Heating Your Whole Home

Heating Your Whole Home

Did you know your fireplace, stove or insert – gas, pellet or wood – could have the ability to heat your whole home? It’s true! Fireplaces are beyond being just basement heaters or only having the heating output to warm your living room. With some planning and work, you could install a highly efficient wood burning appliance that gives you the aesthetic appeal of a fireplace with the practicality of a heating system for your home. Imagine, even during the coldest months of the year, turning your furnace down and only using the radiant heat from your fireplace to heat your home. Here are some things to consider.


Building and fire codes can differ region to region, so it is important you understand what your local codes cite with regards to wood burning and installation of a wood burning appliance before you move ahead with purchasing. There can be specifications on wall clearance, pipe diameters and extensions above the roof that dictate how your unit should be installed. It is always recommended you work with a local installer to make sure you are following your local codes.


The appliance needs to be sized appropriately to suit the size of your home and the type of use you expect from it. Whether you would like your unit to heat your living room occasionally or your whole home on a daily basis will change the size of the firebox and heat output you require. Specialty hearth retailers are experts at finding you the right appliance for your home based on square footage and your use patterns.


If you wish to use your hearth appliance to heat your whole home, it is best to have an open concept main floor where the unit can be installed in a central location. Hot air rises, so the warm air will naturally make its way to the upstairs of the home where the bedrooms are located. The basement will stay a bit cooler than the upper levels of the home, but with proper air circulation, warm air will still find its way downstairs. Of course, to ensure you have minimal heat loss, a well sealed and insulated home is important.

Air Circulation

To effectively heat your home with a fireplace or wood stove, it’s important to ensure adequate air circulation to disperse the heat. A great option for open concept homes is to turn the fan on for your forced air heating system to circulate the air and heat from your fireplace. The heat loss to vents will be unnoticeable. Ceiling fans set to reverse pull air up to the ceiling, forcing the warm air that collects at the top of the room to circulate downwards. Minor home renovations can be made to add ducting and vents into the rooms above to distribute the heat to upper levels of the home.

Zone Heating

Depending on the configuration of your home, it may be difficult to disperse the heat from your fireplace or stove effectively to all spaces of your home. Keep in mind that even turning your thermostat down during the day and letting your appliance heat the main areas of your home, and turning the thermostat up in the evenings to heat your bedrooms will still considerably reduce your reliance on your furnace, thereby reduce your energy bill.

The airtightness of your home is always something to be aware of when you are discussing home heating, regardless of your heating source. Increasing your home’s airtightness can have a dramatic impact on how much energy your home requires to maintain comfortable temperatures during the winter months.

Prepping for Winter

Prepping for Winter

Canadians understand how important heat is in the winter. As we head into fall, there are a few things you need to do in the coming weeks to prepare for the winter months.

Whether you burn logs or gas, it can be dangerous to light a fireplace until certain things have been done or checked.

Here is a checklist that can provide assurance when the time comes to get cozy near a safe, blazing fire. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detector and have a fire extinguisher close to the appliance. Clear the area around the fireplace of any potentially flammable materials – 3 feet away is a good rule.

Woodburning Fireplaces and Stoves

Experts recommend that fireplaces, wood stoves and chimneys be inspected annually. Clean chimneys help fireplaces and stoves run more efficiently and safely. Soot and creosote may adhere to the inside and can cause a fire because they are highly flammable.

  • A yearly chimney sweep ensures the whole system is in good working condition. Professionals will also check the condition of your flue lining. Even a small crack in the flue can cause a house fire.
  • Chimney structures are out of sight, but they should not be out of mind. When mortar is damaged or when bricks are loose or cracked, there is a good chance moisture has entered your chimney system. Moisture damage should be repaired as quickly as possible, to minimize the amount of damage done.
  • If there is not already a cap on your chimney, have one installed as soon as possible. Chimney toppers serve several important functions, particularly when they have wire mesh. Chimney caps keep moisture out, keep critters out, and help to prevent fires when they have a mesh spark guard that will extinguish embers that might otherwise fly from the chimney.
  • Stock up with the right fuel. Have your firewood stored, dried, and ready to burn. The type of firewood you burn determines the quality of your fire and how much flammable creosote is deposited in the chimney. Seasoned hardwoods burn longer than softwoods. If you don’t want a lingering fire, softwoods are the better choice because they don’t leave smoldering wood coals behind.

With some quick annual maintenance, you can maintain or even improve your stove’s efficiency this winter – you might even burn less wood.

Pellet Stoves

Experts also recommend pellet stoves have a yearly maintenance check that will include:

  • Cleaning the exhaust piping and venting
  • Removing the combustion and distribution fans, then vacuuming out all the ash and soot
  • Cleaning behind the inner firebox panels, top heat exchange panels, firewall panels and any ash traps
  • Double-checking the gasket on the firebox door
  • Cleaning the firepot and the hopper carefully, removing any ash, bits of pellet or pellet dust
Gas Fireplaces

There is nothing easier than a gas burning fireplace or insert. There’s no ash to clean up because it burns natural gas or liquid propane but don’t assume this means it doesn’t need cleaning. In fact, it is still recommended you have a certified gas technician inspect and clean your gas fireplace to ensure your safety. The technician will first inspect the exterior to ensure glass is not chipped, cracked, or dirty, and the framework is holding up sufficiently.

  • While checking for dents or debris, the technician will also look at the interior gas ignition under the log structure and make sure it is lighting flawlessly. They also make sure your log set is not deteriorating in any way.
  • The face of the unit will have to be taken off, so they can inspect the valves and connections underneath your fireplace or insert. They will make sure your fireplace’s heat output is correct, and clean up any residue that has started to block any ports or vents.
  • After a routine check, your technician should make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors, and that you are aware of any repairs your gas fireplace may need.

Certified gas technicians have a wealth of information and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your fireplace or insert. Don’t be afraid to ask.