Ventless Gas Fireplaces: Everything You Need to Know

Ventless Gas Fireplace

Ventless gas fireplaces have become popular because of their convenience and economy. Consumers enjoy the look of a real fireplace without the need to harvest or purchase cords of firewood, and clean up the mess left behind after loading them into the fireplace. The ventless gas fireplace is a cleaner option to wood or pellet burners and the fuel source is automatically fed so there is no need to continually load them or to worry about running low on the fuel source. As long as you pay your gas bill or keep propane tanks filled, whichever may be the case, you’re in business. There are definite benefits associated with ventless gas fireplaces but there are also drawbacks. If you’re considering making a switch-over or investing in a ventless gas fireplace then here is everything that you need to know about them in advance, including the different types, how they work, what kind of maintenance is required and the pros and cons of ownership.

What is a ventless gas fireplace and what types are there?

A ventless gas fireplace is one that is usually a freestanding unit that does not need a chimney or flue in order to vent the exhaust into the outdoor air. They are designed in a manner that eliminates the need for these requirements for traditional pellet or wood burning fireplaces. There are a few different types of ventless gas fireplaces. Those that rely upon natural gas, and can be piped into the local utility supplier and those that operate from propane gas, usually requiring a holding gas tank on the exterior of the home and periodic refills. There are also those which depend upon electricity and the use of alcohol based gels.

How does this kind of fireplace work?

A ventless gas fireplace does not rely upon air for combustion and they release a small amount of gases into the area where they are in operation. They can be installed in rooms where there are no chimney’s or flues because they do not require them for operation. Most of the newer models come with an automatic ignition feature along with an automatic thermostat that allows you to adjust the amount of heat that is released. You will also need to have the unit installed near an electrical source as well as where the piping for the fuel supply, if applicable comes into the home.

The fuel source (gas) runs through holes placed in artificial fireproof logs which are made to simulate real wood logs for aesthetic purposes. The logs are usually made of ceramic fiber and they are placed in a firebox. A pilot line runs through to the striker which automatically lights the flame without the need for a match or lighter. The fireplace sends the burned gases into the room that its located in and it sucks oxygen through the bottom of the fireplace then vents into the room from the top of the unit in a U shaped pattern or flow.

Considerations before installing a ventless gas fireplace

Before you purchase a ventless gas fireplace, there are a few things that you need to determine. The first step is to determine the right size for the room that you’re planning to install it in. Make sure that the fireplace offers the BTU output that is appropriate for the size of the room by volume of space. This is to ensure that it heats all of the connected rooms well enough. You can refer to a handy calculation chart that describes step by step how to determine the BTU requirements to heat the room or rooms in your home properly and you can find it by visiting Vent Free.

These units should be installed by a professional to ensure that all of the fittings are tightened to the right parameters and that the fireplace is in ideal operating condition with no gas leaks or malfunctions, even for brand new units that have never been used before.

Features to look for in a new ventless gas fireplace

There are several different brands of ventless gas fireplaces on the market today and within those brands, a variety of models which can have some very different features. If you haven’t already been browsing though the available selections of ventless gas fireplaces, be prepared to encounter a variety of different styles. The standard style looks like a traditional fireplace with a single opening in the front to enjoy the appearance of flames. There is also a peninsula style which provides a multi=sided view of the fire. Most are rectangular in their shape and designed or high visual appeal. These are most often used as room dividers in an open concept home. The island style is four sided allowing you to admire the flames from all sides. There are also open end and corner fireplaces which open on two sides. Some are designed to open on opposite sides, and some to the left or right. there are several different styles to choose from which makes them a great addition to practically any room theme.

Pros and cons

Every type of heat source has its advantages and disadvantages. Ventless gas fireplaces are no exceptions. Although they are extremely popular because of their many benefits, there are still some drawbacks associated with them. If you were to ask a dozen people about how they feel about ventless gas fireplaces you would likely get a dozen different answers. Some people absolutely love them while others wouldn’t have on in their homes. Here are the pros and cons of installing a vent free gas fireplace in your home.

Advantages

Homeowners love ventless gas fireplaces, also called vent free fireplaces for several good reasons. They are convenient heat sources that are more economical than electric heat, they provide clean heat without the need to bring in messy wooden logs which put off black soot and ash which needs to be cleaned frequently. They are easier and less expensive to install and they can be placed in any room that has an electrical outlet and piping for the natural gas or fuel supply. They don’t require any spectacular renovations like the installation of a chimney or flue. They are efficient units for heating your home. Contrary to some beliefs, they are safe for use in a home environment and they pose no medical risks. They do not produce smoke like a traditional wood or pellet burning fireplace does so if you or a family member have respiratory problems, the ventless gas version is superior in performance than the traditional and it’s a healthier choice that provides a cleaner heat source. The emissions from the in room venting are so low that they are practically negligible. EPA regulations are stiff when it comes to approval of these units and those certified are safe for the air indoors and outdoors and they contribute very little with regard to carbon monoxide.

Disadvantages

There are some distinct disadvantages associated with ventless gas fireplaces. Although the EPA poses rigorous regulations with regard to emissions, there is no type of venting system whatsoever and the spent gas is circulated into the room. Many people as well as government entities consider them to be a liability. There have been multiple reports of people who own vent free fireplaces experiencing frequent headaches as well as other unusual symptoms. There are several states within the US which have outlawed the use of ventless gas fireplaces due to concerns over public health. When taking an honest look at the pros and cons it is important to understand that there have also been some concerns voiced over the safety of ventless gas fireplaces.

There is a concern that they increase the risk of deadly carbon monoxide buildup in a single room as well as depleting the supply of oxygen which could lead to serious health complications and even death. Other concerns over ventless fireplaces include their tendency to increase the humidity in a room which makes the environment more susceptible to the growth of mold and mildew which in themselves pose a risk for those with severe allergies and respiratory issues. Another drawback which some people point out is that the propane versions are more expensive than wood or pellet heat. The cost for the fuel is higher and this is a down side, and in addition, the fake logs do not produce the same enjoyable pops and snaps of a real wood fire.

Maintenance of a ventless gas fireplace

Although ventless gas fireplaces are much cleaner than most other fireplace types, there is some maintenance that is required to keep them in top working order. They may be vent free but they are not truly maintenance free. It’s important to give your unit a good thorough inspection in the fall before you plan on using it as a major heating source for the chilly nights and days which are soon to arrive. This is to ensure that they are both functional and safe. You can hire a professional service to come and conduct the inspection and this is highly recommended unless it’s what you do for a living. Something to consider is having your gas log set professionally cleaned. While it cost cost you a few hundred, it could help to extend the lifespan of this important component that does tend to wear out over time. If you decide to forego the professional services then here are a few tips to help you maintenance the logs. Begin by cleaning up all dirt and debris around the burner and make sure that everything is shut off and cool first. You an use a vacuum. It’s a good idea to take a photo of the logs prior to disassembling them so you’ll know how to put them back together. Clean the area where the logs were. Use a can of compressed air to clean out the Oxygen Depletion sensor and it is vital that this important sensor is working to keep everyone in the home safe and healthy. Flush the air intake system out with the compressed air to clean out the burner port holes. Reassemble the gas log set after wiping them down and replace as you found it.

Final thoughts

Ventless gas fireplaces offer a lot of advantages for those who are looking for clean heating sources that are relatively hassle free for their homes. While there are some ongoing arguments about their safety, there are strict regulations which govern the designs of these fireplaces and those which are certified and conform to the established standards are considered to be safe for use in residences and some even consider them to be the healthier heating alternative to wood or some other types of heat. It will continue to be an ongoing debate among those in states which have not banned their use. There are definite advantages for types of ventless gas heaters, while propane are more expensive, natural gas can actually help you to save money on your heating bill. Vent free units are less expensive and easier to install and the maintenance is far less than with traditional fireplaces. No soot, no ash and all you really need to do is give it a good thorough cleaning in the fall and inspect it to make sure that everything is still in working order and you’re ready to go for another winter of inexpensive and clean heat. As with any type of fireplace there are pros and cons but from what we’ve seen there are far more advantages to ventless gas fireplaces if this type of heating is allowed in the state that you live in.


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