How Does a Ventless Fireplace Work?
Ventless fireplaces don't require a chimney, flue, or external duct -- making them versatile and inexpensive
By Glyn Sheridan
Unlike wood burning fireplaces, ventless units provide heat and ambiance without the risk of smoke or toxic fumes. Because you don't need to install an exhaust vent for these fireplaces, you have more choice of location. A ventless fireplace may be electric, or it may use natural gas or propane for fuel.
You can enjoy the welcoming glow of your fireplace in a bedroom, in a dining room or in any other room where you have sufficient safety clearance around the unit. There is no need to chop wood or scrub ashes and grime from your hearth. A ventless fireplace does not produce waste residue and many units are available as inserts so you can convert an existing fireplace surround.
An electric ventless fireplace works by heating coils and employing a blower to send heated air into the room. A natural gas or a propane fireplace consume fuel to create heat and depending upon the unit, it may or may not have an additional blower to disperse the heat. Small gas burners hide beneath realistic-looking logs and real flames are visible. The propane or the natural gas mixes with just the right amount of oxygen to prevent carbon monoxide emissions.
A homeowner can often install a ventless electric fireplace if it plugs into a regular outlet but if the unit must be "hard wired," an electrician must run the wires. Your local code will determine whether you may install a gas or a propane ventless fireplace. Some communities do not allow them. In addition, most building codes require a licensed plumber to hook up a natural gas line or a propane line.
Burning natural gas in a ventless fireplace may produce moisture within your home. While many people do not mind additional humidity during dry winter months, it may be problematic if you use your ventless natural gas fireplace a lot and you experience condensation on cold interior surfaces. Maintain an adequate free space around all heat-producing fireplaces. Each model has its own safety specifications.
If the oxygen/gas or oxygen/propane ratio is incorrect, your ventless fireplace may produce carbon monoxide. Although many units have an oxygen depletion detector that will shut down the unit, it's still a good idea to use a carbon monoxide detector in the same room as the fireplace. In addition, check with your local building code before installing a gas or propane ventless fireplace. Remember, all fire consumes oxygen, so make sure you have adequate ventilation if you're using the fireplace in a small area.
About the Author
Glyn Sheridan is a regular contributor to DexKnows.
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