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What Makes a Gas Fireplace Efficient?

June 16, 2017
What Makes a Gas Fireplace Efficient?

A gas fireplaces makes an awesome addition to any home (particularly on chilly June mornings!). Often people already know that they want a gas fireplace before they even know the brands or models that are available. In this article we’ll run through the benefits of a gas fireplace, the different types of gas log fires available, plus what you should look for when choosing a built in gas fireplace, including choosing an efficient model.

Advantages of Installing a Gas Fireplace

If you’re living anywhere where mains natural gas is available, a built in gas fireplace is a great option.

First up they offer a ridiculous level of convenience – single touch remote to start, thermostat controlled, no wood chopping, no ash to clean up, there are lots of models to choose from and they really are super easy to use.

Plus a gas fireplace will create the ambience of a wood fire - providing a beautiful a focal point and the relaxing flame flicker of a real wood fire. Most models look so real, that the only thing missing is the pop and hiss of burning wood.

Gas Fireplaces have a wide range of styling and sizing options, so it is easy to find a unit that fits with your home’s look and feel. Popular options include double sided fireplaces and wide landscape shaped units.

If you are still tossing up between putting in a gas or wood fireplace, one of the key advantages of an indoor gas fireplace is how simply they can be fitted into a renovation or building project. They can easily be fitted into a stud wall and directly vented to the outdoors. This means that there are a lot more options when it comes to deciding where in your floor plan you’d like to position your gas fireplace.

How does a Gas Fireplace Insert Installation work?

Some people who are renovating, may have a house that already has an existing brick or stone chimney built, but would like to transition from a wood fireplace to gas. The good news is, this is easy. There are gas fireplace inserts designed to fit into an existing chimney structure and then the flue installed to vent to the outdoors. Just make sure that you’ve got your measurements right to fit into the available space.

There may be some brick or stud work required to position your new gas fireplace at the right height – as these units generally sit higher than a traditional wood hearth. However, this is generally a matter of choice – some people prefer their fireplace to sit on the ground to replicate a traditional fireplace, whereas others prefer the fire to sit higher in the wall. You’ll also need to allow for the flue being installed to vent externally. Other than that, it’s all pretty straightforward and the cosmetic considerations become the most important.

What makes different models of gas fireplaces more efficient?

When you start comparing different gas fireplace options the great news is that all the gas fireplace models sold in Australia have to comply with the safety regulations and current legislation.

With the safety aspect ticked off, your next decision is to choose between an open or closed gas fireplace unit.

Open Gas Fireplaces

Open gas fireplace units have particular characteristics that may or may not work in your home:

  • They don’t have any mesh or glass between you and the flames, although with some units you can get metal screens to sit in front of the box. The trade off is that you do lose some of the effect of the fire.
  • They are great for ambient warmth but aren’t as good as a direct source of heat in the home.
  • Open gas fireplaces must have air vents in the room to provide fresh air.
  • They don’t have variable heat settings – it’s either on or off.
  • They use more gas than a sealed balanced flue does.
  • And due to all of the above they are actually more expensive to run.

An open gas fireplace works well as a decorative piece in addition to other home heating rather than as a primary heat source.

Closed Gas Fireplaces

Closed gas fireplace units, or balanced flue units, work completely differently. Heat & Glo revolutionised the gas fireplace when they invented the technology over thirty years ago.

Balanced Flue Fireplace

All balanced flue units are fully sealed – which means that they have a glass front and safety mesh over this. The closed combustion system ensures that very little of the gas energy is wasted, and instead its working to generate heat for your home. Fresh air for combustion is drawn from outside, and any of the minimal by-products produced are expelled externally. This helps maintain optimum indoor air quality.

Some indicative figures show that a direct vent or balanced flue system will be 70-80% energy efficient, as compared to an open gas fireplace which runs at only 40-50% efficiency.

So if finding an energy efficient gas fireplace is high on your wishlist, definitely start with a balanced flue unit.

Right Size Fireplace, Right Size Room

The next step is to make sure you are looking at the right size unit for the space that you want to heat. There are a lot of factors that can affect heat output, such as room size, ceiling height, floor coverings, window coverings, etc. so it’s important to identify your particular needs.

But what else drives efficiency of the unit? If you’re someone who really loves technical product details, then read on as we go deeper into the individual components that will influence a gas fireplace’s efficiency.

Built In Thermostat

Another factor affecting efficiency, is whether the unit comes with a built in thermostat or not. This thermostat allows you to set the temperature to exactly what you want the room to be. Once your gas fireplace senses that temperature in your room has been reached it will turn itself off.

Associated with the thermostat, is finding a gas fireplace that allows you to adjust the heat output – it literally lets you turn down the flames. Why is this important? Well it gives you flexibility – if you’d like your fire on but the room is getting too warm at full output, you can reduce the heat output by turning the flame height down.

Units that have built in fans are definitely more efficient at filling the whole room with heat, as the fan pushes the heat out across the room.

Finally, if you choose a gas fireplace that has an electronic pilot light rather than a continuous pilot light, you will save a substantial amount of money off your annual gas bills.

Summary of Most Efficient Gas Fireplace Features:

  • Direct Vent or Balanced Flue Unit.
  • Choose an appropriate size of heater for the room.
  • Electronic ignition rather than a continuously running pilot.
  • "Turn down" capability so that you can set the fireplace to run at an efficient and comfortable level.
  • Fan to circulate the heat.

We recommend heading in store to talk to a qualified expert and to see the range of gas fireplaces on offer first hand.

This article was put together with assistance of the team at Jetmaster Heat n' Glo in Richmond, we thank them for their time and expertise.

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