Outdoor Electric Fireplaces vs. Gas Fireplaces

Exploring the pros and cons of electric and gas fireplaces for outdoor use: a detailed guide to help you make an informed decision for your outdoor heating needs.

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Hubert Miles

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Imagine yourself on a cool evening, nestled in your outdoor living space, with the warm glow of a fireplace illuminating the surroundings. Sounds perfect, right? But here’s the catch – when creating this idyllic scene, choosing between outdoor electric fireplaces vs. gas fireplaces is crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll delve into the world of outdoor fireplaces, exploring the differences between electric and gas options. You’ll learn about their operation, pros and cons, installation and maintenance costs, and safety concerns. By the end, you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision that suits your outdoor space and lifestyle.

You’re faced with a decision: electric fireplaces or gas fireplace units? Both outdoor and gas fireplaces have unique features and benefits, and understanding these can make all the difference in your outdoor decor and comfort.

Electric fireplaces have become popular among many homeowners with their ease of installation and operation. On the other hand, direct vent gas-burning fireplaces, known for their efficient heating and realistic flames, hold a charm.

Related Reading: Best Electric Fireplaces.

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Understanding Outdoor Fireplaces

Let’s embark on a journey to understand the heart of your outdoor living space – the fireplace. As the name suggests, an outdoor fireplace is a heating structure you can install outside your house. It’s not just a source of warmth on chilly evenings but also a focal point that enhances the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor decor.

Outdoor fireplaces serve multiple purposes:

  • They provide a cozy warmth that extends your outdoor living season. Even on chilly nights, you can enjoy the comfort of your patio or backyard.
  • They act as a central gathering spot for social events. Imagine your friends and family huddled around the fireplace, sharing stories and making memories.
  • They can even serve as a cooking spot. Some outdoor fireplaces come with built-in grills for that perfect barbeque night.

When it comes to types, outdoor fireplaces are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They come in various forms, each with its unique features and benefits. Here are the main types you’ll encounter:

  • Wood-Burning Fireplaces: These traditional fireplaces offer the authentic experience of crackling logs and natural warmth. However, they require a steady supply of firewood and regular cleaning.
  • Gas Fireplaces: These are known for their efficiency and ease of use. With a flip of a switch, you can have a roaring fire. Plus, there’s no ash or soot to clean up.
  • Electric Fireplaces: These are the most convenient option. They don’t require a fireplace vent or chimneys. All you need is an electrical outlet, and you’re ready.
  • Bioethanol Fireplaces: These are the newest addition to the outdoor fireplace family. They run on bioethanol fuel and are known for their sleek design and clean burn.

Remember, each type of fireplace has its pros and cons. Your choice should align with your lifestyle, budget, and outdoor space requirements. As we delve deeper into the world of electric and gas fireplaces, you’ll better understand which one is the perfect fit for you.

Electric Fireplaces: An Overview

Let’s dive into the world of electric fireplaces. These modern marvels have revolutionized the concept of outdoor heating, offering a blend of convenience, safety, and style. But how do they work?

Electric fireplaces produce heat by drawing in cool air, heating it internally using a heating coil, and then pushing the warm air back into the room. The visual display of flames is created using LED lights and a mirror element that rolls and reflects the light. Technological advancements make these flames look incredibly realistic, creating a cozy ambiance without the hassle of a real fire.

The average national kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate for electricity is 12 cents. The operating cost for a 1,500-watt electric fireplace at maximum settings would be an estimated 18 cents per hour. The hourly cost can decrease by a few cents in the lower heat setting.

If you choose to solely utilize the LED-backlit fire display without activating the heater function, the cost can often be less than one cent per hour.

Now, let’s explore the advantages of electric fireplaces:

  • Ease of Installation: You don’t need a chimney or a vent. Just find a suitable spot, plug it into an electrical outlet, and your fireplace is ready.
  • Safety: With no real flames, the risk of accidental burns or fire hazards is significantly reduced. Plus, the glass front remains calm, making an electric fireplace safe to use around children and pets.
  • Energy Efficiency: Electric fireplaces convert all the electricity directly into heat, making them highly efficient. They also allow zone heating, which means you heat only the area you’re using, saving energy and reducing your utility bills.
  • Minimal Maintenance: Say goodbye to cleaning up ash or soot. Occasionally dusting is all it takes to keep your electric fireplace in top shape.

However, like any other product, electric fireplaces, including radiant heat and energy to heat, have their drawbacks:

  • Dependence on Electricity: Your fireplace won’t work in a power outage. It’s also worth noting that running the fireplace continuously can lead to higher electricity bills.
  • Lack of Real Flames: While the flames look realistic, they aren’t real. For some, this might take away from the traditional fireplace experience.

