Saving Energy: Making an Apartment Fireplace Cost-Effective

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A fireplace in the apartment is an amenity that’s appealing for a number of reasons, but the most important one is that it can be great for saving energy. Once you know how to make your fireplace energy efficient, you can significantly reduce your heating bill, which is often the most expensive part of your utility bills.

Types of Fireplaces

Gas burning, electric and wood burning are the typical fireplaces, but your apartment is most likely to have a wood burning or gas burning fireplace.  Of the two, a gas burning fireplace is more energy efficient. Vent free, B-vent or direct vent are three types of gas fireplaces, and a direct vent is the most energy efficient. Wood burning fireplaces are either radiant or circulating, and the latter is more energy efficient.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Wood and Gas Burning Fireplaces

Unless you have storage space at your apartment, you probably don’t have enough room for enough wood to keep you warm all winter.  That’s a major drawback to using a wood burning fireplace. You don’t have that issue with a gas burning fireplace. Gas burning fireplaces also require less cleaning and maintenance than wood burning fireplaces. In addition to saving energy, you’ll want to consider how often you have to clean it. For those reasons, a gas burning fireplace is often a better option for an apartment situation.

Fireplace Efficiency

The first thing you can do is ask your landlord about installing a vented glass door in front of the chimney if there isn’t one present. Ceramic glass is best to prevent cracks and damage. The glass blocks warm air from escaping, but still allows air to circulate to the fireplace. You can also hire a professional to install a fireplace damper, which will control the temperature in the room and stop the warm air from leaving the room after the fireplace is not in use. A damper also stops drafts from entering the apartment from the outside. Another option is to set up a blower near the fireplace to circulate air into the room more. That will add to your electric bills though, but it’s still cheaper than using central heating. Setting up a metal sheet at the back wall of the fireplace, also forces the air to go out into the room. Sweep the chimney twice a year to remove soot for wood burning fireplaces.

Determining whether a fireplace or a heater is more efficient and which is best for saving energy, depends on your personal circumstances. A fireplace is more efficient than a central heating system, but it may not be able to compete with a heat pump. On the other hand, if you have access to free wood for some reason, or you can get it inexpensively, then a fireplace is more efficient than a heat pump. If you have a large sized apartment, and the fireplace doesn’t warm up the other rooms, than a more uniform heat source may be more efficient. If you live in smaller apartment, and use a small radiator or other portable heater in a room that doesn’t get heat from a fireplace, then that would be the better option for saving energy.

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