Gas Inserts Versus Gas Logs: What is the Difference?

gas insert vs gas logs

Looking to update your wood-burning fireplace?

The top two solutions for modernizing an old wood-burning fireplace are gas inserts and gas logs, but you may be wondering what is the difference and is one better than the other? We’ll run through your options and help you navigate the choice between these two distinct fireplace solutions, whether you’re prioritizing heating efficiency, aesthetic appeal, or budget considerations.

Why Update Your Old Wood-Burning Fireplace?

Most homes in the greater Detroit metro area built in the 1980s or earlier have a wood-burning fireplace (or no fireplace at all). It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that gas fireplaces became more common.

So if you own an older home, you most likely have a wood-burning fireplace.

For many homeowners with a wood-burning fireplace, you may be stuck with a non-functioning or ugly old fireplace that you’d love to update. You may have been advised not to use it due to chimney problems or safety issues, like a previous chimney fire. Or maybe it’s just too much work to haul in wood, clean out the ashes, and perform routine maintenance just to enjoy a fire. Another common complaint about old fireplaces it that they’re not sealed with doors, so cold air is constantly seeping in, while warm air is also leaking out.

It’s time to consider updating your old wood-burner when:

  • It’s become non-functional (or you were told not to use it for safety reasons)
  • It’s an eye sore / outdated design
  • It’s too much work to haul and stack wood
  • Starting a fire is a chore
  • You’re sick of cleaning up ashes or having a smokey house
  • It’s leaking in cold air and/or letting warm air escape from the room
  • It’s simply not the right heating solution for you anymore

Whatever the cause, you’re likely frustrated with having a non-functional fireplace. But is a gas insert or a gas log set a better answer?

Before and after transformation using a gas insert and custom surround.

Let’s Explore Gas Inserts versus Gas Logs

Installation and Integration:

Gas Inserts: These are self-contained units that fit directly into your existing fireplace, making them ideal for homeowners who want to convert a traditional wood-burning fireplace into a gas-powered one without major renovations. They are made to retrofit into your existing fireplace opening, and typically come in either 30″ or 35″ models. Gas inserts help to eliminate drafts coming in from the old chimney because they are fully sealed units. Installation requires a surround to fill in any gaps in your current opening that aren’t covered by the unit, ensuring a nicely finished look that modernizes the fireplace. They require a gas line, electricity and new venting to operate.

Gas Logs: Gas log sets are designed to be placed inside an existing fireplace opening, sitting atop a burner. They are a bit simpler to install than a gas insert, making them suitable for homeowners looking for a quick and easy way to add a gas option to their fireplace. They require electricity and a gas line, but many models come in vent-free options.

Heating Efficiency:

Gas Inserts: They are highly efficient heating appliances, as they are sealed units that can heat a room more effectively than gas log sets. Gas inserts often come with blowers to distribute heat evenly throughout the space. Many models also offer remote controls, which allow you to set a thermostat to maintain a comfortable, constant temp in a room. You can also use a gas insert for zone heating, which could help reduce heating costs in cold basements or family rooms since you don’t have to crank up the furnace when you want to use those spaces: just turn on the gas insert or set the thermostat to the comfortable temperature of your choice.

Gas Logs: While they do produce heat, gas log sets are primarily decorative and offer less heating efficiency compared to inserts. They are more suitable for adding ambiance rather than serving as a primary heat source. They also are not sealed off, which could allow drafts to come down and warm air to escape the old chimney.

Aesthetic Appeal:

Gas Inserts: Typically come with ceramic or glass panels that provide a clear view of the flames, offering a more modern and polished appearance. Flames are designed to mimic the appearance of real wood-burning fires, and some models feature ambient lighting and beautiful ember beds that can be lit even when the fireplace isn’t turned on to heating.

Gas Logs: These are also designed to mimic the appearance of real wood-burning fires, with realistic-looking logs and natural flame patterns. They are ideal for homeowners who prefer a more traditional and rustic look for their fireplace since the hearth will remain open and unsealed if there are no doors.

Before and after transformation using a gas insert.

Cost and Budget Considerations:

Gas Inserts: Generally, gas inserts are more expensive upfront due to their advanced features and installation requirements. However, they can result in long-term cost savings through improved energy efficiency.

Gas Logs: They are usually more affordable upfront compared to inserts, making them a budget-friendly option for homeowners who want to enhance the appearance of their fireplace without breaking the bank.

Venting Requirements:

Gas Inserts: Typically require a dedicated venting system, either installed through the existing chimney or a direct vent outside, to expel combustion gases safely. This makes them suitable for homes with existing venting infrastructure or those willing to invest in venting installation.

Gas Logs: Can be installed in both vented and ventless configurations, offering more flexibility in terms of venting requirements. Ventless gas log sets are ideal for homes without existing chimneys or venting systems, although they require adequate ventilation to ensure safety.


In summary, homeowners may choose gas inserts for their higher heating efficiency, modern appearance, and suitability for existing fireplaces, while gas log sets are preferred for their affordability, ease of installation, and traditional aesthetic. Gas inserts work best for homeowners seeking efficient heating solutions and modern fireplace designs, while gas log sets are ideal for those prioritizing cost-effectiveness and rustic charm.

At Motown Fire, we say you can’t go wrong either way, as long as you update your fireplace so you can sit and enjoy it again! Our goal is to help you make the most informed decision for the way you use your space and how much you’d like to invest. We’d be happy to walk you through the key differences between gas inserts and gas logs by showing you working models in our showroom located in Chesterfield Township. We proudly serving the greater Detroit area, so if you’re near us, stop by!

Here are some of the great units we sell, install and service at Motown Fire:

Gas Inserts at Motown FireLearn more about wood to gas insert conversions >>

Gas Logs at Motown Fire