If you seek the ambiance of a fire—but are less enthusiastic about tending to flames and dealing with the ash—a decorative gas log set is an option. Less costly than direct vent gas fireplaces, ceramic fake log sets are designed primarily to provide a cozy atmosphere rather than act as a primary or secondary source of heat. However, decorative gas log sets are not without safety concerns and must be inspected and serviced regularly.
For starters, vented gas logs must be vented through a functional chimney in order to move all burning by-products outside the home. Vented gas logs produce the most realistic flames but put off less heat than their vent-free counterparts due mostly to the fact the chimney flue must be open when the fireplace is in use. A device called a damper clamp must be installed to prevent the damper from ever closing completely. This component is necessary in case a child should inadvertently turn the key for the valve and release natural gas into living the space, providing a way for the gas to get out (up the chimney).
The other safety concern involves flame impingement and the creation of carbon monoxide. Although many models of decorative gas log sets have very specific diagrams for log placement, over the years the ceramic logs can tumble out of place (or were never installed correctly to begin with). When the flame is blocked by improperly placed logs, this results in “sooting,” whereby dark black carbon deposits form on the ceramic logs. While it is normal for small amounts of soot to begin accumulating on the logs, any amount of sooting indicates that carbon monoxide is being produced. Certainly, when the logs are covered in black soot deposits, an unsafe amount of carbon monoxide is being released into the living space.