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Frequently Asked Questions - Gas Fireplaces

1. What is Zone heating and how can it save on central heating costs?

Forced air central heating systems distribute heated air from a central furnace unit through ducts to various points in the home. The furnace burners cycle on and off as often as 3 - 4 times per hour depending on the thermostat's setting and sensitivity. Typical furnace gas inputs range from 80,000 to 120,000 BTU/hr and are sized to heat the home in the very coldest weather. During average heating weather, furnace "on cycle" times may be relatively short with the burners shutting down before peak efficiency is even reached. This results in reduced efficiencies through "cycling losses" (like a car's mileage in stop and go traffic). Also, room comfort levels fluctuate along with furnace heat cycles, sometimes warm one minute and cool the next. With central furnace systems, it's often necessary to overheat portions of the home just to get comfortable in the area you wish to spend time.
By contrast, an efficient gas fireplace zone heater puts warmth directly into the space you wish to heat with virtually no cycling losses. These gas heaters utilize special lightweight steel and ceramic components to heat up quickly and reach efficiency in minutes. With an efficient gas fireplace installed in one or more of your main living zones, you can enjoy increased comfort while reducing furnace usage in colder weather or eliminating it during warmer spring and fall weather.

2. What are the advantages of the direct vent fireplace?

Direct vent technology is available in single-sided or multi-sided fireplaces, as well as freestanding and insert models. They use a sealed combustion chamber that vents out the back or top, to the outside. This allows easy installation of a beautiful and realistic fireplace. The vent can be run horizontally through an outside wall, or vertically through the roof, depending on your preference. Because no room air is used for combustion, direct vents are especially efficient (up to 70+%) and will not alter the quality of your room air. All combustion air is drawn from outside the home and 100% of the combustion by-products are exhausted to the outside.

3. What is the cost of operating a gas fireplace?

This varies by region, by gas utility and by fuel type. Based on national averages, a gas fireplace will cost just under a penny per hour for every 1,000 BTU's (if your fireplace consumes 20,000 BTU's, it will cost you 20 cents per hour. LP units are slightly higher to operate. Your monthly gas bill should include your exact cost per therm (100,000 BTU's). Based on this rate, and the BTU input listed on the rating plate on your fireplace, you can calculate the cost for your area.

4. Will my gas fireplace function without electricity?

Yes. No electricity is required to operate a gas fireplace as they operate via a millivolt valve system. During a power failure, your fireplace will be a secure source of heat.

5. Should I shut the pilot off in the summer?

Yes, or you can safely leave it burning. The pilot helps keep the moisture from inside the firebox, which is caused from the humidity in the air. It also will extend the life of the thermopile and thermocouple when the pilot is left on.

6. Can a blower be added to my fireplace?

Many fireplace heaters are so effective at producing both radiant and convected heat that a blower will not do a lot to improve your comfort. Blowers cannot deliver radiant heat nor will they influence air circulation much beyond the immediate area of the fireplace. Blowers are optional on most heat circulating (grilles on top and bottom of fireplace) units, and for some hearth products the blower is standard. Adding a blower is easily accomplished if power (110v AC) was provided to the electrical junction box of the fireplace at the time of initial installation. If power was not provided, a fan option is still possible, but installation is complicated and therefore more costly.

7. If I want to convert my wood burning fireplace to gas, is a set of gas logs or a gas insert going to be my best option?

Your decision really comes down to whether heat or aesthetics is your number one priority. If heat is your first concern, or the existing wood fireplace has had a history of down drafting (smoking), you should purchase a gas insert. From an initial cost standpoint, an insert will cost 4 to 5 times more than a set of gas logs. However, since decorative gas logs are inefficient and an insert has an operating efficiency in the 70% range, your payback on the fuel you will save is about five years. After that the insert begins saving you money.

8. How often do I have to clean the gas fireplace and vent?

Although the frequency of your fireplace servicing and maintenance will depend on use and the type of installation, you should have a qualified service technician perform an appliance check-up at the beginning of each heating season. Whenever a film begins to build up on the glass, it is recommended to use a special cleaner (Kel Kem) to clean away any residue. SOLACE offers a comprehensive safety check-up and cleaning for only $80.00. For details or to sign up for maintenance, click here.

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