Should You Use a Fireplace and Central Heat at the Same Time?

Using a Fireplace

Richard Nixon had a few peculiar habits. The former president had a fondness for cottage cheese with ketchup and wore his Oxford dress shoes while he went for walks on the beach. Nixon liked his martinis, which is normal enough, but rumor has it he had a few too many one night and ordered a nuclear strike against North Korea. Henry Kissinger allegedly told everyone to stand down until after the POTUS had gotten some shuteye.

But perhaps oddest of all was Nixon’s custom of sitting by a blazing fire in the Lincoln Sitting Room – one which he enjoyed even during the summertime, while the air conditioning was set on full blast. (If he was smart he would have thrown a few choice lengths of magnetic recording tape on the fire while he was at it.)

Few people would consider immolating their checking accounts by running their AC and central heat at the same time. By that logic, you may wonder whether you can save on heating bills by turning off your central heat while the fire is going. And there’s the $25 question:

Should You Turn Off Your Central Heat While Using Your Fireplace?

The answer is no!

Back in the day, people had no choice but to heat their homes with fireplaces and stoves. King Louis XIII’s Château de Versailles had an astounding 1,200 fireplaces, which sounds just about right for a nearly 700,000 square foot home. But in a contemporary home, which has central heat and is just a wee bit smaller, the fireplace is never positioned where it can heat the entire building.

A fireplace is not all that efficient a source of heat anyway. Approximately 10% of an open hearth’s heat will warm you and your grateful housepets. The remainder will quite literally go up in smoke. Compare that to a modern furnace, which can be between 80 and 95% efficient, and it’s easy to appreciate why your central heat is so much better at the all-important job of warming your house.

You’re unlikely to notice that the heat is off while you’re snuggled up next to the fire, a mug of hot chocolate in one hand and some other comforting thing in the other, but you’re going to pay for that indiscretion later in the evening. When you finally retire to bed and turn the heat back on, all of the other rooms in your house and their interconnected air ducts will have grown cold. Your furnace is going to have to work much harder than usual to compensate, and that ultimately means paying a higher heating bill.

You may decide to turn the heat down a few degrees while your fireplace is in use. Your home won’t cool so dramatically that it will cost a small fortune to restore the temperature back to normal later on. You should also take care not to place a thermostat too close to the fireplace, as it will fail to read an accurate temperature there.

The Takeaway

In summary, don’t treat your fireplace as an alternative source of heat. Enjoy feeling a little toastier than usual sitting beside it, and cherish its crackling ambiance during those winter nights that are fit for neither man nor beast. Just keep your central heat on so you’re not freezing the moment you leave the hearth – or paying higher energy bills!

Is your furnace failing to keep your house warm this winter despite your wise choices? Then it may need a tune-up, repairs, or even outright replacement if it is old enough. But whatever your HVAC needs might be, you’ve always got an expert on your side in the greater Sioux Falls area. Reach out to PrairieSons today! Our guys are ready to help keep any home cozy whether it has a fireplace or not.