Your fireplace is a beautiful and functional asset to your home, producing warm air to make you comfortable. But did you know that it could be even more efficient? Whatever fireplace type you have at home, making a few simple changes can help improve its efficiency so you can enjoy the benefits of a cozy fire without worry.
What Is Fireplace Efficiency?
Before improving your fireplace’s efficiency, you should understand what the term means. Fireplace efficiency measures how well a fireplace produces heat and how little energy it wastes. A high efficiency fireplace will use less fuel and produce more heat, so it’s essential to consider if you’re looking to save money and get the most warmth out of your fires.
There are two main types of fireplace efficiency:
Thermal Efficiency. This measures how much heat from the fire is used to warm the room and is expressed as a percentage. The higher the number means the fireplace is more efficient.
Combustion Efficiency. This measures how much potential heat from the fuel is released during burning and is also expressed as a percentage. Again, a higher number means it’s more efficient.
What Are High Efficiency Fireplace Types?
There are three main types of fireplaces, but some are more efficient than others. Overall, gas and electricity are the most efficient ones. Below is a summary of each type:
Gas fireplaces are more efficient than wood fireplaces, with 50 to 70% thermal efficiency ratings. This means that for every 100 BTUs of heat the fire produces, 50 to 70 BTUs are used to heat rooms.
There are several reasons for this improved efficiency, as follows:
Gas fires burn cleaner than wood fires, so less smoke and pollutants are in the air.
They’re also easier to control than wood fires, so you can adjust the heat produced to suit your needs better.
Note that BTU is an abbreviation for British Thermal Unit and is used to measure how much energy is released by burning fuel.
There are three types of gas fireplaces, such as:
Gas fireplace inserts fit into your existing fireplace and can be used with either natural gas or propane.
Built-in gas fireplaces are designed to be incorporated into the home’s architecture.
Freestanding gas fireplaces are stand-alone units you can place anywhere in the home.
On the other hand, there are two types of fuel that you can use for your energy-efficient gas fireplace, such as:
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that’s extracted from the Earth. It’s relatively clean-burning and is often the most affordable option.
Propane is a liquid petroleum gas that’s typically stored in tanks. It’s a bit more expensive than natural gas but also more portable.
Electric fireplaces are even more efficient than gas, with 75 to 99% thermal efficiency ratings. This means that for every 100 BTUs of heat the fire produces, 75 to 99 BTUs are used to heat rooms.
Energy efficient electric fireplaces offer several advantages when compared to gas and wood, such as:
They’re easy to install since they don’t require venting or a chimney.
They don’t produce smoke or other pollutants, so they won’t contaminate the air in your home.
They usually come with adjustable temperature settings so you can adjust the amount of heat produced to suit your needs better.
Meanwhile, there are two types of electric fireplaces, such as:
Wall-mounted electric fireplaces can be mounted directly to the wall.
Freestanding electric fireplaces are stand-alone units you can place anywhere in the home.
How to Make Your Fireplace More Efficient?
Here are some helpful guidelines to make an efficient fireplace more efficient:
Install a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat will help you better regulate the temperature in your home, so you’re saving energy heating your home when you don’t need to.
Install a fireback
A fireback is a metal plate behind the fire that reflects heat back into the room. This can help increase the heat produced by your fireplace by up to 15%.
Upgrade your gas or electric fireplace insert
A fireplace insert is the most important component of your gas or electric fireplace. Its function is to draw in air, heat it, and then release the heated air back into your home. If you have an older model insert, consider upgrading to a newer model for improved efficiency.
Install glass doors
Installing glass doors on your fireplace will help reduce the amount of cold air that enters your home through the chimney when you’re not using it. This will help keep your house warmer and reduce energy costs during winter.
Check your chimney flue size
A chimney flue should be large enough to handle the size of the fire being produced in your fireplace. If it’s too small, it won’t effectively carry away smoke and other pollutants from your home safely.
Are Traditional Wood-Burning Fireplaces Efficient?
Traditional wood-burning fireplaces are notoriously inefficient, with thermal efficiency ratings as low as 15 to 30%. This means that for every 100 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat produced by the fire, only 15 to 30 BTUs are actually used to heat the room. The rest is lost up the chimney.
There are several reasons for this low efficiency, as follows:
One is that wood fires burn best when they’re allowed to breathe, so the damper must open a crack to ensure good airflow. This also allows heat to escape up the chimney.
Another reason is that wood fires produce a lot of smoke and pollutants, reducing the heat that can enter the room.
How to Make Your Traditional Wood-Burning Fireplaces Efficient
While a wood fireplace has low-efficiency ratings, many homeowners prefer the authentic look and feel of burning wood in their fireplaces. If you’re one of them, you can take several steps to make an energy efficient wood burning fireplace, as follows:
Install glass doors
Like electricity and gas fireplaces, installing glass doors on a wood-burning fireplace will help keep cold and warm air out.
Install an insert
An insert is an efficient way to contain the heat produced by the fire so it’s not lost up the chimney.
Install a fireback
This helps to reflect heat into the room, making your wood-burning fireplace more efficient.
Install a chimney liner
A chimney liner helps to reduce the amount of smoke and pollutants released into the air. It’s also beneficial because it prevents heat from escaping the chimney and reduces creosote buildup.
Use dry, well-seasoned wood
Wet or green wood produces more smoke and burns less efficiently than dry, well-seasoned wood. Make sure to store your wood in a dry place and allow it to season for at least six months before using it in your fireplace.
Have your chimney cleaned regularly
Buildup in your chimney can block airflow and prevent heat from entering your home. Having your chimney cleaned regularly will help ensure it’s clear and able to do its job.
Use an eco-friendly firelog
These logs are made from recycled materials and burn cleaner than traditional wood logs, so you can feel good about using them.
Invest in an EPA-rated wood stove
Wood stoves are more efficient than traditional wood-burning fireplaces, as they burn wood more efficiently and produce fewer pollutants. Make sure to look for an EPA-certified model that meets the most stringent emissions standards.
There are different types of fireplaces, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. When it comes to efficiency, gas and electric fireplaces are the most efficient, followed by wood-burning fireplaces.
If you’re seeking ways to make a high-efficiency fireplace, consider installing a programmable thermostat or a fireback. You can also upgrade your fireplace insert to a newer, more efficient model. With these tips in mind, you can choose the best fireplace type for your needs and keep your home warm all winter.