I have a wood-burning fireplace in my basement. I don't use it because it
sucks all the warm air out. Does a gas fireplace offer more efficiency than
wood, i.e. is some of the combustion heat retained, such that I could use it
to heat up the basement while watching TV down there?
I have a gas line on that end of the house, so it shouldn't be a problem to
get gas to the fireplace.
If it were above ground I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a vent free
gas appliance. 100% of the energy stays in the room. In a
basement, though, you're tempting the fates with carbon monoxide. A
good detector, the *right sized* appliance, and common sense would be
needed to keep it safe.
Much more forgiving would be a vented appliance. [not just the gas
logs you put in a fireplace] You'd effectively block off the fireplace
& just use the flue as a place to run the much smaller vent out of the
The advantage of gas is complete control over how much fire & when it
is off; cost might also be an advantage, if you're buying firewood.
The only downside of gas is it's *slightly* less romantic ambience.
If you go with a gas insert, it will be more efficient than wood. You can have
the gas insert rigged to draw its combustion air from the outside, so it doesn't
draw warm house air out. This will get rid of the drafts associated with most
As far as efficiency goes, most gas fireplaces are about 70% efficient, with the
best models (that I've found so far) up to about 85% efficient. This is still
poor compared to the best gas furnaces, so using the gas fireplace may be good
for the "look and feel" of the room, but it is not the most economical way to
heat. IOW, if you want to heat and keep costs/pollution down, use the furnace
instead of the fireplace.
Installing a separate direct vented gas space heater might be reasonable
alternative to upgrading the fireplace. It takes outside air and vents
exhaust air through a single through-the-wall pipe. It must be installed on
an outside wall for that reason. No drafts and no combustion products to
worry about. It can provide reasonable efficiencies, easily better than a
fireplace but I'd guess not as good as a furnace, and is thermostatically
controlled. I've read about at least one small unit which doesn't require
electrical power, so these might make excellent backup heating systems. No,
it doesn't provide the ambiance of a fireplace.
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