in Home Improvements by David Iverson

[W]intertime is one of my favorite times of the year. There is nothing better on a cold snowy day than curling up beside a warm fire and drinking hot coco with marshmallows and a gas fireplace can provide that clean burning option.  With a simple flick of a switch, bang…you have an instant heat source!

With regards to household energy usage, the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology (CCHT) did a study and found that 23 percent of detached and semi-detached homes (including townhouses) reported having a gas fireplace.  Of those who had a gas fireplace, 22  percent said they used them every day during the colder months. The thought process is that the added heat would help reduce the burden on your furnace, which makes it run less often, but a lot depended on the size and the location of the gas fireplace.

That being said, the BIG question being asked is, will this actually save you money?  Not exactly according to research conducted at the CCHT.

Over at the CCHT’s R2000 certified research house the study examined gas fireplace usage and how it affected the operation of the furnace and overall gas consumption.  In addition this study also wanted to discover if there were any advantages in heat distribution throughout the house while running the furnace fan continuously as opposed to only having it come on when the temperature dropped.

In conclusion data indicated that while the gas fireplace was in use the furnace turned on less often but the total gas consumption actually increased between 10 and 16 percent.  The gas fireplace with a measured efficiency rating of 76 percent was merely supplemental to the high efficiency furnace rated at 94 percent.   Furthermore, the study showed that gas consumption was on average 6 percent higher while the fireplace wasn’t being used because of the non-stop burning of the pilot light.   Some homeowners who do not use their gas fireplace turn off the pilot light and save a small but noticeable amount of gas and money.

In respect to the tests done comparing continuous versus uninterrupted furnace operation, and the desired outcome of a more regulated overall household climate, the CCHT team concluded there was little to no difference in the temperatures of subsequent rooms in either case.  To add insult to injury, not only was the continuous operation of the furnace fan a failed strategy, but there was a sizable increase in electricity consumption to the tune of 6 kwh to 11 kwh per day.   That is noticeable when you consider the average Canadian family uses on average between 15 to 30 kwh per day.

In closure, gas fireplaces are a great way to add elegance and design to a home as they provide a warm and cozy feeling during the chilly winter months in the Okanagan Valley, but when it comes to saving the most energy and money, rely on a high efficiency gas furnace as the main source of heat in your home.

For more information on how you can save, contact David Iverson for mortgage broker advice.

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