Ventless fireplaces are flue- and chimney-free and can be powered by gas, propane, electricity, or alcohol-based gels. They’re easy to install and less expensive than traditional fireplaces. They’ve also come a long way since first hitting the market around 1980. These days, ventless fireplaces are strictly regulated by standards for safe operation, making them a viable and low-cost supplemental heating option. (They tend to be less expensive than traditional types of fireplaces.)
Ventless Fireplace Options
Gas and propane ventless fireplaces can be positioned anywhere a fuel supply line can be installed. They are often installed within existing fireplace masonry or against a wall. An automatic ignition can eliminate the need for an electrical circuit for sparking the pilot light. These will be the most expensive kinds of vent-free fireplaces. Check with your local building department to find out about any regulations or limits related to ventless fireplaces in your area.
Gas and propane ventless units use indoor air for combustion and emit a low level of exhaust – eliminating the need for a chimney or flue. Past debates about emissions have quieted since indoor air quality guidelines have been set for vent-free fireplaces. Safety devices within many modern units will trigger an automatic shut-off if the carbon monoxide level in the room rises above a safe level.
Gel-fueled units light using a match and are completely self-contained (no supply line needed) – making them even more versatile. These are the most affordable type of ventless fireplace.
Electric units need a standard electrical outlet nearby; a dedicated circuit isn’t necessary. They are moderately priced — usually somewhere between the cost of gas/propane units and gel-fueled.
Electric ventless fireplaces, and those that use gel canisters, are free of the carbon monoxide concern because they don’t emit anything besides a low amount of heat. Ventless fireplace do emanate some heat and are ideal for supplemental space heating; however, ventless fireplaces are generally best for aesthetic purposes — many of them are very beautiful and come in both traditional and contemporary designs.
Installation and Maintenance
Gas and propane ventless fireplaces require professional installation. All types of units require an annual cleaning of the log set and exposed components. Propane and gas units should also have their carbon monoxide and oxygen monitors checked annually and adjusted as needed for optimal performance. It’s advisable to have an additional carbon monoxide detector in your home besides the one built into the unit.
Be sure to size your ventless fireplace for the room it will be located in. Large, open spaces like great rooms can handle a gas or propane unit with 25,000 BTU or higher output; smaller rooms may call for a 5,000 BTU unit. Some units can be regulated with a wall thermostat or remote control. Gel-powered units max out at 9,000 BTUs, and electric fireplaces are usually around 4,500 BTUs. Regardless of your choice, you can count on your ventless fireplace to be nearly 100% efficient.