If you want a more powerful heat output but aren't ready to fully commit to a solid fuel fire, then a gas fire is a great compromise, giving you a realistic looking fire that isn't difficult to maintain.
People often think that if they live flats or a new build that they can't have a fire but that is simply not the case. Gas fires can be the cheapest to run and come in a wide variety of styles - wall mounted, hole in the wall, inset, outset and high efficiency.
WHAT TYPE OF CHIMNEY OR FLUE DO YOU HAVE?
Certain fires need the correct type of chimney or flue to work so you before you being your search for a new gas fire you need to figure out which kind you have. Put simply, a chimney if the pipe that helps with ventilation allowing the fire's fumes and gases to escape into the outside. A flue is the space within the chimney that helps with the ventilation process.
Pre-cast flue: Constructed from concrete blocks and built into the interior walls. More often found in new builds since they don't always have a chimney. Look for a rigid vent in the roof apex.
Brick chimney/Class 1: Homes that were built pre-1960s most likely have a brick or stone chimney. You'll recognise them by the chimney pot on your rooftop. If you see more than one chimney pot it indicates that several fireplaces, on different floors, are sharing the same chimney.
Pre-fabricated flue/Class 2: Homes built after the 1960s that don't have a chimney but a metal flue pipe on the roof are likely to have a Class 2 flue.
WALL HUNG GAS FIRES
Wall hung gas fires can be placed at any height of the wall you desire so you can turn it into a real focal point of your room.
Since they don't require a chimney, surround or mantel it makes them a great option for those living in flats or smaller homes where you want something stylish and powerful but taking up little room.
OUTSET GAS FIRES
Unlike inset fires, outsets protrude out of the wall and sit on the hearth. They are typically characterised by radiant bars with some coming with a living flame effect. They give out a lot of heat as the body of the fire heats up, pushing heat around the room effectively.
They usually have large control handles which make them a good option for those with mobility issues who might struggle with fiddly controls. Outset fires definitely have a more retro look.
INSET GAS FIRES
Inset gas fires, sometimes known as 'living flame fires' are designed to simulate a real coal/log fire. Inset fires go into a gap in the wall much like a traditional fire although this doesn't mean you are restricted to a traditional style.
They can easily be controlled using a manual or remote control system and have the option of incorporating a glass front for added efficiency.
FLUELESS GAS FIRES
Designed for those who don't have a chimney in their home but still want the benefits of a gas fire, a flueless gas fire is an extremely clean burning device that has a catalytic converter built into it. The catalytic converter scrubs the air that passes through it, removing harmful emissions and safely releasing carbon dioxide into the air. Flueless gas fires are also fitted with Oxygen Depletion Sensors (ODS) which constantly monitor air quality and will switch off the fire if the air quality drops.
BALANCED FLUE GAS FIRES
Always glass fronted and silent in operation, these gas fires take the fumes out through an external wall via a twin skinned pipe (usually horizontally). Since it has a glass front there is no need for a fan unit like you would get with a Powerflue gas fire and you won't need to connect to an electricity supply.
It is important to note that a hole in the wall balanced flue gas fire will require a false chimney breast to be built to accommodate the depth of the fire and disguise the flue. Inset balanced flue gas fires need a standard cut-out in the back panel of the fireplace surround and they are usually fitted to a flat wall. The brickwork behind the fire is removed and the fire is inserted into the wall cavity.
POWERFLUE GAS FIRES
Working much like a balanced flue gas fire, Powerflues expel fumes produced through a pipe via an external wall. This type of fire is open fronted so an electronically powered fan unit is fitted at the end of the pipe which pulls the fumes outside.
Powerflue fires will not work if there is no power and you will be aware of the noise from the fan.
The majority of Powerflue gas fires are inset fires and will involve more installation work than a balanced flue gas fire as you need to connect the pipe and fan system.
HIGH EFFICIENCY GAS FIRES
These come in two types - open fronted and glass fronted. Both use the same technology to increase the heat efficiency above that of a normal fire.
Open-front fires tend to have an efficiency rating of around 70-75% whilst the glass-fronted fires are closer to 80-90%.
If you are upgrading from an old gas fire you will be amazed with how much money you save on fuel bills and how much heat it gives out by comparison.
CONTROLLING YOUR GAS FIRE
The most common form of control is still manual but you can find many models of gas fire which have different control options available.
Manual control - The gas fire features a control knob (normally half and full settings) and often a separate ignition button.
Slide control - Allows users to switch the fire on and fully control the flame height via a small lever.
Remote control - A hand-held remote control is the most popular option on gas fires, particularly with wall hung models. The operation of the fire via remote will vary depending on the design. Using a remote can be quite fiddly and can require two buttons to be held at the same time to switch the fire on and increase the flame height which can be difficult for the elderly or those with mobility issues in their hands . The remotes run on batteries so will need changing regularly in the winter.
Remember: When purchasing a gas fire is that it is vital to have the fire properly installed by a Gas Safe Registered Fitter and that it is fully compatible with your home's flue type. Gas fires will also need annual servicing by a registered person to ensure they are operating correctly and safely. Gas fires must have adequate ventilation as there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To find out more about gas fire safety, check out our guide here.