Can a Fireplace Heat my Whole House?

Do you go through the exercise of cutting, splitting and stacking wood every year? Are you tired of those monthly gas or fuel oil bills? You would like to be a bit more independent, right? You just simply like the way wood heat feels and you wish you could keep your entire home nice and warm by burning wood. If any of this sounds familiar to your situation, it would be a good idea to invest a few minutes and read this article.


Some fireplaces provide serious heat. Others do not. Some fireplaces will hold a fire for 8 to 10 hours. Others will not. Why is that?

Many masonry and zero clearance (ZC) fireplaces have little or no control on the amount of air that is going to the fire. A fireplace without doors is like a campfire in your living room. The fire is burning beneath an 8” or 10” hole that goes up through your house. And guess where all that heat from the fire goes? Yup, right up the chimney!

Fireplaces with bifold doors are a bit better, but still not effective in controlling the combustion air or burn rate of the fire.

Sealed, gasketed doors on your fireplace, stove or insert are your best option. These doors help provide long burn times by keeping air from slipping around and between the pieces of glass. All air supplied to the fire for combustion is provided by a primary air control on the equipment. Furthermore, with the aid of a fan, the majority of the heat is being delivered back into the room and not lost up the chimney.

This is one of the main differences between an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certified appliance and one that is not qualified to carry the EPA tag. A fireplace, stove or insert must meet or exceed specific 2020 emission requirements set by the New Source Pollution Standards (NSPS) issued by the EPA. Most certified equipment will operate in the +70% efficiency range. That’s +70% of the generated heat delivered to your home to keep your family warm and not 90% or more, lost up the chimney!

There are no efficiency ratings with masonry or open-burning fireplaces. In fact, it’s entirely possible that some of this exempt equipment will operate at a negative efficiency. That is, they take more heat from the house than they contribute to it! If it says “EPA 2020 certified”, you can count on burning wood much more efficiently and effectively. This will save you time and money and help protect our natural resources.

Can a Fireplace Heat my Whole House? - Woodstove Hipster by Ambiance

Woodstove Hipster by Ambiance


If you would like to heat your home with wood, don’t even consider doing it with equipment that does not carry an EPA emissions tag. You’ll be wasting money and your time by burning significantly more wood than necessary.

There are several manufacturers that produce very efficient, clean burning, wood-fired equipment. Your WE LOVE FIRE® dealer can show you several models. Wood-burning fireplaces, stoves and inserts come in lots of sizes. The size of a wood-burning firebox is expressed in cubic feet. Understanding the BTU rating of the appliance is also important.


Many fireplaces, stoves and inserts are capable of heating 2000-3000 square feet of well-insulated space. These are normally rated by BTU/output and by the cubic foot size of the firebox. The larger the firebox, the more wood it will hold. Also, the longer the wood lasts, the more heat is produced.

Depending on several variables, over 70,000 BTUs and firebox sizes larger than 2.9 cubic feet should heat up to 3000 square feet of well-insulated space. Mid-size fireboxes, from 1.8 to 2.8 cubic feet and from 40,000 – 70,000 BTUs, should heat up to 2000 square feet. Smaller units, less than 1.8 cubic feet will generally heat up to 1000 square feet of well-insulated space.

Please keep in mind that this is not an exact science. Note the words “up to” in the paragraph above. There are many fluctuations that can affect how quickly heat is lost in a house. The type of construction and the age of the house, the condition of windows and doors, sidewall and ceiling insulation, orientation to the south, and where you live will all make a huge difference in the equipment you choose.

Your WE LOVE FIRE® experts can help determine what size and/or model would be a good choice for your home. Or, see our BTU Calculator to get a sense of how much heat you might need.

If heat output is not important and you’re a “recreational” wood burner, that is only a few fires a year, maybe you want to consider a fireplace that is not EPA certified. These will be less expensive and often equipped with low-cost bifold or cabinet-style doors. Keep in mind that the majority of the heat in these types of fireplaces is lost up the chimney and not delivered into the room. Efficiencies are not rated with this type of fireplace. But for a couple of fires around the holidays and an occasional weekend fire, they can work out well for some people.

After the time and energy of cutting, splitting, hauling and stacking wood, dealing with the ashes and the routine maintenance of wood-burning, our experience is that most people want the benefit of the heat in their house. They don’t want to lose the majority of the heat up the chimney.


Depending on the total size and the layout of the house, a second stove or fireplace might be warranted. The size of the room will certainly make a difference when deciding on a particular model. You’ll want the fireplace, mantle and hearth to look proportionately correct for the space that it’s installed in.

Moving air around the house via ceiling fans, oscillating floor fans or through the ductwork of your conventional furnace is critical. Circulating air throughout the house will help to even out those cooler spots and prevent one area from being 80 degrees and another area in the house, 55 degrees. Houses will vary in terms of how easy it is and how effective it is to move heated air around. Do some experimenting and see what works best for your situation.

Can a Fireplace Heat my Whole House_ Example of heat transfer

Heating your home primarily with wood is a great way to save money. Start by purchasing equipment that is capable of heating your home in the worst cold weather conditions. By operating and maintaining your wood-burning equipment properly and by burning dry, seasoned wood,you will enjoy the energy independence from your fuel oil or gas supplier.

As usual, your WE LOVE FIRE® expert would be pleased to answer any other questions or provide any additional information.

Below is a list of fireplace and grill stores that service Virginia (VA)

Manassas, VA

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109

Winston's Chimney Service LogoVisit Store Page

Mechanicsville, VA

Hearth & Home Shoppe
8151 Mechanicsville Tpk
Mechanicsville, VA 23111

Hearth & Home Shoppe LogoVisit Store Page

Roanoke, VA

Dixie Building Products Inc.
3342 Melrose Ave NW
Roanoke, VA 24017

Warrenton, VA

Costello's Warrenton Fireplace & Hot Tub
251 West Lee Hwy
Warrenton, VA 20186

For more information, contact your local fireplace and grill store..

2 Responses

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    • Phil Moroles
      Our home has a heat system that gets it's heat from our fireplace. It is a separate system that uses it's own blower and ducts and control switch. What is this type of heat system called? Does it need some kind of maintenance ever so often?
      • Joseph Bodden
        Hi Phil: You are correct about performing regular maintenance on your central wood heating system. The chimney should be cleaned and inspected, the ducts may need an annual cleaning and the fan should be kept clean of any dirt or dust. We would certainly recommend a thorough cleaning of the entire system on an annual basis. Start by contacting your nearest WE LOVE FIRE expert. And, a warm "thank you" for spending time on!

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