Efficiency Showdown: Furnace vs. Fireplace

By Four Seasons Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electric - February 5, 2015

A simple question with a complex answer: is it more efficient and practical to use a gas fireplace or gas furnace to heat your home?

Before the invention of gas fireplaces, furnaces would win this contest with no problem. Wood is expensive, requires constant monitoring, and sprays ash and soot throughout the home. On a convenience factor alone, the edge would have to go to the clean burning gas furnace. However, now with gas fireplace models in play, the answer is not quite as clear.

Gas Furnace or Gas Fireplace

  • AFUE: It stands for Annual Fuel Efficiency Ratio and measures a direct ratio of fuel consumed to heat distributed. For measurements of efficiency, this is the best determiner of what delivers the most bang for your buck.

Gas Furnace: The furnace has a lot going for it here depending on the model. While many standard units will yield an 80% AFUE, or put more simply, 80% of the fuel used translates directly to usable heat. However, high-efficiency models like the Lennox SLP98V are vastly superior and reach 98.2% AFUE.

Gas Fireplace: The fireplace is not as efficient overall. The standard AFUE score hovers around 70%. Part of the reason that the rating is lower is that the fireplace is expected to produce a larger flame. This means that more energy within the fuel upon combustion is released as light instead of heat.

  • Miscellaneous Benefits: Because these two appliances are so different, there are extra miscellaneous benefits to each.

Aesthetics: No one “oohs and ahhs” over the aesthetics of your furnace. It is always tucked away in a small room or basement. On the other hand, a fireplace can instantly create a charming, cozy atmosphere.

Frozen Pipes: In the winter, if the temperature plummets too low, there is the potential for your pipes to freeze. This is a serious situation that will result in a costly repair. The furnace, because it distributes heat throughout the home, does a fantastic job of preventing this. A gas fireplace will not be able to supply enough heat nor reach every necessary area to avert such a disaster.

Final Verdict

They are different appliances meant for different needs. If your whole family is bundled up in the living room for a move, go ahead and turn on the fireplace. However, if your family is spread out around the house or if the temperature falls very low, a furnace will be your more efficient and effective option.

At the end of the day, a gas fireplace is a beautiful luxury, but a furnace is an essential component of your home.

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