fireplace gas log

I have a fully functional brick faced and lined, wood burning fireplace. It and my house were built in 1960 and I am going to convert it to a gas-fired log setup. Natural gas is in place. The existing fireplace is in excellent condition; brick hearth and stone floor adjoins it.
I don't particularly like the looks of the setups found in the home stores. I am looking for a system that will present the most realistic look while still functioning to provide heat. If there is a tradeoff, look wins out, as this is a secondary heat source.
Who makes the best on the market? Should it be vented or not? What considerations should I be making? I see remote controls, thermostatically controlled units and other bells and whistles, are there any I should avoid? Any installation tricks to make it look better? I noticed a few places speak of layering materials to make an appearance of ashes, some even glowing with traces of fire, any comments as to what works best for that?
As you can see I am just cracking the shell on this one and really need some help from someone who has been there and done that.
Thanks,
Roger in Abilene.
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James Jones wrote:

BTDT Check out Peterson Gas Logs. http://www.rhpeterson.com/realfyre/homerf.htm
Had the charred oak for 18 months. Zero problems and looks great. It's become the favorite winter-time room in the house.
No thermostat, no remote for us. YMMV.
Dan
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Hi, Same at my house and cabin. House has two FPs. No remote, just thermo controlled fan. Installing inserts may be a good idea. Tony
Dan wrote:

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We have a Blaze King, model Pegasus 9703. When we lived in the Sierras and had very cold winter nights, it was our primary heater for a 3 bedroom cabin and it worked great. We have since had it converted to natural gas and have it in our new modular home in Nebraska. It is great for when we have severe winter weather and lose electricity.
http://www.blazeking.com/Gas1.htm #
It is very realistic looking. Unless you get very close to it, you can't tell it's not a real wood burning stove.
Here's a picture of ours.
http://www.geocities.com/bas3.rm/newheater.jpg
HTH, Brigitte
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Having considered a gas stove last winter (and deciding that we'd save the money for now), I found that going to multiple stores and looking at the different log combinations and the different trim kits gave me a good idea of what I would get for my money. I'd never go to the home stores, they just don't have the selection or the experience. The real stores have lots of different fireplaces installed and running, so you can feel how they perform and see how they look. We decided that without spending between $2000-$3000, we wouldn't get a stove that would look good and perform well. I know that you don't need to spend that much, but the better looking fire and trim costs.
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Here is a FAQ in my site about gas logs, both vented and vent free:
http://www.FireLogs.com/FAQ.htm
I have been selling gas logs since the 70's. I agree on the Peterson brand name.
Here is some on my COMMERCIAL web site:
http://www.FireLogs.com/PetersonVentedGasLogs.htm http://www.FireLogs.com/PetersonVentFreeGasLogs.htm
The factory web site is: http://www.RHPeterson.com
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