The warm glow of a fireplace takes the chill off winter and adds cheer to every season. But how do you know you’ve chosen the right one for your needs? At ATCO EnergySense, we can help you make the right decision. Here are some of the most common questions we are asked about fireplaces.
Absolutely. You can convert a wood-burning fireplace to a more efficient natural gas fireplace by installing a fireplace insert. These inserts are designed to fit directly into the existing masonry of your wood-burning fireplace and require an approved vent liner to replace the existing chimney.
If you are installing a new gas fireplace when renovating or building a new home, you need to know where it will be located.
If your fireplace will be located against an exterior wall, you will buy a zero clearance direct vent fireplace. These fireplaces vent directly outside through the sidewall.
If your fireplace will be located against an interior wall, or not against a wall at all, you will buy a free-standing fireplace. These fireplaces look like conventional wood stoves but have all the advantages of natural gas.
Venting is important to ensure combustion gases are moved from your fireplace to the outdoors. There are three types of venting.
A direct vent fireplace is typically the most efficient because it is a sealed unit that uses outside air, rather than heated indoor air, for combustion. Combustion gases are then vented outside. Most natural gas fireplaces installed today use direct venting.
Power vents use a fan to move combustion gases through a horizontal or vertical flue. This type of vent is used when a conventional flue cannot be installed. Power venting uses less indoor air for combustion, making it more efficient than natural draft venting.
Natural draft vents take advantage of the natural drafts created by the chimney of a fireplace insert or, in some cases, a free-standing fireplace. Because natural draft venting normally uses heated indoor air for combustion, they are the least efficient type of venting.
All natural gas fireplaces have an FE (Fireplace Efficiency) rating, which is expressed as a percentage. You can find a fireplace’s FE on the EnerGuide label. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the fireplace.
For more information on the benefits of natural gas fireplaces, visit ATCO Gas.
The table below provides an at-a-glance understanding of fireplace efficiency and operating costs. As you can see, conventional wood-burning fireplaces are the least efficient. High efficiency natural gas fireplaces have a rating of up to 75 per cent. A condensing natural gas fireplace is the most efficient, with a rating of up to 90 per cent. However, few of these fireplaces are currently available in Alberta.
• An electronic ignition with battery backup is more efficient than a pilot light, plus it allows you to use the fireplace during a power failure.
• A fireplace thermostat allows you to set the temperature at which the fireplace will automatically turn on and turn off.
• A circulating fan distributes heat evenly throughout your home.
• The heat output (measured in BTUs) helps you choose an appropriately sized fireplace for the room it is heating and for the overall heating demands of your house. A high turn down ratio gives you more control over heat output.
As with all natural gas appliances, you should have a heating professional inspect your natural gas fireplace according to the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure it is working safely and efficiently.
For more information on the operating costs of natural gas appliances, check out the Fuel Comparison Fact Card ( PDF 118 KB).
In Alberta, an electric fireplace can be up to four times more expensive to operate than a natural gas fireplace.
ATCO is a diversified global corporation delivering service excellence and innovative business solutions in Structures & Logistics, Electricity, Pipelines & Liquids, and Retail Energy. More information about ATCO can be found on www.ATCO.com.