplace that vents outdoors. Whether it’s through your old chimney or a new vent, this fireplace is rated at 83% efficiency due to the design. It’s powered by natural gas and won’t require any power to keep you warm during a power failure.

You will need to purchase venting for this fireplace, but it is top or rear vent field convertible. The power range is listed from 18,000 to 25,000 BTU and adjustable through controls hidden behind the lower louvers. It also has a standing pilot with a millivolt valve control on/off switch. Framing dimensions for this fireplace are 37.75”H x 40.37”W x 19.87”D, while the vent is 4” x 6.62”.

Empire has included a large tempered glass viewing window with this fireplace. It has a herringbone liner with burn umber ceramic fire bricks and comes with four ceramic fire logs. An electrical junction box is included, but you’ll need to pay extra if you want a sturdy set of double doors, a door frame, or a barrier screen.

Our Verdict

When you have existing venting or a non-functioning fireplace and aren’t a fan of basic inserts, fireplaces like the Empire Tahoe are an excellent choice. It’s well-built with a design that will far outlive its warranty and has a great price point. That said, you’ll need to keep additional costs like mantels and surround kits in mind, along with the price of the installation itself.

#3 Pleasant Heart Compact Vent Free Fireplace System

The Best Free Standing Propane Fireplace

Pleasant Hearth VFF-PH20NG

Freestanding fireplaces typically have a similar style. While it would be easy to mistake this system from Pleasant Heart with fireplaces from other brands, this fireplace has a compact design that’s ideal for rooms up to 700 square feet.

This fireplace has a traditional design that’s in-line with the FDF400RT from Duluth Forge. It’s thick at 26” deep, but shorter than that fireplace and only 35” wide. It’s one of the lighter standalone units of this size, considering it only weighs 98 pounds. You can move the Pleasant Hearth VFF-PH20LP with ease but still need to consider placement as it’s designed to work with 100 pound or larger tanks.

With dual burners and a rating of 20,000 BTU, this fireplace won’t have any trouble heating small to large rooms. It doesn’t have a remote, but you can manually adjust the temperature with a thermostat dial with five settings. It’s the same setup found on gas wall heaters, but in a far prettier package and with two installation options.

This unit is designed to sit flush against a wall or in a corner. It comes with a corner piece, fire screen, and a set of ceramic logs. There is also an optional blower in the GFB100 if you want to extend the range of this fireplace. This particular model is available with a Heritage finish, but Tobacco and Cherry are options as well.

Our Verdict

While we couldn’t find many reviews on this exact model, similar systems from Pleasant Hearth have received rave reviews. We like the compact nature of this fireplace and the included corner piece along with the 2-year guarantee. You cannot do a field conversion on these fireplaces, however, so you’ll want to be sure of your fuel source beforehand.

#4 Duluth Forge Dual Fuel Freestanding Fireplace

The Best Dual Fuel Gas Fireplace

Duluth Forge FDF400RT

A freestanding fireplace is an excellent choice when you don’t have a chimney in your home or need supplemental heat in a room. The Duluth Forge FDF400RT is one of the best freestanding models around, and it’s our pick for the best dual fuel fireplace as well.

This fireplace has a style that will add a touch of class to any room in your home. The exterior is lightly distressed with a furniture grade finish and a decorative mantel featuring a walnut and ash burl inlay. There are two metal doors with ember mesh on the front of this fireplace and a slot for an optional blower at the bottom.

Duluth Forge has this fireplace listed at 32,000 BTU, and it can handle areas up to 1,500 square feet. As it’s vent-free, installation is a breeze, and it’s rated at 99.9% efficiency. An ODS sensor is included for safety, and it will start in seconds thanks to a piezo ignition. Homeowners felt that it’s well-built, and Duluth assembled and manufactured this fireplace here in the USA.

Some assembly will be required for this fireplace, and you’ll need to consider placement beforehand as it tips the scales at 188 pounds. It leaves a fairly small footprint behind, however, at 44”H x 44”W x 15.7”D. This fireplace works with natural gas or propane at elevations up to 4,500 feet and comes with a remote along with six hand-painted ceramic fire logs.