Regarding the cost of installation and maintenance, electric fireplaces score high on affordability. The installation cost is minimal since you only need an electrical outlet.

There’s no need for expensive chimney installations or venting systems. As for maintenance, the absence of real flames means no ash or soot to clean up. The only cost you might incur is the occasional replacement of LED bulbs.


Electric fireplaces offer a modern, efficient, and safe solution for your outdoor heating needs. They might not provide the traditional fireplace experience, but they make up for it with their convenience and ease of use. If these features align with your lifestyle and preferences, an electric fireplace could be the perfect addition to your outdoor space.

Gas Fireplaces: An Overview

Let’s focus on gas fireplaces. These are a popular choice for those who crave the charm of real flames without the mess of wood-burning fireplaces. But what makes them tick?

Gas fireplaces work by burning natural gas or propane instead of wood. The gas is supplied via a direct pipeline or a propane tank. When you ignite the fireplace, the gas fuels a flame that runs through gaps in artificial ceramic fiber logs, giving the illusion of a real wood-burning fireplace.

Let’s look at the advantages of gas fireplaces while also considering potential concerns such as gas leaks:


Real Flames: One of the biggest draws of a gas fireplace is the real flame it produces. It offers the traditional fireplace experience, complete with the cozy warmth and flickering flames.

Ease of Use: With a gas fireplace, you can start a fire with the push of a button. There’s no need to chop wood or clean up ash.

Efficient Heating: Gas fireplaces produce a good amount of heat and can warm up your outdoor space quickly.

Variety of Designs: Gas fireplaces come in a wide range of styles and designs, allowing you to choose one that complements your outdoor decor.

However, when comparing outdoor electric and gas fireplaces, it’s important to note that gas fireplaces also have a few downsides:


Installation Cost: Gas fireplaces require a gas line, which can be costly to install if you don’t already have one. They also need proper venting to ensure safety.

Maintenance: While they are easier to maintain than wood-burning fireplaces, they still require annual check-ups to ensure the gas lines and venting are working properly.

Dependence on Gas Supply: Your fireplace, including electric heaters and square foot considerations, is dependent on your home’s gas supply. If there’s an interruption, such as a gas leak or service disruption, you won’t be able to use your fireplace.

Regarding installation and maintenance costs, gas fireplaces can be more expensive than electric ones. The initial installation, which includes setting up a gas line and venting system, can add up.

Maintenance involves annual inspections to check the gas lines, burners, and venting. This ensures your fireplace operates safely and efficiently. Despite these costs, many homeowners find the allure of real flames and efficient heating worth the investment.

Gas fireplaces offer the charm of real flames and efficient heating, making them a great choice for your outdoor space. If you’re willing to handle the installation and maintenance requirements, a gas fireplace can be a valuable addition to your home.

Comparative Analysis: Electric vs Gas Fireplaces

Now that we’ve explored electric and gas fireplaces, it’s time to put them head-to-head. This comparative analysis will help you understand the key differences and decide on your outdoor space.


When it comes to efficiency, both types have their merits. Electric fireplaces convert all their electricity directly into heat, making them highly efficient. They also allow for zone heating, which means you only heat the area you use, saving energy.

Gas fireplaces, on the other hand, offer efficient heating as well. They can quickly warm up your outdoor space, and some models are designed to provide heat even during power outages. However, the efficiency of gas fireplaces can vary based on the model and installation.

Installation Process

The installation process for electric fireplaces is straightforward. You choose a spot, plug it in, and your fireplace is ready to use. There’s no need for a chimney or venting system, making it a hassle-free option.

Gas fireplaces require a more complex installation. They need a gas line, which can be costly to install if you don’t already have one. They also require proper venting to ensure safety. This means you’ll likely need professional installation, adding to the cost.

Maintenance and Operational Costs

Electric fireplaces shine in the area of maintenance. They require minimal upkeep – just occasional dusting. There’s no ash or soot to clean up and no chimneys or vents to maintain. The operational cost mainly involves the electricity bill, which can be higher if you run the fireplace continuously.

Gas fireplaces require more maintenance. You’ll need annual inspections to check the gas lines, burners, and venting. This ensures your fireplace operates safely and efficiently. The operational cost involves the gas bill, which can be lower than the electricity bill, making gas fireplaces cheaper to run in the long run.

