Can Gas Fireplaces Heat A Home? -The Answer With Numbers

A fireplace provides warmth and ambiance to a room. Especially in the cooler temperatures, it is easy to flip a switch for a gas fireplace and instantly have a cozy fire roar to life right in your living room. But can a gas fireplace heat a home?

A gas fireplace can raise the thermal temperature of a home, but most cannot provide enough warmth to heat a home. Most gas fireplaces can heat spaces between 500 and 1000 square feet. The average size of a home is 2300 square feet. Gas fireplaces are usually considered to be secondary heating sources.

When it comes to heating your home with a gas fireplace, you may wonder if it is sufficient for the space you live in. The answer is not as straightforward as you may think; so, read on to hear more about this topic.

Can A Gas Fireplace Heat A Home?

A gas fireplace is typically considered a secondary heat source for a home. The home usually has a primary heat source like central air, baseboard, or sectioned electric heating systems. However, if your home is small enough to fit the square footage rating on a gas fireplace, then the fireplace may be a good way to heat your home.

Most gas fireplaces on the market have a square footage rating of 500 square feet, with some reaching up to 1,000 square feet of space. In actuality, the ability to heat that many square feet depends on:

  • How well is the space insulated?
  • How high are the ceilings?
  • Is the home one-story or two?
  • Is the floorplan an open concept?

These factors will influence how well the heat spreads throughout a home. If the home is poorly insulated with tall ceilings, you will lose a lot of heat to the outside, and the heat will rise to the ceiling first before the room begins to feel warm.

Walls and multiple floors also inhibit the ability of a gas fireplace to heat a home efficiently. Let’s say the gas fireplace is located in a room with four walls and a door; those walls will essentially trap the heat inside the room, not allowing the heat to spread efficiently to other parts of the home.

On the other hand, let’s assume that your home is an open-concept, one-story, regular height ceiling home and 950 square feet. In this case, a medium gas fireplace, rated with up to 1,000 square feet of heating ability, may, in fact, be one way to heat your entire home.

Can A Gas Fireplace Be The Primary Heating Source?

A gas fireplace as a primary heat source is not considered a regular way to heat a home; however, in certain situations, it is done. If your home falls within the square footage specs for the fireplace and the floor plan allows it, it could be used as a primary heat source.

Gas fireplaces are rated for square footage based on their British Thermal Unit (BTU). The BTU is a unit of measurement that conveys heat output. It is also a unit of measurement used for appliances like air conditioners when measuring cooling capacity.

A gas fireplace with a BTU output of 32,000 will be able to heat about 1,100 square feet of space. Likewise, a smaller gas fireplace, outputting 15,000 BTUs, will heat up to 600 square feet of space.

Therefore, if you have 1) a gas fireplace with enough BTU output, and 2) a space with an optimal layout, then a gas fireplace could be used as a primary heat source.

Will Using My Gas Fireplace As A Primary Heating Source Affect Home Insurance?

Insurance companies don’t usually have policies covering a home that does not have a primary or central heat source. Since gas fireplaces are not classed as a primary or central heat source, it would be much harder and more expensive to find a policy that will cover a home that’s primarily heated by a gas fireplace.

Home insurance companies want homes to have a central heat source because it lowers the risk of loss. In cold temperatures, without proper heat to a home, there is a risk of pipes freezing and bursting, which may cause extensive water damage to a home.

You likely will not run into this insurance problem if your home has a central heat source plus a gas fireplace. Even if you choose to use the gas fireplace primarily, your home is already equipped with another source of heat to be used to heat your home effectively.

How Do I Get More Heat From My Gas Fireplace

There are a few methods to consider when trying to get more heat from your fireplace.

  • Use a direct vent fireplace
  • Use a fireplace blower
  • Install a fireback
  • If using an insert, close the damper

If you are in the process of choosing a gas fireplace, the most efficient will be a glass-fronted direct vent system. These systems use vented air to feed the flame instead of borrowing room air. Also, the glass pane will radiate heat and block room air from escaping outside through the vent.

A gas fireplace with a blower increases the heat output because the blower will push the warm air into the room.

A fireback is a piece of metal—usually iron—that is installed in the back of the fireplace. As that piece of metal warms from the flame, it will radiate heat into the room.

If your gas fireplace is an insert in a traditional brick and mortar fireplace, then it is likely that the fireplace has a damper. Closing the top-mounted damper when the fireplace is not in use will prevent the room from unnecessarily losing heat.

You would not want to close the damper if the gas fireplace is in use and has a vent system. The vent needs to be open to exhaust smoke and gas from the fireplace while in use.

Is A Gas Fireplace More Efficient Than A Furnace

A gas fireplace will be more efficient at heating the room it’s located in, but a furnace will be more efficient at heating multiple rooms. Gas fireplaces are typically considered a supplemental heat source and are not efficient in heating an entire home—unless the home fits certain criteria.

As mentioned above, dividing walls, high ceilings, and poor insulation will work against a gas fireplace when it comes to heating an entire home. In these scenarios, a central heat source (like a furnace or baseboard heaters) will be more efficient at heating a whole space, while the fireplace will be efficient in heating the room.

A furnace is also considered a primary heating source, so that kind of explains everything already. Gas fireplaces are secondary heating sources, so they will heat up rooms but not entire homes, whereas furnaces are perfectly capable of heating entire homes.

Dan Westfield

Hi everyone! My name is Dan and I currently have two fireplaces, a wood-burning and a gas one. I cannot live without them and love to share my passion with you all!

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