They are prefabricated from metal and designed to be installed in wood-frame construction without a foundation or—and this is the big difference between these and any other fireplace—a chimney.
They burn so efficiently, they can be vented directly out a wall. This means they’re much easier and less expensive to install than masonry units and you have much greater flexibility in their placement.
Because they are gas-fired, these units address the serious problem of wood-smoke pollution that grew to crisis proportions in some regions about a decade ago. Unlike wood-burners, these gas fireplaces give off virtually no particulates.
Like all gas-burning fireplaces, they’re much easier to use than wood-burning units because you don’t have to buy, haul, chop, start, and continually feed wood to the fire. And you don’t have to scoop out the ashes or sweep the chimney. With gas, you just turn on the fire with a knob, a switch or even a remote control. Or you can let a thermostat do the job. When in use, they only cost pennies per hour to operate.
Of course, all gas-burning fireplaces have artificial logs, so the big question is: Does the fire look like a wood fire? The only way to set your mind to rest on this issue is to visit a couple of dealers and check out their offerings. You’re likely to discover that, although early gas fireplaces had phony-looking fires, new burners and artificial logs are surprisingly realistic. Many produce a very authentic fire with tall, dancing flames and have logs and embers that glow. And, to heighten the effect, you can even buy incense that imitates the aroma of a wood fire.When shopping for a new gas fireplace, be sure it is lab-certified by an organization that is compliant with your local codes, such as the American Gas Association (AGA). Also be sure that the fireplace is installed according to the manufacturer’s directions. If you intend to put it in a bedroom, a mobile home, or at a relatively high elevation, be sure it’s approved for that usage.
Prices for direct-vent fireplaces, of course, vary widely, depending upon size, style, finish, and other options. You’ll find they start at about $450—a small price to pay for the value, comfort, and enjoyment a new fireplace will bring your family.