Energy Saving Gas Fireplaces
by Christine Cristiano
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Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the installation of gas fireplaces in new homes. Furthermore, homeowners with existing wood burning fireplaces are converting them to accommodate gas fireplace inserts. Gas fireplaces are cost efficient, safe, clean burning and economical.
Gas Vs. Wood
A gas fireplace is by far more economically and energy efficient than a wood burning fireplace. A wood burning fireplace creates a negative pressure within the house and in turn draws a large percentage of the heat generated by the fireplace up the chimney. This is further compounded if your house is not well insulated by drawing the cold air through the cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Thus, the efficiency of a wood-burning fireplace is only about 40% compared to 80% for a gas fireplace.
A gas fireplace (without a blower) doesn't consume any electricity and costs just pennies to run. A 20,000 BTU gas fireplace will cost $19 per 100 hours (based on natural gas fuel rate of $0.3292 per m3). A wood burning fireplace would cost $200 (based on wood cost of $200 per cord) to create the same heat capacity for 100 hours. (Information obtained from saskenergy.com) A gas fireplace would save the homeowner $181 for 100 hours of use.
Reduce Your Heating Costs
If your house contains a standard or older furnace, using a gas fireplace on the main floor can moderately reduce your heating costs. A gas fireplace can heat 800 to 1000 square feet of living space without having to heat the entire house. This is commonly referred to as zone heating. A new gas fireplace will run at about 80% efficiency whereas a standard or older furnace will run at a much lower efficiency rate depending on the type and age of the furnace.
Some gas fireplaces come equipped with a built-in blower that will circulate the heat to a larger area. A fireplace blower can be installed at the time of the initial installation or can be added on later as long as a power source has been provided in the area of the gas fireplace.
A gas fireplace can be used as a main heat source or if your furnace is not working. Depending on the layout of your house and a main floor installation, it can maintain an adequate temperature on the main floor with a slightly cooler temperature on the second floor above. In addition, a gas fireplace will still be operational during a power failure so it is vital to ensure your fireplace is operating properly.
Gas Fireplace Maintenance
Like most gas-fired appliances, a gas fireplace requires regular annual maintenance to ensure its safety and efficiency. Routine maintenance helps maintain low energy costs and ensures that your fireplace will continue to be operational.
A thorough gas fireplace cleaning by a licensed Gas Fitter should include:
- inspection and cleaning of the glass for irregularities
- inspection, cleaning and adjustment of pilot safety
- clean and check control compartment
- check of venting system
- check on/off switch or thermostat
- check and clean blower if applicable
- adjustment of the primary air shutter for proper regulation of the air feed to the flame
- check combustion chamber for any cracks
Make sure the fireplace is cold before the service technician arrives. Never clean the outer glass if the glass is even the slightest bit warm because the pores in the glass will expand and draw the glass cleaner into the pores, which may cause the glass to become cloudy.
Choosing A Reputable Contractor
Only a licensed Gas Technician, who has been certified by your governing natural gas authority, should service your gas appliances. A reputable service company should hold a municipal contractor's license and be a member in good standing of a regional and/or national HVAC trade association.
Related link to HVAC trade associations:
American Gas Association AGA.org
editor's note: prices will vary depending on where you live and what type of wood you're buying and who's supplying the wood or gas. You'll need to collect the data for your situation and calculate the comparison.
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