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Furnace or Fireplace, Which is Better?

Valerie Johannsen People & Brand Manager

The days are growing colder and, while it looks like it will be a mild winter, it’s still going to be a cold one.  You may be thinking that you can save some money by heating your home with a fireplace instead of your furnace.  We all want to save money during the winter (especially with the high cost of the holidays), but just how much can you save by switching to a fireplace?  There’s not a simple answer because they both have benefits and drawbacks.  But they are different based on the use-case.

Location and Efficiency

The main concern is with how much energy it costs to heat a home using a furnace instead of a fireplace. Using a gas furnace and a gas fireplace, the cost heat output of both should be roughly the same (the initial BTU output at least), and the cost of fuel will be identical.  Your home furnace is, unfortunately, less efficient with the final BTU heat value, however.

Much of the heat energy generated by a furnace is lost in the ductwork of your home.  It’s difficult to give a set number for just how much heat is lost between initial and delivery because each home is different, but the more ducting you have (along with any leaks that might be present) the less efficient your system will be. On the other hand, your fireplace gives off heat directly into the room. The difference between initial BTUs and delivered BTUs is practically negligible.

Does this make a fireplace more efficient?  Hardly, as a fireplace can only comfortably heat a few rooms (really just a single room) at a time.  If you intend to spend most of your time in a single room (say the living room) then lighting a fireplace and using it for heating is a good idea. Unfortunately, we’re all far more mobile than that usually.  A central heating furnace will warm your entire home to roughly the same temperature (based on insulation and a few physical factors), so for multi-room heating, the furnace is far more efficient.

Is Installing a Fireplace Worth It?

If you don’t already have a fireplace installed in your home, it is not worth the cost of adding one. Physical construction is already expensive and, as said before, a fireplace will only warm a single room. Adding in a fireplace also adds a very large vent to the outside.  If there are issues with your fireplace flue (or you simply forget to close it), heat will escape from your home rapidly, causing your central heating to have to work harder to keep the home warm.

Can a fireplace save you money?  Yes, it can.  But it’s at the cost of keeping your entire home comfortably warm.  A good alternative might be to lower the thermostat on your central heating and use the lowest setting for your gas fireplace to warm a central room.  Either way, for whole-home heating this winter, there’s no better method than a central furnace.


Heating and Cooling Des Moines Since 1997

At Service Legends, we take pride in heating and cooling Des Moines and the surrounding areas. Our HVAC services include furnace and air conditioner installation, repairs, maintenance, and tune-ups. Our lineup of Indoor Air Quality solutions includes whole-home humidifiers, air purifiers, and air filtration systems. We can even help with HVAC financing.

Call 515-657-6634 to contact our Home Comfort Heroes today. We’re standing by 24/7.

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