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It’s cold outside, should I turn on the fireplace or turn up the thermostat?

12 January 2009 1,531 views 2 Comments
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There’s a few things to consider here. On the surface, and as a general rule, you should avoid turning up the thermostat. The reason is relatively simple – you will be pumping natural gas (or whatever your fuel) into a unit that consumes a relatively large amount of fuel to heat a large area. If you are in every room of your house, this is by far the most efficient solution.

But I’m going to assume that you are not in all the rooms of your house, at least at the moment. You’ll probably be confined to a few rooms, possibly a family room or bedroom or living room in for the short future. So heating a whole house doesn’t make sense.

It also doesn’t make sense because heating the house and in turn the room you are in to the desird temperature will most likely take a long time. The longer the furnace runs, the more energy it uses. Inefficient city.

So, a space heater ot fireplace (sometimes they are one int he same) are automatically the better solution.

Since I’m not sure which one you have (gas, electric, woodburning) I’m going to give you some blanket information that covers all three.

First, woodburning. It is by far the cheapest (as long as you don’t have to buy the wood), and for many gives off the best odor.  Make sure the damper is open before you light the fire. Woodburning fireplaces can also be messy, so cleanup might be a small chore. Remember to close the damper when you are finished.   Also, be aware that while the room will be heated, the fireplace is using the heated air in the room as “fuel”. Fire needs air to keep going. Without it, the fire suffocates and dies. This air does not come from outside – it comes from your room.

Efficient natural gas fireplaces in a room are probably your best energy choice in most circumstances. When installed correctly, they are save, controllable, and give off the most consistent heat. They are better in the heat per cost department than their electric counterparts. Of course, they are more expensive to install and are not portable like their electric counterparts. But an efficient gas fireplace will cost you less than the most efficient electric one.

Lastly, the electric fireplace. You can interchange them with an electric space heater with a blower attached – they are basically the same thing except the fireplace has lights for the fake fire look. These little unit usually weigh in (energy wise) at around 1500 watts and up. Which means, depending on the amount of time you need to use the unit, they can cost as much as a dollar or so a day. Their heat in a more open room (like a living room or family room) isn’t as noticeable as a woodburning fireplace or gas one. And since their heat output is usually much lower than a gas counterpart, they have to work harder and longer to match. Additionally, the blowers on the units are usually pathetically small and can’t physically move the heated air very far. So, if you want to huddle within 5 feet or so, you should be fine.

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2 Comments »

  • Sesso said:

    Great site.

  • regan said:

    Turn up the thermostat. I think you use more energy using an electric fireplace than turning up the thermostat a couple of degrees temporarily.

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