As home designs and layouts have become more open, with fewer walls between our main living spaces, the desire for multi-sided and see-through fireplaces has increased. No one wants to open up their room only to close it off again with a fireplace wall. Designers and builders are coming to us with requests to source fireplaces to achieve their design vision of a see-through fireplace. There are many ways to achieve a more open fireplace, and many clients will be comparing electric vs. gas.

The decision to go with an electric fireplace or a gas fireplace may be based on the space available for the fireplace, the ability to provide venting or electrical connections, the heat requirements for the fireplace, the flammability of the preferred wall materials, safety, and the overall appearance of the fire.

Napoleon Clearion Elite see-through 2-sided electric fireplace between kitchen and dining room

How much space do you have for the see-through fireplace?

See-through electric fireplaces take up less space. Compared to a gas fireplace, an electric fireplace takes up less depth, generally speaking, than a same-size gas fireplace. The see-through Napoleon Clearion, for instance, fits into a wall that’s just 8-inches deep. With optional trim kits, it may be installed in wall as slim as 4 inches. Dimplex Optimyst electric fireplaces are slightly deeper, ranging from 12 to 16 inches overall, depending on the model. The newest Optimyst Linear (OLF series) from Dimplex have a depth of just 12 -inches. The classic Optimyst built-in (GBF series) requires about 16-inches of depth. The flexible, modular Optimyst cassettes (CDFI series) require just 12.25 to 14.25 inches of depth, depending on whether or not the logs are installed.

Where do you want to locate the see-through fireplace?

A see-through gas fireplace will need to have venting. If it’s in the middle of your room, venting will go up and out. Is this possible in your space? What’s above the room with the fireplace? With a see-through electric fireplace, there is no venting, so you can position the fireplace in more places. For the Optimyst models, you will need a water line. Can you get that where you want the see-through fireplace? Of course, you will also need an electrical line for an electric fireplace; is that an option where you want to install the fireplace? Pro Tip: if you are installing the see-through fireplace on an exterior wall, so that one side is indoors and the other side is outdoors, there is not currently an electric model that is see-through and outdoor-rated. For these installations, you must go with a gas fireplace.

How much heat do you want or need from the see-through fireplace?

Both electric and gas fireplaces offer heat. With a gas fireplace, heat is automatically produced if the flames are on. There is not a lot of control over the amount of heat. With an electric fireplace, it’s possible to have flames without heat, or to have heat to take the chill off when you need it. You have complete control over the heat on an electric fireplace, because the heat is not connected to the flames. If you are putting a see-through fireplace into a space that does not require a lot of heat, consider going with an electric fireplace for year-round use. If you go with a gas fireplace, there will be many days when the fireplace will have to be turned off because the room is already warm.

Are you planning to cover the fireplace wall with flammable materials?

Wallcoverings with wood slats are extremely popular right now, as are shiplap walls. These materials are flammable, and may not be suitable around a gas fireplace. You will need to check the specifications and the installation instructions, to see if it’s possible to have wood on the fireplace wall. Electric fireplaces are always zero-clearance, and there is no risk of the wall materials catching fire from the fireplace. On the other hand, if you are planning to clad the fireplace wall with stone or brick, those materials are suitable for most fireplaces.

Are you concerned with the risk of burns from the fireplace?

Is the see-through fireplace going into a space that will be accessible to children or pets? Is it going into an unsupervised public space? If so, you must consider the risk of burns from the fireplace. The glass on gas fireplaces gets hot enough to burn skin on contact. Some see-through gas fireplaces are open, and have no glass, which poses an obvious risk if access is not controlled. If the risk of burns is a possibility, then you will want to explore an electric see-through fireplace. Glass will never get burning-hot on an electric fire, like the Clearion. Open Optimyst cassettes look ‘risky’ but those ‘flames’ are mist generated from water. (They are not steam, which would burn skin.) The biggest risk with Optimyst is that your visitors will be taking selfies with their hands in the ‘flames’!

What do you want the flames to look like?

With a see-through gas fireplace, you will have the familiar yellow flames generated by natural gas or propane. The see-through electric fireplace that comes closest to replicating this effect is the Optimyst series from Dimplex: CDFI, GBF, OLF, as noted earlier. The OLF also has the added feature of coloured accent lighting, to change the flame colours. If you want coloured lights and flames without the mist, then the Clearion electric will do nicely, with 3 flame colours plus lighting for the ember bed.

Would you prefer a 2-sided fireplace that’s not see-through?

There may be room plans that call for a fireplace on both sides of the wall, but without the need to see through. In this case, you could install 2 single-sided fireplaces back-to-back, if space allows. With electric fireplaces, you can get models as slim as 4 or 6 inches, so putting them back-to-back would not require a big wall. This would be harder to achieve with gas fireplaces, as they are so much deeper and each will require venting. Pro Tip: The see-through Clearion Elite has the added benefit of a privacy screen in the middle. With a flick of the remote, you can make the center panel opaque, to block the view between rooms. This may be desirable between bedroom and bathroom, for instance.

Stylish Fireplaces knows that adding a fireplace to your home can be challenging. With an electric fireplace and their NFI Certified Hearth Design Specialists, it’s easy to create a space you’ll love to share with family and friends. Check out all the options and connect with their experts for help to find the perfect electric fireplace for you. You’ll live stylishly ever after.