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Replace Your Propane Gas Log Fireplace with an Electric Fireplace Insert

Updated on December 12, 2017
electric fireplace | image credit: Wikipedia Commons
electric fireplace | image credit: Wikipedia Commons

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's good news. Now for some bad news . . .

Vented propane gas fireplaces produce good heat, but a lot of it goes up the chimney

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 of the gas log set is not much different that 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 the damper 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.


Features of the Dimplex DFI2310 Electric Fireplace Deluxe 23-Inch Insert

The Dimplex DFI2310 Electric Fireplace Deluxe 23-Inch Insert, available from Amazon, is an example of the realism and convenience of the excellent units now on the market.

I installed this exact model in a large stone fireplace in my family room. It wasn't difficult. Even when the rest of our house is "coolish," this unit keeps our family room nice and warm, exactly what we like when we cuddle up to watch a good movie.

Product description: "With 1500 watts of heating power, this electric fireplace insert features patented flame technology for a realistic and beautiful flame effect. It comes in a black finish. The unit installs easily into an existing masonry or steel fireplace opening, and there's no venting, no gas hookup, or hassle to deal with. After installing, simply adjust the trim to fit, plug the unit into a standard household outlet, and enjoy the fire with these beautiful LED logs. Its built-in fan-forced heater distributes heat evenly and quietly up to 400 square-Feet, providing economical operation of less than about two cents per hour. Options include full heat, half heat, and flame only for four-season enjoyment. The remote control conveniently turns the unit "on" or "off" from anywhere in the room."

Cost to operate a propane gas log fireplace

It probably costs more that you think to operate your propane gas log fireplace set.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 the damper.

There is little or no maintenance required for an electric fireplace set. The only cost is for the electricity you use.

What is your experience with a propane gas log fireplace set?

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    • John Dove profile image

      John Dove 5 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Susie 6 years ago

      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.