John enjoys home improvement projects that improve the quality of home living.
Why Replace a Propane Gas Log Fireplace?
One of the pleasures of life is sitting in a favorite chair beside the fireplace on a cold night, feeling the warmth of a fire and watching the flames.
Propane gas log fireplace sets provide heat and the illusion of a wood-burning fire. They are convenient -- all you have to do is turn on the fire with an igniter or a remote control. No need to bring firewood into the house, no stacks of firewood to maintain. No ashes to clean up after fire dies down.
That is why I once had a propane gas log fireplace.
Vented Propane Gas Fireplaces Produce Good Heat, but a Lot Goes Up the Chimney
I had recurring maintenance problems with my gas logs which I discuss later in this Hub. So I did a little research and here's what I found:
A propane gas log set can produce a lot of heat -- around 24,000 BTUs per hour for a 24-inch vented fireplace set. Most vented gas log sets and fireplaces are in the 20,000 to 60,000 Btu/hour range. Smaller and larger sets are available that produce a wide range of BTUs. You can feel the heat radiating out into your room. But . . . a lot of heat is wasted up the chimney.
A vented gas log fireplace insert in a wood-burning fireplace is required to have adequate venting. This means that the flue damper must be open when the fire is on. If the damper is fully open -- like for a wood fire -- then the efficiency of the gas log set is not much different than a wood-burning fire. Heated air, pollutants, and gasses from the burning propane rise up the chimney. Air from the room, already heated, is lost up the chimney in the draft. If you forget to close the flue when you're not using the fireplace, the loss of heated air continues.
Building codes probably require that a damper must be clamped in a slightly open position to allow sufficient ventilation. A 2-foot damper clamped open by 1/2 inch leaves a 12-square inch vent opening for your valuable heated air to escape up the chimney even when your firelogs are turned off.
Cost to Operate a Propane Gas Log Fireplace
It probably costs more that you think to operate your propane gas log fireplace set.
- Cost for burn -- Let's assume you turn on your fire mainly for aesthetic purposes -- 30 times a winter season for 5 hours at a time -- that's 150 hours of operation. The energy contained in a gallon of propane is about 91,500 Btus. If your fireplace set burns at a rate of 24,000 Btus per hour, then you're burning 39.3 gallons a season. Propane can cost around $3.00 a gallon. Do the math -- it costs $118 a year.
- Cost for pilot light -- Many experts recommend leaving the pilot light on all year. Otherwise, dust, dirt or bugs may clog the pilot light oriface. Next season, when you attempt to turn on the fire, it doesn't work, requiring an expensive maintenance call. Pilot lights burn anywhere from 600 to over 1,000 Btus per hour. Let's assume you leave it on all year (9,125 hours) burning at 600 Btus per hour. Your cost to run your pilot light would be $180 a year.
- Cost for propane tank -- You either rent your propane tank from your supplier or you buy it. Let's assume you rent it for $75.00 per year.
- Cost for maintenance -- Unless you are handy, your fireplace set will require service by a technician. Some recommend an annual maintenance check. Chances are the thermocouple will need to be replaced every three years, and the igniter may need to be replaced after seven or ten years.
- Cost for heat that went up the chimney -- It your damper is clamped open, heat is being lost up the chimney all year.
So what is the total cost to burn your fireplace set? For propane burned, pilot light and tank rental the cost would be $372 a year, or about $2.50 per hour that you use the fire -- not counting maintenance and wasted heat!
Replace Your Propane Gas Log Fireplace Set with an Electric Fireplace Insert
Electric fireplaces are now available featuring amazingly realistic-looking flames, glowing embers, and heat. That is the result of many years of user experience, product development, and improvement. Today's electric fireplaces are generally excellent products at affordable prices.
Chances are a relative or friend has an electric fireplace and is very satisfied.
Most electric fireplace inserts produce less than 5,000 BTUs per hour of heat -- far less than the propane fireplace set. So you will not feel as much radiant heat.
However, electric fireplace inserts require no pilot light and no propane storage tank; and no heat is wasted up the chimney if you close and seal up the damper.
There is little or no maintenance required for an electric fireplace set. The only cost is for the electricity you use.
I've used my Dimplex for some years now. I'm happy I made the switch from gas logs to an electric fireplace.
How I Installed Our Electric Fireplace
Once I decided to get rid of my gas logs, I first had to turn off the 100 gallon propane gas tank outside next to the chimney. I then disconnected the copper gas tube at the tank and at the gas log set in the fireplace. The tube had been installed through a small hole drilled through the masonry. I pulled the tube out through the hole, and filled the hole with cement paste. I then removed the gas log fireplace set.
Since my electric fireplace did not need to be vented, I decided to seal up the fireplace flue to keep my valuable heated air in from escaping up the chimney.
I ordered this Dimplex Electric Fireplace and one accessory product: remote control. Following the accompanying instructions, I installed the remote control feature. The remote has two buttons. The left hand button turns the electric "fire" on; the right button turns it off. There are three "on" positions:
- Press the left button once to see a realistic-looking fake fire.
- Press twice to add a fan that moves room air through the unit.
- Press three times to add both the fan and heats to the fire.
Place the electric fireplace inside the fireplace well and plug it in. Make sure you plug into a circuit with enough amps to supply the 12.5 amps required for the heater in the fireplace unit.
Now sit back and relax. Even when the rest of our house is a bit cool, this unit keeps our family room nice and warm, exactly what we like when we cuddle up to watch a good movie, with the convenience of remote operation and knowing that we are also saving money.
What is your experience with a propane gas log fireplace set?
John Dove (author) on February 04, 2012:
Hi Susie --
That's exactly what I did with my propane fireplace -- replaced it with a Dimplex electric fireplace. It's very realistic looking and keeps our family room warm and comfy.
Susie on August 17, 2011:
I have been very unsatisfied with the propane fireplace in our house. It is unreliable, drafty, costly to run, and requires an unsightly propane bottle and vent that obstruct part of the patio just outside. I would love to replace it with an electric insert.