The ambiance of a fireplace is tough to beat on a cold winter’s night. The warm glow adds character to your home, but how much does it contribute to your home heating needs? Fireplaces do have an impact on your home’s energy use, but they may not be as helpful as you think.

We’ll look at two types of fireplaces that are common in American homes. Both of these styles are open, hearth-style fireplaces, not closed wood stoves. A wood stove is typically much more efficient than a fireplace.

Fireplace Efficiency: Up in Smoke

Many of us love the charm and authenticity of a wood fireplace. Unfortunately, they are not efficient in heating your home. A traditional fireplace sees 80-90% of the heat it produces go straight up the chimney. Warm air inside your home is also pulled up the chimney, making wood fireplaces extremely inefficient at heating a house.

That chimney provides additional issues even without a fire burning. Even with a well-sealed flue, the opening of the chimney can still cause energy loss that can increase your energy costs when you’re using your furnace or air conditioning.

Additional Types of Fireplaces

Luckily, there are some alternatives for those who want the charm of a fireplace with improved energy efficiency.

Natural Gas Fireplaces

Homes that already get energy from natural gas are ideal candidates to use that same fuel in their fireplace. There are two kinds of natural fireplaces.

Gas logs are faux logs that are placed in an existing fireplace and hooked up to an additional gas line from your home. Like wood-burning fireplaces, these may have glass doors or can be completely open to the room. Also, like wood-burning fireplaces, much of the heat they produce goes straight up the chimney (usually around 75%).

Gas inserts are the better option for those looking at a natural gas fireplace. These are an enclosed metal box and can be installed in your existing fireplace, a chimney, or without any kind of chimney. The exhaust can be directed out of a small pipe run outside through an exterior wall. These are much more efficient and just 20-30% of the heat is wasted.

Are Electric Fireplaces Efficient?

For energy efficiency in a fireplace, nothing beats an electric fireplace. Electric fireplaces have no exhaust or chimney and have no contact with the outdoors. That means they are extremely efficient and waste virtually none of the heat they produce.

Is There an Energy Efficient Wood Burning Fireplace?

When it comes to a traditional hearth-style wood-burning fireplace, the answer is probably not. While a perfectly sealed wood fireplace in the right weather and temperature conditions might add heat to your home, it is still much less efficient than electric or gas-insert fireplaces, and much less efficient than a home furnace.

We understand the some homeowners simply enjoy their traditional fireplace too much to change over to another system. If this is you, we recommend looking for ways to make your setup more efficient. One of the best ways to improve the efficiency of a traditional fireplace is to add fireplace insulation.

Gas Fireplace vs. Furnace Efficiency

Using a gas insert fireplace can be a smarter bet than turning on your furnace, depending on your needs. Both your gas fireplace and furnace are roughly 70-80% efficient, though some modern furnaces are considerably more efficient. If you’re trying to heat a single room, the fireplace may prove more efficient, but your furnace will be the superior choice to distribute heat evenly throughout the home.

Even the 99% efficient electrical fireplace faces the same challenge; it may not be successful in distributing heat further than the room it occupies.

When It Comes to Efficient Home Heating, We Know Our Stuff

Save money with a more efficient modern furnace and expert installation from One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning. We offer installation, repair, and regular home heating and air conditioning maintenance to keep your home comfortable. Learn more about our services by calling (800) 893-3523 or request an appointment with an experienced technician today.