Some folks simply do not want to deal with burning wood. Whether it be the smell, the work, or environmental factors deterring you from burning wood, there are other options. People who live in California and other dry regions of the country are experiencing
stricter and stricter regulations on burning wood. Burning natural gas, however, is still an option for you. If you have decided that converting your existing fireplace into a gas unit is for you, then you will need to decide between a gas fireplace insert and gas logs. Although vent-free gas logs exist and do not need a chimney to vent from, studies have shown that they can decrease air quality inside the home, especially in newer, air tight homes, and I do not recommend installing them.
Are there tangible differences between a gas insert and gas logs? Of course. A gas insert is actually firebox inside your chimney’s existing firebox where as gas logs are placed inside the firebox of your existing chimney. Some gas inserts have two vertical pipes in the flue system, one venting the products of the fire and another bringing outside air into the room for combustion. Horizontal pipes can vent out or in through the wall in some cases when special
equipment is used. Consult a professional for ventilation as such.
An insert is more efficient than gas logs because the percentage of heat that enters the room is greater than the percentage of heat that enters the room from a gas log set. Fireplace inserts often have blowers which propel the heat into the room. A majority of the heat from gas logs goes up the chimney. This being said, burning gas is more often than not more efficient than burning wood most of the time. When deciding whether an insert or a gas log set will work better for your room’s particular dimensions and your home’s layout, most manufacturer’s have websites including technical specifications including heat output.
Gas inserts are more difficult to install than gas log sets, and both need access to a gas line in your home. Make sure to discuss things with a chimney professional prior to making any major investments in either an insert or a wood stove and have the service man come out to your home to ensure that your chimney is conducive to venting a gas appliance and that no damage exists.