Gas Fireplace EfficiencyWe have a gas fireplace much like the one shown in this picture and we have it inspected once per year to make sure that it is operating well. When it is being inspected we also vacuum out any dust that has accumulated and we clean the front glass.  It becomes dirty and covered with a little bit of soot over the year. This is a good time to clean it which enhances the look of the fireplace. We needed the fan replaced one year since it was beginning to get noisy. It was just a matter of time before it needed replacement.

Our fireplace also has a thermostat that can be set to whatever temperature we want to keep our family room at the correct temperature. In addition there is a fan that circulates air around the fireplace and out through several vents to heat up the room. With the fan running it is supposed to be 77% efficient which is actually pretty good. It really does a good job of heating our family room.

This brings up the question of whether we should use the fireplace to help heat the house or not. We turn down our thermostat to 18C so the rest of the house is kept cool saving us energy and use the gas fireplace to heat the room that we use the most, our family room. I have always wondered if this is a smart thing to do relative to saving energy and reducing our overall energy bill? Our gas fireplace inspection technician seemed to think so, but I decided to do a little research and found the following results.

Gas Fireplace Heating Study

The study tested gas fireplace use and its impact on both furnace use and total gas energy consumption in an R2000 home. If you do not have one of these home you may need to make some adjustments to the results to account for the differences. An R2000 homes has added insulation, a high efficiency furnace and an air exchanger for fresh air. Researches wanted to find out if operating a gas fireplace would reduce the total energy use including electricity to run the fan and the gas usage to produce heat. They also wanted to test the advantage of running the fan constantly vs. only when the furnace was on.

They found that although the furnace ran less often, the total gas usage actually increased because the gas fireplace was not as efficient as the furnace. The furnace has an efficiency of 95% while the fireplace was only 76%. Even the pilot light of the fireplace consumes energy and if the fireplace was not running there was still some energy being consumed, while a high efficiency furnace does not have a pilot light.

Running the fan on the furnace all of the time did not make a noticeable difference in heat distribution in other rooms. It did use more electricity which was considered a negative result.

They concluded that running a gas fireplace did not actually save energy use and actually cost more to heat the home mainly because of the difference in efficiency. They did not mention if they turned down the temperature to keep the rest of the home cool and they did not take into account the efficiency of other homes other than an R2000 home.

Adjustment to the Gas Fireplace Study

For example our furnace is only 85% efficient and therefore there would not be that much difference between the furnace and the gas fireplace. We are now confident that with our situation of a 76% efficient fireplace, a 85% furnace and turning down the heat in the rest of the house, with the furnace fan turned off that we are probably saving money when it comes to heating our home.

Everyone must evaluate their own situation to make the best decision for what makes sense for them. Outside today it is -22C which is pretty cold and we have the fireplace on. Our family room is warm and cozy and the gas fireplace inspection was just done so we think we will stick with our present plan.

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