Our Verdict

Duluth Forge put together an attractive fireplace with the FDF400RT, and it provides a great value for the price given its size, design, and the fact it can use natural gas or propane. Several consumers had issues with the remote control, but that is the only drawback to the freestanding fireplace. This versatile system comes with a 1-year warranty and is available in nine different finishes, including Antique White, Nutmeg, and Slate Gray.

#5 Cal Flame Propane Gas Outdoor Fireplace

The Best Outdoor Fireplace

Cal Flame FRP906-2-1

One of the drawbacks of installing a new fireplace or remodeling one is installation. It can double the cost of your initial investment, but that isn’t the case with every model. The FRP906-2-1 from Cal Flame is a unique all-in-one fireplace, and it’s the best bet for the outdoors when you want to forgo a professional installation.

Cal Flame designed this fireplace with the Mediterranean in mind featuring a coastal vibe with a stucco finish made from durable Ameristone. An extended base provides some additional height between the floor and the fire box and porcelain tile. There is a small slate ledge at the bottom with a matching mantle at the top, while the arch on the front is made from simulated stone.

While this fireplace's exterior gives it a somewhat delicate appearance, it’s constructed on a 16 gauge galvanized steel frame. The firebox itself is 36” wide and made from metal with fiberglass panels, and includes an 18” grate in the bottom. This particular model doesn’t have a chimney, but the vent is hidden beneath the small platform on top of the fireplace.

The FRP906-2-1 ships configured to work with propane but also comes with a natural gas conversion kit in the box. Also included are lava rocks and a ceramic log set featuring eight 18” logs. This fireplace is fairly compact considering its style at 48”W x 38”D x 59”H, and heavy with a weight of 550 pounds. There are close to a half-dozen variants of this outdoor fireplace, depending on your budget and sense of style.

Our Verdict

An outdoor fireplace is the next step up from a fire table and an amazing way to quickly transform any outdoor space. The Cal Flame FRP906-2-1 isn’t what most would consider cheap, but well worth it, given the build quality and size if you dig the Mediterranean vibe. It can be tough to find these in stock online, so local big box stores with an online presence are often the best bet.

How to Find the Best Gas Fireplace

Given the cost of a gas or propane fireplace, it pays to do your research and know what you’re getting into before pulling the trigger. With close to a dozen styles of fireplaces, that can take a considerable amount of work. With that in mind, we have written a condensed buying guide so that you’ll know what to look for before purchasing a new fireplace or dealing with a talkative salesperson.

Will you use Natural Gas or Propane for your Fireplace?

It’s possible to find fireplaces that use natural gas or propane, but you typically need to pay a premium for these dual-fuel systems. Some will come with a conversion kit, while others are not field convertible, so it’s wise to think about the fuel source.

If you already have a natural gas line running to your home, the choice should be a very simple one. If you are converting a wood-burning fireplace or installing a brand new unit, it’s time to compared natural gas to propane.

Propane

When you need portable heat, propane is the best option, and it’s greener than natural gas and other fuels. It won’t contaminate the water table and is considered eco-friendly before and after it’s used. Propane fireplaces can cost just as much as one that burns natural gas, but the systems themselves are usually cheaper to install.

Propane is delivered to a fireplace through a line that comes from a propane tank, which usually ranges from 20 to 100 pounds. Storage and refilling the tanks can be an issue, as can delivery fees if you live in a remote region. When the tank runs dry, you run out of heat until your supply is replenished. The cost of propane varies depending on where you live and the season, but it produces more heat than natural gas.

Natural Gas

With natural gas, you will always have heat on demand once your line is connected. You pay for what you use, and the cost also varies by the time of year and your location. That said, it’s cheaper than propane in many parts of the United States, and the only real option if you plan to use your fireplace throughout the year.

While you won’t have to deal with storing tanks, the cost to have a natural gas line run to your home can be expensive. Both propane and natural gas are highly combustible but safe when your fireplace is properly installed and maintained. Propane has a slight edge, however, as you’re not connected to your neighborhood's gas grid, and there are no lines or meters to deal with.

