Fireplaces conjure up memories of family, nostalgia, and warmth. There’s nothing better than snuggling up beside a roaring fire on a cold night to feel snug and relaxed.
As a homeowner, you’re probably looking for ways to add comfort and beauty to your home and increase its value, and a fireplace can accomplish both of these goals. But wood-burning fireplaces can be inefficient and messy, not to mention a health hazard. Fortunately, there are other options, like a ventless fireplace.
Ventless fireplaces are eco-friendly, easy to use, and can add to your home’s ambiance. A ventless fireplace can make any room more picturesque and homey, adding a unique flair and vibe. Like any major appliance purchase, however, you should do some research before opening your wallet, and be aware of potential safety issues. But first...
What Is a Ventless Fireplace?
A ventless fireplace has no external venting so your home does not need to have a flue or chimney—which vented gas fireplaces require. Indeed, its high efficiency lies in the fact that heat is contained within the unit and does not escape out the flue and up the chimney. Instead, blowers circulate heat throughout a room to propel hot air from the unit.
A ventless gas fireplace does not use wood; rather, it uses ceramic fiber logs that fit together in a specified pattern to resemble the natural wood-burning stack of logs you’d find in a traditional fireplace. Realistic-looking flames rise up through holes in the ceramic logs to produce a beautiful, vibrant fire.
Choosing a Ventless Gas Fireplace
The most popular ventless fireplaces use liquid propane or gas as fuel sources. Both typically require professional installation and can be costly; however, electric units and gel-fueled units are also available that are more affordable and a perfect weekend DIY install project.
Fireplaces are measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), which is a measure of energy: the higher the BTUs, the higher the heat output. Simply put, units with higher BTUs are ideal for larger rooms; conversely, those with lower BTUs better suit smaller spaces.
Besides the type of unit you select, it’s also important to pay attention to various fireplace features, such as remote control capabilities, battery-assisted ignition, and more. Regardless of the ventless fireplace you ultimately choose, measure and re-measure your space to make sure your selection will fit properly.
Ventless vs. Vented Fireplaces
The main difference between these two types of fireplaces is that while both have blowers that circulate hot air throughout a room, a ventless fireplace doesn’t require the outdoor vents found in a vented unit. This means you are not limited when it comes to selecting a spot for your ventless fireplace; you can place it virtually anywhere you want.
What’s more, a vent free fireplace is designed with a low combustion rate, and the gas burns cleanly in this type of fireplace. In fact, ventless fireplaces are specifically engineered so that exhaust fumes are significantly reduced compared with traditional vented fireplaces, which have a dangerously high amount of combustion (the reason why they must be vented outside the home via a flue and chimney).
Can You Have a Ventless Fireplace?
California is the only state that bans vent free fireplaces. If you live in another state, it’s a good idea to check the Vent-Free Gas Products Association website or a local vent-free fireplace dealer who can inform you about local regulations.
Some contractors recommend that a new home have ductwork installed to manage emissions, while others state that partially opening windows is sufficient. Reputable contractors and manufacturers can ensure that your system is installed safely and correctly according to local safety regulations. This is important, as states and counties have their own regulations that control the installation and use of vent free gas fireplace systems.
Ventless Fireplace Safety Issues
If you are considering a vent free fireplace, an important issue to be aware of revolves around the water vapor, or excess moisture, that both a ventless fireplace and a vented fireplace produce. While the water vapor is routed outside with a vented fireplace system, it’s released into your home with a ventless fireplace. That’s why getting in the habit of routinely checking for mold and mildew is critical if you install a ventless fireplace.
Other potential concerns involve the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning and an inability to thoroughly vent gasses from ventless propane fireplace systems. For this reason, most manufacturers recommend partially opening windows when these units are running or installing a separate ductwork system to direct emissions out of the home.
Ventless Fireplace Pros and Cons
Now that you’re familiar with a ventless fireplace and how it works, let’s recap the advantages and disadvantages of ventless gas fireplace systems.
- Easier and more affordable installation in a modern home, with no flue or chimney requirement
- Cleaner and more eco-friendly than burning wood
- Increased efficiency and reduced energy costs
- Excellent heating capabilities throughout a home, because there is no vent where heat can escape
- Although a ventless fireplace produces a very low amount of gasses to begin with, some will still be emitted into your home
- Water vapor (excess moisture created while the fire is burning) is pushed into the room, creating humidity and potential mold and mildew issues if excess moisture builds up
- Safety concerns over carbon monoxide and asphyxiation issues exist
Whether you ultimately choose a vented or ventless fireplace, remember that proper maintenance is key when it comes to enjoying the comfort and coziness a fireplace provides. Maintaining and cleaning your fireplace is essential for reliable operation and safety—performed annually either by you or a certified contractor. For this reason, it’s a good idea to add your fireplace to your home maintenance schedule.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.