Updated: October 5, 2015

Cost of Converting Wood Burning Fireplace to Gas:

Wood burning fireplaces are great, but having to deal with firewood and starting the fire can be a hassle. I have a gas starting wood burning fireplace in our family room and I recently looked into converting the entire thing to a gas fireplace with an insert. In our living room we already have a gas fireplace that we run quite often and it's very convenient. No having to retrieve wood from a wood pile or worry about starting the fire with kindling and paper. There are no ashes to remove after the fire has finished and the heat produced from a gas fireplace insert is efficient. My brother converted his wood burning fireplace to a gas fireplace about a year ago and they love it. One of our neighbors has gas logs in an open fireplace - it's gas starting. They never used the fireplace before when it was wood burning so the change has been great for them. We never use the wood burning fireplace in our family room so I figured after 7 years of living in the house we should consider a gas insert.

Northwest Natural - our natural gas company - runs promotions all the time if you convert to gas so I decided to look into the offers available. NW Natural promotes both the Quadra Fire and Heat & Glo products - both are very nice when it comes to gas inserts. The cost of converting a wood burning fireplace to gas is way more expensive than you may think. The biggest portion of the project is the gas insert itself. Many run between $1500 to $2500 depending on efficiency, heating capacity, and BTU's. We were looking at a Quadra Fire gas insert which retailed for about $1600 and had a heating capacity of 1500 square feet. The other expenses associated with the install of a gas fireplace insert is the vent kit (about $350 to $400) and the labor which is roughly $400. Some products qualify for a rebate from Energy Trust of Oregon (check your state for rebate programs) and others offered a credit on our gas bill. The Quadra Fire QVI30 is a direct vent gas insert that lets you choose from 6 available fronts and it features an adjustable hearth. There is a wall thermostat for the Ultra-Glo ceramic logs and you can even use the remote controls - you never have to get up to adjust anything. The thermal efficiency is up to 75% . We also looked at the Heat & Glo gas inserts for fireplaces - many start at $2000. The models of interest to us were the Grand XTS, Supreme XTS, and Cosmo. The incentives from your gas company and the energy savings could make these worth the up front cost. Certainly, having the convenience of a gas fireplace is what I was interested in. Just turn the switch (or hit the button on the remote) and you have instant heat in the room you are in. No more having to heat the entire house with your furnace when you can isolate where you want the heat. I know several couples who have gas fireplaces in their master bedrooms so at night they can stay warm without trying to heat the whole house. If you do choose to convert from wood burning fireplace to gas, it's a process that doesn't take more than 1/2 a day. Find a contractor (our natural gas company assists with that process) and choose your gas insert and front. If you already have a gas starting fireplace (that was wood burning) the process is even easier. They just connect the vent kit and put in the insert.

Gas Logs versus Gas Fireplace Insert:

Another option to consider if a gas insert is too expensive are the gas logs that sit in your fireplace. They run on gas but cut down on the cost quite a bit. To have gas logs installed in your fireplace is about $450. If your fireplace is already setup with gas, then the conversion from wood burning to gas logs is really simple. Not something that is a DIY (do it yourself) project, but a professional can do it in a few hours time. Gas logs are meant to be aesthetically pleasing, but in terms of energy efficiency, they are lacking. I have sat in front of a fireplace that had gas logs and I felt some heat, but the rest of the room was not warm. An employee at our natural gas supplier told me that the gas log fireplaces cost about $.85 to $1.20 an hour to run, which is rather expensive given the lack of heat they put off. So, although gas logs are cheaper to install, the money spent running them is wasted for the most part. You are better off with a gas insert for long term value and energy efficiency.

Gas Fireplace Inserts:

As we mentioned above there are lots of companies that sell gas inserts for home fireplaces. Two of the most popular are Quadra Fire and Heat & Glo. You need to measure your existing fireplace in several places - distance from firebox to mantel, back width, depth from front to back, front width, and height from hearth to top of the opening. Then you can choose the insert that fits into that space. The gas inserts typically have 5 to 7 oak style logs that look as if they are burning once the gas flame is lit. The vent kit just helps the air circulate better. You will also have to "cover the gap" as they say - the space between the insert and the fireplace. Lastly, you will need to pick a front to the fireplace. Some offer operable doors, while others don't. The good news is that you can customize the look and feel of your new gas insert fireplace to match your home decor. Again, the total cost of a gas insert for a fireplace will start at about $1600 and go upwards to well past $3000. You can browse some top selling gas fireplace inserts online here.