DIY Home Improvement, Remodeling & Repair Forum > Appliances > HVAC > Natural gas fireplace, is it really worth it?

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Old 03-06-2014, 05:54 PM  
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Default Natural gas fireplace, is it really worth it?

So I have been living here for about 2 years. I have a natural gas fireplace insert in my condo's living room, and electric baseboard heaters everywhere else (electric BB heaters as well as NG fireplace in my living room).

The first year I was living here (March 2012-March 2013), I did not use the fireplace AT ALL , literally 0 cubic meter but nevertheless paid 15$ per month for "connection fees" to the NG network.

Electrical bill for the entire year was around $840.
Natural gas bill (connection fee only) was around $190
Total of $1030 for all energy bills.

Forward a year later (March 2013-March 2014), I used the fireplace exclusively to heat during the months of November to December, and partially (as a secondary heating source) for January & February.

Electrical bill for the entire year was around $790.
Natural gas bill (gas + connection fees) was around $430
Total of $1220 for all energy bills.

To be fair, I compared the same periods when I was NOT using the fireplace and when I was (November to February of 2012 & 2013):

Nov. to Feb. 2012
Electricity: $520
Nat. gas: $0

Nov. to Feb. 2013
Electricity: $349
Nat. gas: $303

So I have these three scenarios:
  1. I use only electricity to heat, natural gas account is inactive: Annual bill is $840
  2. I use only electricity to heat, natural gas account is active so I pay only connection fees: Annual bill is $1030
  3. I use both electricity & gas to heat: Annual bill is $1220

So I came to realize that using natural gas cost me $380 annually ($1220-840)...

My questions:

Is this normal? Natural gas (here in Quebec) is advertised as so efficient, it can even reduce our annual energy bill. I never truly believed this, but I was not actually expecting my bill to go up by so much. Before I started to use the fireplace this year, I even installed a high efficiency blower kit in the fireplace ( to improve the fireplace's efficiency. I cannot imagine if I hadn't what my bill would be... $600-700??

Outside of the aesthetics (flames, etc), is it really worth it to keep a secondary heating source? I just feel these fireplaces are useless other than they provide a nice view and are nice to stay in front when its cold outside, other than that, the first year I paid fees and didnt use it, and this year, it increased my annual energy bill instead of lowering it..

Are you guys recommending to keep it? Right now I am tempted to cancel the account since its not financially viable and I dont use it for its "cosmetic" attributes but the "reconnection" fee of approx. $250 is a serious roadblock.

Last edited by condoowner; 03-06-2014 at 05:57 PM.
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Old 03-06-2014, 06:06 PM  
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To be fair you also have to compare the weather for bot years. But these are questions I ask everyone that has a fireplace, and most of the time just get dumb answer. Afreind of mine has infloor hot water heat on a gas boiler and would turn the zones down and run the fireplace. I talked him into turning off the fireplace for one year and he saved a bundle but I don't remember the amount.

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Old 03-06-2014, 06:35 PM  
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Neal, technically speaking, the flue gasses (being the hottest) are exhausted outside and the heat they contain is NOT captured by a heat exchanger so I am not expecting a very high efficiency overall.... Thats different for gas furnaces or boilers, the heat they develop gets transfered to a medium (water, steam, glycol, etc) that then carries heat to the location to be heated up..

Even adding my blower is not sufficient to raise the efficiency to electric heating.

Napoleon says the effiiency of an unmodified fireplace like mine is 64%

That would be laboratory conditions, perfect combustion, brand new equipment, etc..
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Old 03-06-2014, 06:38 PM  
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To be fair you also have to compare the weather for bot years
Weather in my location is around the same (in average) as last year.. I am also in doubt, I dont remember last year to have frozen my butt 90 days in a row like this year
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Old 03-07-2014, 05:57 AM  
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What fireplace insert exactly do you have? If you have a conventional fireplace with a damper and something like you say that’s in the range of 65% to start with you could well be not just having a lower percentage on that device but you could be losing the heat produced by the electric up the chimney with the exhaust gasses from the insert. The other question with two heating sources is where the thermostat is located for the primary heat. Quite often people find savings with a secondary heater by doing nothing more than tricking the other system into not coming on. So they have colder rooms away from the heater. I had a friend that put a lamp on a timer to use as a night light right under his thermostat and his night light saved him a lot of money in fuel. He froze all night but the thermostat said he was nice and warm.

If what you have are like the gas logs they are just for looks and using them will be a drain on your pocketbook. I haven’t looked into what out there in high efficiency gas heaters that mount inside a fire place in a long time. But there are many zero vent unites 100% on the market people use for supplemental heat or emergency heat. They have sensors built in that make them relatively safe. The one drawback I hear about these heaters is moisture produced steaming cold windows and such. The people I know that use them run them part time.

Maybe the heating guys will come on and fill us in on what the latest in fireplace unites are.
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Old 03-07-2014, 09:56 AM  
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I have a Continental BCDV36 firplace insert (model with ceramic logs and no register) with the hermetic door.

The thermostat for the fireplace is located on the same wall (about 2 feet) away from the other thermostat for the living room electric baseboard heaters. They both see the same temperature and start about at the same time together.

These thermostats are away from the heaters on a wall that doesnt have any heater nearby. They see the real ambiant temperature and are not tricked in any way by a heat source..

I have to recalculate my annual energy usage.. I may have made a big mistake, looking at the data, I think that during the second sampling period, I interpreted the energy bill (total amount) the other way around...

Stay tuned. In the meantime, anybody with real life experiences and similar usage, please share your thoughts!

Last edited by condoowner; 03-07-2014 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 03-07-2014, 05:32 PM  
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I had no idea the vented gas units were so inefficient. I have a vent-free propane fireplace It is 99.9% efficient. Its throws out tons of heat and is off more than it is on with the thermostat. But like neal said they do that some draw backs. I try to keep a balance with my electric baseboard heat and propane fireplace because unvented units can not be your only source of heat. Leaving out in the woods it comes in great during power outages.
During peak of winter jan. feb. My electric was 400-500 a month. With propane it went down to 200-300. While spending $100 a month on propane.
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Old 03-08-2014, 03:40 PM  
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There were slightly less HDDs in 2012 but to compare your months you need

"Masonry fireplaces are 10 to 25 percent efficient, compared with efficiencies as high as 80 percent for natural gas fireplaces."
Ours must be near the low end of this - no insert, no blower.

Last edited by Wuzzat?; 03-09-2014 at 11:45 AM.
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