Know your regulations

EnerGuide: Choose your fireplace with “efficiency”

Understand the P.4 rate

By Coval’s Team

| November 7, 2019

In Canada, all gas appliances on the market must undergo an energy efficiency test. This was established by the CSA (Canadian Standards Association). It is more commonly referred to as the P.4 test. This has been in place since 2003 and makes it easier for Canadian consumers to compare different gas fireplace models. You will recognize it by the EnerGuide label.

 

Understanding the results

The CSA P.4 test tells you an annual efficiency percentage that is established by measuring the amount of heat produced that is not lost in the vent. The best performing devices are usually between 50% and 70%. For example, a P.4 efficiency of 75% would indicate that ¼ of the energy produced is lost outside.

Concretely, when you do your preliminary research, we advise you to look at three data: the incoming BTUs (Input), outgoing (Output) and the EnerGuide (P.4). The input is the amount of fuel, reported as energy, that the appliance consumes in one hour of operation. The output, on the other hand, is the resultant of energy that is stored inside. With these two variables, we obtain the efficiency P.4. It is important to understand that large devices are not necessarily the ones with the most inbound and that more inbound does not mean more outbound. In fact, a fireplace with an input of 20,000 Btu/h at 70% efficiency will produce the same output as a 40,000 Btu/h appliance operating at 35% efficiency. The difference is that the first will have consumed half the fuel to get there.

In addition, when it comes to comparing two devices, other factors must be taken into consideration. Indeed, the EnerGuide test is not perfect. The shortcoming of this measurement is that it only calculates the heat lost in the exhaust duct versus that which remains inside. However, heat that remains in the house does not necessarily warm it. Here are two cases that you can consider during your shopping spree.

Case #1: The Heat is Behind the Wall

More and more multi-sided linear fireplaces are being designed without a zero clearance cabinet. Therefore, since they are less well insulated, the heat escapes from the box and is found on the periphery of the appliance, between it and the non-combustible materials. Given this situation, these fireplaces then require an opening in the ceiling in order to evacuate the excess energy.

Since the EnerGuide test (P.4) focuses on what comes out of the chimney, this type of fireplace is still able to obtain an excellent energy rating. However, the truth is that the heat remains trapped in the walls and does nothing to heat your room. In addition, most of these fireplaces are designed with double panes to allow unobstructed vision by a protective screen. However, this additional safety eliminates the majority of the radiant heat.

Case #2: Heat Transfer System

Several appliances now have heat exchangers within their insulated casing to maximize energy transfer in the room. Indeed, if a well-calibrated fan is used, it is possible to transform the radiant heat that occurs at the periphery of the device into convection heat that is returned to the room. This increase in performance is significant, but is not taken into account by the P.4 test.

As you can see, energy efficiency and the amount of heat that gets into the room are two things that need to be addressed separately. The most “efficient” appliances are those that allow you to do both, for example Jotul fireplaces. Obviously, for neophytes, it is not easy to identify the devices that meet the winning conditions. It is for this reason that we always recommend consulting a specialist retailer.

If you want to quickly know the efficiency of a device, you have three options. You can consult your fireplace’s user manual, search for the EnerGuide certification sticker directly on the appliance or you can consult the Government of Canada database.

Useful definitions

  • A BTU (British Termal Unit): represents the amount of heat needed to raise one degree F of a pound of water at a pressure of one atmosphere.
  • Zero Clearance Cabinet: Refers to a fireplace that can be installed directly adjacent to combustible materials. The box is insulated so that there is no heat leakage other than through the planned evacuations (chimney, vents, grills, etc.).
  • Radiant heat: is the energy emitted by an object when it has previously been heated. Metals and minerals are known to emit this type of heat when exposed to a heating element such as fire.
  • Convection heat: is the heat felt by contact with hot air. When the surrounding air is warmed, it transfers its heat to objects in its path. This heat is sensitive to currents and tends to reduce the humidity level of a room.

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