Today's gas fireplaces and inserts are 50 percent to 70 percent more efficient than their 1990s-or-earlier counterparts, say experts.

Today's gas fireplaces and inserts are 50 percent to 70 percent more efficient than their 1990s-or-earlier counterparts, say experts.


Besides increased efficiency, newer models offer many more options, including remote-controlled flames that can go from glowing embers to roaring blaze. Particularly popular with bedroom units, timers are available to ignite or extinguish the fire, so users can wake up to a cozy room or put out the fire after they've nodded off to sleep.


Besides realistic woodlike logs, gas fireplaces or inserts can come with glass beads, stones or ceramic pieces for a totally different look.


Before shopping for an insert, measure your room and current fireplace. Ask yourself: What do you want from your fireplace: Warmth, an attractive focal point for a room, or both?


Models with more BTUs (British Thermal Units) offer more heat. Also look at louvers -- the slanted grill that's above or below the firebox that helps circulate warm air into the room. Louverless models typically look cleaner and more streamlined, but offer little heat circulation.


Lennox Hearth Products offers a detailed shopping guide with online glossary at www.lennoxhearthproducts.com.


Including installation, a new gas insert can cost $2,500 to $4,500, said Mitch Heller, owner of the Custom Fireside Shops in Sacramento and Elk Grove, Calif. "There's a big selection around $3,000."


Incentives, tax credits or rebate programs can help with those costs. Contact your local natural-gas provider or fireplace-insert seller for more details.


Actual installation takes about half a day if an existing gas line is available to the fireplace, Heller said.


Among the best-selling brands are Fireplace Xtrordinair, Kozy Heat and Valor.


Other major fireplace, stove and insert brands include Lennox Hearth Products, Vermont Castings and Monessen.


Gas logs give the look of a full fire for a lot less -- $300 to $600. These logs are a popular option for otherwise unused fireplaces.


"But their heat goes up the chimney," Heller said. "They look great but they're not energy efficient. They cost about $1 to $1.50 an hour to operate."


Contact Debbie Arrington at darrington@sacbee.com.