Can fireplaces increase home efficiency in the winter?
Fireplaces are by far the most romantic part of the HVAC industry.
Believe us, we’ve tried gathering around the furnace for a glass of wine and it just doesn’t have the same feel. However, there was a time when fireplaces were more than a luxury, and were even used as a main heat source for some homes.
Some of you may still have those old fashioned fireplaces in your home, or some may have had a newer gas fireplace installed. Neither of these are suitable for heating an entire home in today’s world – especially in a Canadian winter – but many may choose to utilize them as an additional piece for their HVAC system as a whole.
Fireplaces offer a more direct style of heating, as the heat isn’t distributed throughout the entire home like a central air system. If any activity in your home is limited to the room with the fireplace, it can certainly make that room a little toastier, so you may want to turn down the heat in the rest of your home a little bit. That is a luxury some may enjoy, but some of our customers wonder if it might be more efficient to do so.
While it can be enjoyable, we do not recommend this as a way to save money on your heating bill.
Recently we wrote about a similar question when using a programmable thermostat, that when they weren’t at home, they could save money by turning down the heat. In this post, we explain that because of the temperature retaining qualities of the objects in your home, it takes a long time to reach a comfortable heat when your home has been cold for a long time.
This same theory applies to your fireplace.
In 2010, the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology ran a series of tests with and without the use of a gas fireplace in the winter to see if there was any change in efficiency. They tested with six hours use in the evening and it running all day using a thermostat and in both cases it increased energy consumption (12.5% for six hour use and 9.8% for 24 hour thermostat use).
In addition to the increase in energy costs, the experiment observed up to a two-degree decrease in other parts of the home. So, if there are other people in other parts of your home, they might not find the fireplace so romantic.
Fireplaces can be very comfortable in the short-term and can add value to your home, however they should not factor into your long term heating plans.
If you are looking for a way to reduce stress on your furnace and decrease energy consumption there are various other ways to do so. New systems such as ductless, heat pumps and boilers can be more efficient under the right circumstances, and maintenance can go a long way in increasing furnace or fireplace efficiency.