There’s nothing more atmospheric than igniting a fireplace on a night when the air carries a crisp chill. As a homeowner, though, you naturally possess a worry in the back of your mind as to how effective your fireplace can be. A fireplace can be a cost effective way to heat your home. Are those flames flickering away your hard-earned cash?
There are two different types of fireplaces and both of them will heat your home in different ways: electric and gas.
Electric fireplaces have become increasingly popular in the past years since their initial market debut—and for good reason. Clean and efficient, these fireplaces can crank out the heat just as well as their gas counterparts with popular styles rating at 1,500 watts. In fact, the majority of these electric fireplaces draw about 1,500 watts, which means they’ll heat up to 400 square feet of space.
Translating this into something useful, you’re essentially making the room you’re sitting in warmer, but not necessarily the rest of your house. And let’s boil that down into what that will cost you. An average 1,500-watt electric fireplace costs about 18 cents per hour, and that’s with all of its settings dialed to the max. Of course, you can drop this cost down several cents if you move the settings to their lowest option and if there’s the option to use the LED-backlit fire display instead of the heater.
During the winter months, if you came home from work and used your fireplace for about two hours per day, you’d spend about $10.80 per month based on these estimations. That’s about 60 hours of fireplace usage per month with all of the settings turned to maximum.
Not bad, but remember, you’re not heating much more than 400 square feet of your house. By the time you wander upstairs, you’ll realize that your electric fireplace’s heat didn’t reach your chilly bedroom.
Is going with a traditional gas fireplace any hotter for your home? What about its cost effectiveness? Gas fireplaces have long been a staple in traditional home construction, but you’ll find that truly nailing down the cost of its operation is an elusive if not impossible task. There are two styles of gas fireplaces—gas log set fireplaces, which are placed inside of standard wood-fire fireplaces and gas fireplaces, which are self-contained units.
First off, if you’re going for heating efficiency, you can cross log sets off your list as they’re one of the most inefficient ways to heat your home. Having a log set fireplace can use between 60,000 to 90,000 BTUs per hour with most of that heat going right back up the chimney.
Traditional gas fireplaces are better in terms of heating efficiency, working with larger ranges of BTU outputs of 10,000 to 70,000 BTUs. Like log sets, traditional gas fireplaces fall victim to losing some heat to their chimney, too, but not nearly as much. Comparatively, gas fireplaces are more efficient in heating overall than log sets.
Log sets and gas fireplaces rely on natural gas or propane as a fuel source, and the difficulty in pinning down their operating cost can be blamed on the fluctuating prices of these two different fuel types. However, propane is generally more expensive, but for those landlocked in rural areas with an absence of natural gas hookups, it’s often the only option. Pricing for natural gas is not just cheaper but tends to be more stable.
A Cold Reality
The truth is, fireplaces aren’t the greatest in generating whole-house heat. That’s not to say that you can’t make your fireplace more efficient in heating what it can. Here’s how to heat your home effectively:
- Adjust the damper: heat is lost because the hot hair creates an updraft that sucks any warm air right out of your room, defeating the purpose of your fireplace. You can adjust the damper to minimize this effect.
- Use the right wood: yes, there’s right wood and there’s wrong wood. Burning the wrong kind of wood can lead to inefficiency and heat loss, especially if the wood isn’t seasoned. If you’ve ever tried to toss a wet log in your fire, you’ll notice that it cracks and pops, taking forever to burn down. Seasoned firewood is the way to make your fire healthier and more efficient.
- Chimney Upkeep: for traditional fireplaces, a chimney inspection is a must. Creosote buildup can restrict airflow and be a potential fire hazard. Having your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional sweeper once a year will keep your fireplace in good health, ensure your home is protected against chimney fires, and prevent maintenance issues from turning into costly repairs down the road.
While you probably can’t heat your entire house with your fireplace, at least efficiently and cost effectively, you can make get the most out of your money while enjoying a fire. Making sure your fireplace and chimney is in good working condition is the most important part of saving money and protecting your home and an inspection should be on your yearly household checklist first and foremost.
Let Your Fireplace Heat Your Home
Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, you need to have it inspected. Gas fireplaces, despite not dealing with the same concerns as a wood-burning one, still require the keen, trained eye of a professional chimney inspector. When we light a fireplace, we are literally playing with fire inside our homes, and this is certainly not a risk any of us want to take by neglecting them.
At Vertical Chimney Care, we regularly inspect chimneys from outside and inside. Contact us today to speak with a product specialist.