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Heating Efficiency for Gas Fireplace Addition

Answered by Jeffrey ~ November 3, 2010 ~ 2 Comments » | Respond to this question

I'm converting my wood-burning fireplace to gas in my Goshen, Indiana, home. Which will save more on utility bills--buying a fireplace insert, or buying a free-standing gas stove that sits on an extended hearth in front of the fireplace? In the latter case the pipe would be routed through a brick wall that plugs the opening of the existing fireplace.

Jacklyn ~ Goshen, Indiana

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Jacklyn, Actually they are pretty much the same product; the difference being that a gas fireplace insert fits into your wood burning fireplace enclosure and a free standing gas stove doesn't.

Since you already have the wood burning fireplace you might be better off purchasing the insert so you aren't using up additional floor space and having to be concerned with clearance from combustibles with a gas stove sitting out in your room. An insert means the only surface you need to be concerned with getting hot is the front as every other surface is inside the fireplace enclosure, but with a free standing gas stove you need to be concerned with all exposed surfaces

Both units should be good for saving energy and much more efficient than your wood burning fireplace. The measurement you should be concerned with when you're shopping for a gas stove or gas fireplace is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). This is a measurement of the amount of fuel that goes to the unit that's converted to heat. Most of the gas stoves and gas fireplaces I took a look at range from about 70 percent to 76 percent AFUE which means that they convert about 70 percent to 76 percent of the natural gas or LP gas to heat and the rest escapes up your chimney or is vented out.

When you are looking at various units be careful that the efficiency measurement you're looking at is the AFUE. Manufacturers often use other efficiency measurements to make their units look good, but the AFUE tells the true tale and it is the same measurement that's used on furnaces. You should look for one in the high 70s and you may even be able to find a unit in the low 80s which would be great for saving energy.

The other issue that you should be careful of is a non-vented gas fireplace or gas stove. These units don't use a chimney or direct vent, but rather a clothes dryer type vent and they can pull the oxygen out of your home. I had one of these type of units for a couple of years and even with a window slightly open in the middle of the winter I could tell a difference in the air quality when the fireplace was operating.

One other feature that you should look for when shopping for your gas fireplace or gas stove is a model that doesn't require the pilot light to be on constantly. This is another way to increase your energy efficiency as it used to be that most models had a pilot light on even when the unit wasn't being used and while there wasn't much gas being used by the pilot light; it was still using some. Many of the new models eliminate the need for a constant pilot light and I'm sure there must be distributors for them around Goshen, Indiana.

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