Have you ever looked at a fire burning away in a fireplace, assumed it was wood-fueled, and then suddenly realized that the “wood” wasn’t actually burning? If you have, then congratulations: you’ve encountered a gas log. These little pieces of hearth hardware often go unrecognized when the topic of fireplace maintenance comes up, so today’s post is all about them. Read on for a gas log crash course.

gas fireplace

What are gas logs?

As their name implies, gas logs are gas-burning, log-like structures that are installed inside of fireplaces. Although high-quality gas logs often look like they’re made of natural wood, they’re typically constructed out of ceramic, cement, or steel. Thus, they can stand up to the heat of direct flames for an extended period without being incinerated.

What purpose do gas logs serve?

While gas logs can improve the efficiency of your fireplace, folks tend to choose them for aesthetic reasons. Gas fireplaces are considerably more convenient to use than wood-burning fireplaces, but fires fueled by gas just don’t have the same ambiance as ones fueled by wood. Gas logs allow homeowners to enjoy the best of both worlds; they get the simplicity of gas with some of the “mystique” of burning wood. Interestingly enough, some manufacturers offer ceramic acorns, pinecones, and thin branches as accessories for their gas log sets; the addition of these small pieces can help provide an even higher degree of realism for the display!

Are there different kinds of gas logs?

Yes. Gas logs are most commonly divided into two broad categories: vented and unvented.

Vented gas logs are designed to work in fully-functional wood-burning fireplaces; said fireplaces must essentially be “retrofitted” in order to accommodate them. These logs produce tall, yellow flames that are highly reminiscent of natural wood fire. However, they’re not very efficient when it comes warming up rooms, as most of their heat usually escapes upward out the chimney.

Unvented logs are meant to work in vent-free fireboxes or fireplaces specifically designed to accommodate unvented logs. Their flames don’t look as natural as the ones produced by vented logs, but they tend to burn hotter and be much more energy-efficient overall. Some controversy exists about the safety of unvented logs (and vent-free gas products in general), and it’s worth mentioning that unvented logs are illegal in some states and municipalities. Check your local laws before you make any major purchases.

If you’re not sure which kind of gas logs will work in your fireplace, please don’t guess! Instead, consult with an expert. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Speaking of experts…

Can I install my gas Logs as a DIY Project?

Technically yes, but you probably shouldn’t. Gas log installation is one of those projects that can go very wrong if it’s not done correctly—we’re talking gas leaks, explosions, and house fires, here! For this reason, we strongly recommend that you enlist the services of a licensed, trained professional do the project for you. A reputable chimney specialist will help you pick out the correct logs for your fireplace, work with the log manufacturer to make sure that you’re not getting saddled with second-rate products, and put it all together so that it functions smoothly and safely. No muss, no fuss, no danger to your family or your property!

Do gas logs ever need to be replaced?

While a decent set of gas logs will last a fairly long time (much longer than real wood, anyway), they’re not invulnerable. The lifespan of your gas logs will vary depending on their design, the quality of their construction, and how often you use the fireplace. With proper maintenance, a vented set of ceramic logs can last ten years or more. Unvented logs have an average lifespan of three to five years.

Again, when in doubt, consult with a chimney professional. Though it’s often not necessary to replace gas logs the moment they start to look old or tired, an expert will be able to tell you if your logs are damaged or worn to the point of being unsafe to use. That’s one more reason to get your chimney inspected annually!

As we said earlier, this post is meant to serve as a brief overview of gas logs. Those of you who were seeking technical information about how these items are made, installed, and work on a day-to-day basis may be a bit disappointed. Worry not, mechanical-minded folks! If you’d like more information about gas logs, then contact Chimney and Wildlife Specialists today and speak to a technician. Gas logs may not be right for every budget or fireplace, but in the right setting, they can look beautiful, and extremely convincing.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons