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Community and Q&A

Gas stove/fireplace insert vs. pellet stove/fireplace insert?

wlarsen | Posted in Mechanicals on

At the risk of inciting the great debates about fireplaces again, I do have a question…

Which is more efficient, a gas stove/fireplace insert or a pellet stove/fireplace insert? They both have the potential to reduce bills through zone heating.

(I’m not talking about decorative logs with an clear opening to the chimney, but rather an encased stove or insert. Let’s also assume we’re avoiding anything ventless out of safety concerns.).

If looking at purchasing a gas system, what should one look for to ensure maximum efficiency?


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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    I'm not sure how much sense it makes to compare gas fireplace efficiency to pellet stove efficiency, but here goes:

    The Energy Trust of Oregon has created a list of the most efficient models of gas fireplaces. Here is the link:

    The gas fireplaces on their list range from an efficiency of 75.2% to an efficiency of 95.7%. Gas fireplaces that aren't on this list may have an efficiency as low as 50%.

    According to a U.S. Dept. of Energy web site, "Pellet stoves that are certified by the EPA are likely to be in the 70% to 83% efficiency range."

  2. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #2

    Efficiency is one thing, cost effectiveness is another, since the fuels have different costs, and those costs vary (a LOT) by local market.

    In terms of local air pollution emissions, the gas-burner wins, hands-down. In terms of global warming impact, it depends on the source of the pellets and forest management practices.

  3. wlarsen | | #3

    Thanks for the info. Martin, the Oregon site was particularly helpful. A little further research led me to the Canadian NRCan online database of fireplaces. It appears that the Oregon list was developed from that.

    I wonder if AHRI or ENERGY STAR will consider something similar eventually.

  4. nvman | | #4

    Go with natural gas. It is cleaner burning and produces less pollution that could possibly affect your neighbours.

  5. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #5

    There are efficiency standards for gas burning heating appliances in the US. IIRC in most jurisdictions a gas fired wood-stove type appliance needs test at a minimum raw combustion efficiency of 82%, though most fall well short of that when tested under AFUE critera. eg:

  6. wlarsen | | #6

    What is the IIRC? Do they publish standards and a test method somewhere?

  7. runner9 | | #7

    IIRC = "If I remember correctly". So the sentence is "If I remember correctly in most jurisdictions..."

  8. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #8

    Note to anyone posting comments on Green Building Advisor: abbreviations developed for people who do a lot of texting make comprehension difficult. It doesn't take that long to spell out what you're trying to say.

  9. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #9

    FWIW: I have sent fewer than 10 text messages ever (total lifetime accumulated total), only on other peoples' phones, at their request. Is that "...a lot of texting..." ? :-)

    We need spell out International Residential Code or Natural Resources Canada too? How about Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio? United States? European Union?

    It's fair to say that the IRC is in no way related to IIRC, (SFAIK ), but sharing a common sequence of letters might lead to confusion in the context of talking about national standards. Fair enough.

    Wait, do text emoticons need to be spelled out? ;-)

    BTW: These abbreviations developed out of listserves, internet forums & email correspondence decades before text messaging on telephones was even a possibility, and before even simpler cell phones were ubiquitous. This being a web forum it's fair to presume that most readers (though not all) would be familiar with the most commonly used abbreviations, IMHO. (Just sayin'... ) When a single sentence has more than two or three abbreviations from different contexts, parsing the alphabet soup becomes cumbersome:

    IIRC neither the NBC nor IBC specify a minimum AFUE, and while the IRC spells out SHGC & U-factor by IECC climate zone, it isn't an exact correlation to ER the way there is between RSI & R.

    (S'cuze me? Urdu bolte? :-) )

    But at one or two it's not usually a burden, with the meaning derivable from context.

  10. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    Abbreviations like OSB, IRC, and XPS are part of the jargon used by architects and builders. (That said, even these abbreviations can be confusing to homeowners.)

    I went to college and have read technical works, newspapers, and novels since I was a child. Until a few years ago, I never encountered SFAIK or IIRC. These abbreviations are in a whole different category from OSB and XPS. They weren't taught at school; weren't learned in college; and didn't appear in any of my technical reading.

    I'm smart enough, I think, to operate as a literate U.S. citizen. But text speak is much harder for me than Latin or French.

  11. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #11

    And yet, those terms have been widely used on email list-serve email type forums since way before the world wide web, and commonly used on most web-forums (even non-english web forums) since, but never (or at least extremely rarely) in published documents (printed or web.)

    Terms like POS (=parent over shoulder) and a few other terms didn't arrive until instant messaging and texting took off in the 1990s, and are not generally used on web forums. I never use instant messaging or texting, but I have been known to look over my teenager's shoulder, and sometimes I have to ask. :-) POS is text-speak, but SFAIK, IIRC, BTW, and IMHO have been standard web-forum fare since the mid to late 1980s. The difference between web-forum and text-speak is akin to the difference between Hindi & Urdu or Hindi / Urdu & Punjabi- lots of overlap (something like 99% in the case of Hindi & Urdu), but still different enough to draw distinctions.

    It's probably more accurate to say that texting conventions are a superset of web forum norms. Most would never use "k" to mean "okay" on a web forum or email, or "u" in place of "you", but both are very common forms among regular high-speed texters (an artifact of the awkward slow typing with thumbs, I suppose.) The traditional reductions used on web forums are all used in texting, but not conversely.

  12. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #12

    Standard English is a useful language to know. It allows us to communicate with more communities than little-known abbreviations.

  13. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #13

    I'll try to learn it then! :-)

  14. AlanB4 | | #14

    I thought POS had a different meaning, and in the retail business it has a rather innocuous meaning

  15. nvman | | #15

    Is this what they call hijacking a thread?

  16. StacyJohnna | | #16

    Pellet stoves, for the most part, cost less to work, as well, regardless of really being less productive, on the grounds that petroleum gas and propane are normally more costly than wood pellets. Produce more warmth - Pellet stoves will, in general, create more warmth than likewise measured gas chimneys.

    Best Reviews List made a rundown of the most productive models of pellet stove. Here is the connection:

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