Indoor Elements

Report Reveals whether operating a gas fireplace reduces total gas consumption?

A recent survey of household energy use found that 23% of Canadian single and semi-detached and row housing reported having a gas fireplace and of those, 22% reported using them every day once the temperature dip. Depending on the size and location of the fireplace, the added warmth can help ease the furnace’s heating burden , causing it to turn on less frequently. But, will that save money? Not necessarily, according to research undertaken at the Canadian Center for Housing Technology (CCHT). The study tested gas fireplace use and its impact on both furnace use and total energy consumption in the CCHT’s R2000 certified research house. Researchers wanted to find out if operating a gas fireplace would reduce total gas consumption. It also looked at whether running the furnace fan continuously had any benefits on heat distribution to rooms away from the fireplace compared to having the fan automatically turn on only when the furnace was required to provide heating for the house. The results showed that, while the furnace came on less frequently during fireplace use, total gas energy consumption overall actually increased by approximately 10 to 16 per cent. This is because the gas fireplace, which had a measured efficiency of only 76%, was offsetting the operation of the furnace with an efficiency of 94%. The study lso found that even when the fireplace was not in use, overall gas energy use was 6% higher compared to the control house because of the gas consumption by the small, but continuously running, pilot light. While running the furnace fan continuously was expected to distribute heat from the fireplace to other rooms more effectively than when run intermittently, the researchers found that operation of the fan had very little influence on the temperatures in other rooms in either mode. In fact, not only was there no difference in heat distribution, continuously running the furnace fan actually increased daily electrical energy use from 6 kWh to 11 kWh, which can be significant given that typical Canadian homes use a total of 15 to 30 kWh per day. Researchers concluded that while gas fireplaces provide a warm ambiance during cold Canadian winters, use of a high efficiency furnace as the main method of home heating will save homeowners energy and money in the long run.