Gas Fireplace Efficiency

I have a wood-burning fireplace in my basement. I don't use it because it sucks all the warm air out. Does a gas fireplace offer more efficiency than wood, i.e. is some of the combustion heat retained, such that I could use it to heat up the basement while watching TV down there?
I have a gas line on that end of the house, so it shouldn't be a problem to get gas to the fireplace.
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A vent-free (plug the chimney) set of gas logs will heat a room. I have a 100-year old house with 4 fireplaces, that's how I heat the place (until I can afford central heat / AC)

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No, as long as you are drawing air into the fireplace and out the chimney you will get drafts. One solution is to get glass doors on the fireplace and a fresh air intake into the firebox.
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Joseph E. Meehan

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If it were above ground I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a vent free gas appliance. 100% of the energy stays in the room. In a basement, though, you're tempting the fates with carbon monoxide. A good detector, the *right sized* appliance, and common sense would be needed to keep it safe.
Much more forgiving would be a vented appliance. [not just the gas logs you put in a fireplace] You'd effectively block off the fireplace & just use the flue as a place to run the much smaller vent out of the house.
The advantage of gas is complete control over how much fire & when it is off; cost might also be an advantage, if you're buying firewood.
The only downside of gas is it's *slightly* less romantic ambience.
Jim
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If you go with a gas insert, it will be more efficient than wood. You can have the gas insert rigged to draw its combustion air from the outside, so it doesn't draw warm house air out. This will get rid of the drafts associated with most fireplaces.
As far as efficiency goes, most gas fireplaces are about 70% efficient, with the best models (that I've found so far) up to about 85% efficient. This is still poor compared to the best gas furnaces, so using the gas fireplace may be good for the "look and feel" of the room, but it is not the most economical way to heat. IOW, if you want to heat and keep costs/pollution down, use the furnace instead of the fireplace.
Mike
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Installing a separate direct vented gas space heater might be reasonable alternative to upgrading the fireplace. It takes outside air and vents exhaust air through a single through-the-wall pipe. It must be installed on an outside wall for that reason. No drafts and no combustion products to worry about. It can provide reasonable efficiencies, easily better than a fireplace but I'd guess not as good as a furnace, and is thermostatically controlled. I've read about at least one small unit which doesn't require electrical power, so these might make excellent backup heating systems. No, it doesn't provide the ambiance of a fireplace.
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