Fireplace Venting

The next area we feel homeowners should address after settling on a fuel type is ventilation. A fireplace that burns natural gas or propane won’t put out smoke or hot embers, but their invisible emissions can be deadly.

Proper installation is only half the battle with a gas-based system, as venting impacts both safety and efficiency. Even if you have a chimney in place from a wood-burning fireplace, there are a variety of ways fireplaces are vented.

Vent-Free Fireplaces

Any gas fireplace that has been labeled as ventless or vent-free doesn’t need to be vented outdoors. They can be standalone units that don’t require any installation or basic fire boxes, which are ideal for new construction or remodeling. They are the most efficient style of fireplace because of its enclosed design, which can burn at 99.9% efficiency, but they are not without their problems

With this type of fireplace, cool air is pulled into the firebox from the room before being returned to the same area as heated air. Moisture is produced through this process, which can cause issues with condensation or mildew over time. While vent-free fireplaces are designed to burn cleanly and shut down if oxygen levels in a room drop too low, they aren’t the safest option.  

Direct Vent Fireplaces

A direct vent fireplace uses air from outside of your home to complete the combustion process while venting moisture and anything harmful outdoors. Natural gas or propane fireplaces differ from gas-based heaters as they have an enclosed firebox for additional safety. It’s the best choice for homes without a chimney as a direct vent fireplace can be vented through a wall or roof with a small pipe.

The downside to these fireplaces is efficiency, as they aren’t as efficient as a completely sealed vent-free fireplace. The installation process can be more costly, depending on the style of the fireplace and how you choose to vent the system as well.  There aren’t as many stylish options with direct vent fireplaces, but they are the safest type of system for indoor use.

B-Vent Fireplaces

B Vent Gas Fireplace

The last type of venting is called B-Vent, but is also referred to as natural venting. Fireplaces designed in this style use an existing masonry chimney to vent a gas fireplace. Their design is inefficient, and it’s estimated that you can lose up to 80% of its efficiency. They are among the most affordable styles available, however.

A natural vent fireplace is an excellent choice for homeowners looking to convert a non-working wood fireplace into something serviceable. They don’t produce as much heat as a direct vent or ventless fireplace and are often simple fire boxes or gas-burning inserts.

Types of Fireplaces

Now that you understand venting, it’s time to take a look at the type of fireplaces available. We’re not talking about style either, but the type, which includes compact models and long linear fireplaces. We aren’t going to cover them all, but here are the most popular options for residential use.

traditional or classic B-Vent fireplace

Traditional Fireplace

Traditional – A traditional or classic B-Vent fireplace can come in a variety of styles, but all have a standard square or rectangular form factor. That includes flush mount systems with clean trim and both direct vent and vent-free fireplaces. They are a great idea when you want a gas system that looks like a wood-burning fireplace, and there are a variety of freestanding models in this class as well.

Liner Fireplace

Liner Fireplace

Linear – Linear fireplaces have grown in popularity and leave a lasting impression in any room. These fireplaces are usually standard height or shorter but have an extremely wide opening. It’s not uncommon to find linear fireplaces from 40” to 80” wide or more. While this style is pricey due to the size, they have longer burners, and there are a variety of models with a see-through design.

Peninsula fireplaces

Peninsula fireplaces 

Peninsula – When you want something more modern than a traditional fireplace but not as wide as a linear system, Peninsula fireplaces should be at the top of your list. The name says it all for these gas fireplaces, which have three glass sides and a fire brick back wall. These fireplaces typically range between 36” to around 40” in size and are priced at a premium because of their hybrid design.

Outdoor fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces

Outdoor – Outdoor fireplaces fall into two distinct categories. There are freestanding models that you can place anywhere outside and ones that serve as an insert for other structures. You can build around these units or buy all-in-one fireplaces complete with chimneys. This is where you can find unique alternatives that can be seen both inside and outside of your home.