Environmental Impact

Electric fireplaces have a lower environmental impact. They don’t emit harmful gases or toxic fumes since they don’t burn any fuel. However, the environmental friendliness of electric models also depends on how your electricity is generated. If it’s from renewable sources, then it’s a green choice.

Gas fireplaces, including ventless gas fireplaces, while cleaner than wood-burning ones, still emit some pollutants. Natural gas, being a fossil fuel, releases greenhouse gases when burned. However, modern gas fireplaces are designed to burn the gas more completely, reducing the emitted pollutants.


Both electric and gas fireplaces have their pros and cons. Electric fireplaces offer ease of installation, low maintenance, and environmental friendliness, making them a great choice for those who value convenience and eco-friendliness. Gas fireplaces, with their real flames, efficient heating, and variety of designs, offer a more traditional fireplace experience.

Safety Considerations for Outdoor Fireplaces

Safety is paramount for fireplaces, whether outdoor electric fireplaces or gas fireplaces. Let’s explore the safety measures associated with each type to ensure your outdoor space remains a haven for you and your loved ones.

Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces are inherently safe due to the absence of real flames. However, there are still precautions to take:

  • Proper Installation: Ensure your fireplace is installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes using a grounded outlet and keeping the fireplace away from flammable materials.
  • Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect the power cord and plug for any damage. Stop using the fireplace immediately and call a professional if you notice any.
  • Safe Operation: Never leave the fireplace unattended when it’s on. Also, ensure the fireplace is switched off and unplugged when not in use.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces, while offering the charm of real flames, pose a potential fire hazard and require more safety measures:

  • Professional Installation: Always have your gas fireplace installed by a professional to ensure the gas line and venting system are correctly set up.
  • Regular Maintenance: Schedule annual maintenance checks to ensure the gas lines, burners, and venting system are in good working order.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detector: Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home as a safety measure. Although modern gas fireplaces are designed to burn the gas completely, it’s better to be safe.
  • Safe Operation: Never leave a burning gas fireplace unattended. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area.

While electric and gas fireplaces have safety measures, they are generally safe when used correctly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take the necessary precautions. With these safety measures, you can enjoy your outdoor fireplace’s cozy warmth and ambiance with peace of mind.

Look at this article: 10 Best Outdoor Electric Fireplace Ideas.

Outdoor Electric Fireplaces vs. Gas Fireplaces FAQs

Is it better to have a gas or electric fireplace?

The choice between a gas or electric fireplace depends on your preferences. Electric fireplaces are convenient, easy to use, and energy-efficient but provide less heat. Gas fireplaces offer realistic flames and higher heat output but require installation and maintenance.

Is it cheaper to run a gas fireplace or electric heat?

The cost of running a gas fireplace or electric heat depends on energy rates, appliance efficiency, and usage patterns. Generally, gas fireplaces are more cost-effective due to cheaper fuel sources and higher heat output.

What are the disadvantages of an electric fireplace?

Electric fireplaces have a few disadvantages to consider. They typically provide less heat than gas fireplaces, which may be insufficient for colder climates or larger spaces. While the flame effects have improved, they may not match the authenticity of a real fire, like gas fireplaces.

Do outdoor electric fireplaces give off heat?

Outdoor electric fireplaces are designed to provide heat just like their indoor counterparts. They typically utilize heating elements and fans to distribute warmth outdoors. However, it’s important to note that the heat output of outdoor electric fireplaces may vary depending on the specific model and its power rating.

Are electric fireplaces safe to use?

Yes, electric fireplaces are generally safe to use. They don’t produce real flames, so there’s no risk of sparks or embers causing a fire. The glass front remains cool, making it safe around children and pets. However, like any electrical appliance, they should be installed correctly and used responsibly.


As we reach the end of this comprehensive guide, let’s recap the key points. We’ve explored the world of outdoor fireplaces, delving into the specifics of electric and gas options. You’ve learned how each type works, its pros and cons, and the costs associated with installation and maintenance.

Related Reading: Pros and Cons of Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces with ease of installation, safety features, and low maintenance offer a modern and convenient solution. They’re an excellent choice if you value simplicity and are environmentally conscious.

On the other hand, gas fireplaces provide the charm of real flames and efficient heating. They require more installation and maintenance effort than electric units, but if you’re drawn to the traditional fireplace experience, gas units and traditional wood-burning fireplaces are worth the investment.

Both electric and gas fireplaces can add warmth, style, and value to your outdoor space. Each has unique benefits; the best choice depends on your needs and circumstances. Armed with the knowledge from this guide, you’re now ready to make an informed decision and choose the perfect fireplace for your outdoor space.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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