Fireplace and Space Heater How-to – WeatherMakers

Fireplace and Space Heater How-to

A woman relaxing wearing warm wooly socks and a dog

Keep Your Spaces Safe and Warm This Winter

In Alberta, we have many spaces that we heat—from our homes to our cabins to our garages and fishing shacks. We’re pretty clever about finding sources of heat in -30 Celsius. So, here’s a quick guide to popular direct heat sources, how to use them safely, and how to determine what’s cost-effective and what’s just plain costly.

Fireplaces

Albertans love their fireplaces! Gas (and most wood) fireplaces are basically part of every home’s décor, but it needs to be said that they’re not always an effective heat source. An open fireplace will generally lose more heat than it provides, because so much warm air is drawn through the unit and must be replaced by cold outside air. On the other hand, if the fireplace has a tight-sealing glass door, a source of outside air, and a good chimney damper, it can provide useful heat.

Air quality with an open fireplace will be an issue. No matter what, combustion products will enter your home’s environment. If this pollution is a problem, have a look at sealed wood pellet stoves. They are much more efficient, heat better and greatly reduce air pollutants emitted inside and outside of the home.

Gas-Fired Space Heaters

In small spaces, outbuildings, garages, and some additions, gas-fired space heaters are used to provide warmth–typically whenever there’s a break between a larger, conventionally heated space and the smaller space. This category of heater includes wall-mounted, free-standing, and floor furnaces, all characterized by their lack of ductwork and relatively small heat output. Because they lack ducts, they are most useful for warming a single room. If heat is required for several rooms, either the doors between rooms must be left open or another heating method is necessary.

Consider these as add-on heating solutions, and keep in mind that better models use “sealed combustion air” systems, with pipes installed through the wall to bring combustion air in and vent combustion products away.

These units can provide acceptable performance, particularly for cabins and other buildings where large temperature differences between bedrooms and main rooms are acceptable. The models can be fired with natural gas or propane, and some burn kerosene.

Unvented Gas-Fired Heaters: Never A Safe Option

Unvented gas or kerosene space heaters have been sold for decades, and we see them often in garages, outbuildings and fishing shacks, but we shouldn’t. They are dangerous. These include wall-mounted and free-standing heaters as well as open-flame gas fireplaces with ceramic logs. Rule of thumb, if there’s no chimney, you’re breathing combustion products and your space could become oxygen depleted very quickly unless there’s a good source of fresh air.

Electric Space Heaters

Portable electric heaters are affordable to purchase, but they can become costly if you run them all the time. Why? Well, it’s in the name. Resistive heaters include oil-filled and “infrared” heaters. They convert electricity to heat by squeezing current through elements, much like your toaster, for example. It takes a lot of electricity to deliver a decent amount of useful heat. Plus, these heaters can use almost the entire capacity of a 15-amp branch circuit. Add another plug, and your breaker flips.

Use these heaters intermittently and ensure the heater is far from flammable items and your electrical is up to code.

Wood-Burning and Pellet Stoves

Wood-burning heat is pleasurable and just makes sense in cabins and rural settings. If it’s a wood pellet stove, just keep an extra bag of pellets handy. No muss, no fuss. If it’s a log burner, be sure you like to split, stack and stoke, as we say, and you’ll be just fine. Wood prices are generally pretty affordable, and if you cut your own wood, then fuel is close to free.

It used to be that we shied away from wood-burning stoves to heat cabins and outbuildings because of rising global pollution. Nowadays, wood stoves are quite efficient and clean burning. Pellet stoves are even better than wood stoves for this and offer users greater convenience, temperature control, and indoor air quality.

No matter what option you choose, be sure to use it safely and soundly. If you have a building that’s in need of more permanent and reliable heating, contact WeatherMakers today. We’ll assess your space and give you an estimate for the options we find. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you’ve been hauling in space heaters to augment a tired old furnace in your garage, cabin or vacation rental, call us today. We’ll inspect your furnace unit and system and give you straight-forward options for bringing comfort back into your life.

Read about furnace tune-ups and inspections.