Fireplace Inserts Fireplace inserts have been around for over 100 years and are the most affordable way to make an old wood-burning fireplace more efficient. These units can slide into a spot from an existing masonry fireplace or as the base for an all-new fireplace in your home. They are popular choices for homes with zero-clearance or factory-built fireplaces as well.

Ignition Type

Gas and propane fireplace are far easier to use than a wood-burning fireplace, which means you’ll never have to fight to start a fire again. Gas fireplaces have ignition systems that work alongside a valve in your fireplace to ignite a fire. While all of these systems serve the same purpose, they start fires in a completely different fashion.

Match Lit Ignitions

Gas fireplaces are relatively low-tech with a valve, burner, and a few other simple parts that allow you to light and control the fire. The simplest way to start a fire in a gas fireplace is with a match lit ignition. There are no moving parts to deal with, and no electricity is required. That keeps the cost down along with the overall maintenance, but there are several drawbacks.

Match Lit Ignitions

Match Lit Ignitions

You won’t find a safety system or pilot light on this style of ignition, and you can’t control them remotely. They are found on affordable fireplaces that use natural gas and require you to manually adjust the gas valve to change the flame height or turn the fireplace on and off.

Standing Pilot Ignitions

The most common type of fireplace ignition found on fireplaces is called a standing pilot or millivolt system. You don’t need a match for these fireplaces, as they have a small pilot light inside that stays lit. It also has a safety feature that will shut off the flow of gas to your fireplace in the event the pilot light goes out.

Standing pilot ignition system

Standing Pilot Ignitions

A safety pilot ignition system is required on any fireplace that uses propane for fuel, but popular on natural gas fireplaces as well. They cost more and still require you to leave the couch to adjust the heat with a dial, although some models are designed to work with a remote control.

Electronic Ignitions

Having a fireplace with a pilot light adds an extra measure of safety, but an electronic or IPI ignition takes things a step further. They can still shut off the gas if there’s a problem but can also attempt to reignite the fireplace. It keeps a constant eye on your system but is the most expensive type of ignition.

IPI ignition

IPI ignition

The disadvantage of this style aside from the price is the fact they require electricity at all times. That said, you’ll save some money as the intermittent pilot doesn’t stay on constantly as with a standing pilot ignition. While there are battery-powered options, the best systems are hardwired for peace of mind and can be controlled through wall switches and remotes.

Fireplace Features

As you can see from the choices on our list, a quality fireplace isn’t exactly something most consumers would consider cheap. Part of the price of a fireplace goes into the materials used in its construction and how well it’s built.  The other half comes down to features, and there are some interesting alternatives if your budget isn’t tight.

Controls are the first and arguably the most important feature on a fireplace. They can be hidden behind a panel and largely come down to the type of ignition you choose, but several models come with electronic remote controls. When purchased as an add-on, those remotes can be quite expensive, and the same goes for fireplaces with blowers.

A blower will help spread heat throughout a room, which is important considering gas-powered systems don’t produce as much heat as a wood-burning fireplace. They are included on some fireplaces and one of the few accessories that can be added afterward in some cases. An ODS sensor should be standard for safety purposes, but thermostats are hit or miss. LED lighting is popular but comes at a premium and is typically only found on see-through systems or Peninsula fireplaces.

Fireplace Safety

When you purchase a new fireplace, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of information in the owner’s manual, including their safety tips. While you should read those carefully and follow them to the letter, there are a few general rules everyone needs to keep in mind when using a gas fireplace.

When purchasing a natural gas fireplace, don’t install it yourself. It can be tempting to save the money, but hiring a licensed professional is well worth the cost. They can also address any issues that arise during the installation process, and there could be plenty depending on whether it’s a fresh installation or you’re renovating an existing fireplace.

Whether the fireplace is direct vent or ventless, invest in a high-quality carbon monoxide detector. It’s also important to check the building codes for the city or county where you reside before purchasing a new fireplace. They vary from state to state, and it’s important to have your chimney cleaned and inspected beforehand as well.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a new fireplace for your home is exciting, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the number of options available. If you follow the tips in our guide and keep your budget in mind, you should have no trouble finding the perfect gas fireplace for your home.

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