Dollar Stretcher

Welcome to 2013,

Who doesn’t want to save a dollar? And how does this relate to your fireplace?

According to the increase in the installation of gas fireplaces into new home construction and the ever increasing amount of consumers converting their wood burning fireplaces with gas inserts highlights the growing importance of fireplaces in people’s lives. Granted; many people only look for the ambiance of the burning flame but many more of us have come to realize that the gas fireplace is a cost efficient, safe, clean burning and economical way to heat our homes (The Dollar Stretcher, 2012).

There are a number of industry concepts that probably could use some clarification; especially as it will contribute to a better understanding of how a gas fireplace can be efficient while reducing costs and increasing savings.

We have all probably heard the concept of “The 80/20 Rule”: studies have shown over time that most people spend 80% of their time in 20% of the home.  If this is the case, think about it; you are watching T.V. in the family room for 3 hrs. Should you put your furnace on (running at 80,000 BTU+) or your fireplace on (running at 25,000 BTU+)? Doesn’t you gas bill reflect the total amount of BTU’s you consume in one month? This rule has led to the concept of “Zone Heating”; heating individual areas of the home instead of the whole house; thereby reducing the overall consumption of gas and reducing the cost of heating.

Fireplaces can be used as a secondary or supplemental heat source to the furnace. Depending on your home layout a gas fireplace can maintain a comfortable temperature on the level it’s installed on, with an added benefit that warm air will migrate to the level above.   It can also be used if a power failure occurred; especially if installed in a basement; it would be able to reduce the risk of your pipes freezing or bursting.  

A traditional gas fireplace has technology that is geared towards its efficiency as a heater and its overall effectiveness. This is perfectly evident in the Heat & Glo and Heatilator gas fireplaces. Albeit that all fireplaces produce some heat; some models are just better geared to the job at hand.

Direct vent technology (being able to vent horizontally through a wall and terminate) was invented by Heat & Glo in the early 80’s and now is used by all fireplace manufacturers. This “balanced flue” system; which in effect is a pipe within a pipe, only allows air replacement from the outdoors in as it exhausts the gases from burning out, while the glass emits heat into the room; all this occurring in the firebox which is sealed or separated from the room. Sort of like your lungs; breathe oxygen in and carbon dioxide out while the lungs transfer oxygen to the blood for dispersal.  

Fireplaces produce heat in two distinct ways; radiant heat and convective heat. The radiant heat is the heat radiated off the surface of the glass where as convective heat is the air circulated around the firebox and expelled out of the top of the fireplace via the heat exchanger.

Most of the heat produced by a gas fireplace is radiant. To increase its effectiveness the BTUs and the glass surface size and type play a role in its effectiveness. Rule of thumb; more BTUs = more heat and larger surface glass = more radiating heat. The BTUs can also be adjusted to achieve a comfortable heating level.

The convective heat a fireplace produces can effectively be enhanced via a fan system. The fan allows the circulation of heat to a larger area and can be regulated via a rheostat or speed control dial that allow the customer to regulate heat output. These fans are often used to push the heat further into the room and away from the underside of the mantel above or any appliances like T.V.s. These fan kits can also be installed after market as long as power has been run to the fireplace junction box and are wise investments adding greatly to the overall efficiency of the fireplace.

Heat & Glo and Heatilator have also included some attributes to their fireplaces that are extremely effective and also contribute to its energy efficiency and cost saving technology:

  • ·      Its “IntelliFire and IntelliFirePlus” ignition systems (No Standing Pilots) has increased the efficiency of its fireplaces that are fast becoming an industry standard. Since the ignition systems no longer have the traditional thermocouples and thermopiles, replacement parts and services calls are dramatically reduced.
  • ·      The ignition systems in conjunction with its wireless wall controls allow for a 50% reduction in flame turn-down and heat as well as fan speed control at a touch; consumers now have a wide range of heat controllability.
  • ·      Angled Heat Deflectors are standard components that direct the convective heat towards the feet especially when the fan is engaged.
  • ·      Safety Screen barriers are standard on each and every model protecting contact with the fireplace glass and offering peace of mind.
  • ·      Multiple function wall controls and remotes allow for the total control of fireplace efficiency and affectivity.

As is the case with all fireplaces; their efficiency and ability to control energy costs are dependent on their usability in a continuous fashion and as such should be regularly maintained and serviced. Remember, always have your fireplace serviced regularly in order to maintain one means of reducing your energy costs: your fireplace.

By Eileen Fortier/RvW



Cristiano, Christine (2012) “Energy saving gas fireplaces” [Online]. Available from: