A ventless gas fireplace is a type of fireplace insert that vents its exhaust directly into the room where it is used. These types of fireplaces have understandably become quite controversial for this reason, making them undesirable in some situations. However, they can still be safely used in a variety of situations if proper safety precautions are taken, which is the case with all fires and heaters anyway. In some states or countries there used is banned outright.
Homeowners should be aware of the pros and cons provided by ventless gas fireplaces, and compare them with the other options available, such as natural venting or direct venting, to see which of the options would be best given the circumstances.
How a Vent Free Gas Fireplace Works: Pros and Cons
Ventless gas fireplaces work by drawing cold air from the room into the chamber, which is used for combustion, and the heated air is circulated back into the room. Because it is a closed system, in that it does not have any contact with air outside the home, all of its heat production is retained within the house, making it extremely efficient compared to other fireplaces, which allow heat to escape up the chimney or other vents.
Advantages of ventless gas fireplaces include this extremely high efficiency, which costs very little to operate. Installation is simple, because the unit does not require installation of a vent, which may have to be placed directly into a wall in some cases. This means they can be installed in any room with little or no modification to existing floorplans or other design concerns. All gas fireplaces are useful in power outages, making them more reliable in this regard than electric fireplaces. The fuel consumption process is relatively clean, especially compared to wood fireplaces, and the units can produce a great amount of heat.
Disadvantages of ventless gas fireplaces include installation issues, but the most significant problem remains that of the exhaust being distributed directly into the room. As oxygen is consumed and carbon monoxide is expelled into the room, the air quality can suffer. Ventless gas fireplaces have an automatic shutoff triggered upon detection of low oxygen levels, and gas fireplaces should be purchased to accommodate the room they are intended to heat, rather than an overly large unit being used for a small room, as it will consume more oxygen than may be safe. Sufferers of respiratory problems are generally advised not to purchase or operate ventless gas fireplaces. In many cases manufacturers recommend keeping a window open when using a ventless fireplace.
This may be counterintuitive to the main advantage of a vent free gas fireplace, which is its enclosed design, which gives it maximum efficiency compared to venting appliances, which cancels out its advantage by compensating for its disadvantage. If homeowners are willing to live with needing to open a window occasionally, the performance of a ventless gas fireplace will thus be comparable to a venting model, meaning the only distinguishing factor will be the ventless model’s relative ease of installation. Homeowners should think about whether this sort of a system will suit their needs while they decide on purchasing one of these designs.
Alternatives to Ventless Gas Fireplaces
Many alternative fireplace inserts exist, as many types of fireplaces and inserts are available to homeowners to suit all requirements, including budgetary concerns, style, and size, including direct venting gas fireplaces.
Electric fireplace inserts feature the same enclosed design of gas fireplaces, meaning they do not lose their produced heat to the outside atmosphere, but feature none of the air quality disadvantages of a gas fireplace. As they are powered simply by an ordinary electrical outlet, they are easy to install, move, and remove, which can come in handy during a power failure, to make room for a regular wood fire. They are also quite efficient, cheap to operate, and produce realistic looking flames. Electric fireplace inserts are available as a full firebox insert, or just the logs themselves.
Wood burning fireplace inserts can increase the efficiency of a wood fire and reduce its emissions of harmful substances, which are also prevented from entering the room due to the enclosed design of the firebox. Though not as efficient as electric or gas fireplace inserts, they do feature the warm crackle of a “real” fire, as well as the satisfaction of tending it, which remains appealing to many. Pellet stoves are similar, using compressed sawdust pellets as fuel, which is a waste byproduct of the wood industry, meaning the use of pellets uses otherwise unused material, reducing wood consumption.
Deciding on a Ventless Gas Fireplace
Ventless gas fireplace have their share of detractors, and care needs to be used in their operation. As homeowners should be careful when using a fire of any kind, this may be seen as comparable to operating any ordinary fire, and with proper care a ventless fireplace can be safe and highly effective. Gas fireplaces are extremely efficient, producing a great amount of heat for their cost and consumption of fuel, which can add up to significant savings, offsetting their initial purchase price, which may go up to a few thousand dollars. Choose carefully based on room size and venting concerns, and a ventless gas fireplace may provide warmth and satisfaction for years.