What is a Vent Free Fireplace and is it Safe?

A vent-free fireplace is a fireplace that does not include a chimney and draws indoor air to fuel the fire. These fireplaces require natural gas, gel fuel, or electricity to operate.  Most electric fireplaces do not pose a threat to indoor air quality but fireplace safety due to air quality should be considered when choosing a vent-free gas or gel fueled fireplace. Careful consideration of the ventilation system in your home should eliminate the risk. Generally speaking, a vent-free fireplace is safe if installed in an outdoor application.

Some of the bi-products of poor ventilation are:

  •    Carbon Dioxide
  •    Carbon Monoxide
  •    Formaldehyde
  •    Water Vapor

Most new homes are so tightly built that sometimes an air ventilation system is required to keep new, fresh air moving throughout the house. Air quality and your safety may be threatened when a vent-free fireplace is added to a home without a ventilation system.  Every state has building codes that address indoor air quality and your building inspector should be familiar with the specific requirements in your city.  Direct vent appliances, when installed to manufacturer specifications, ensure proper ventilation.

At first glance choosing a vent free fireplace could seem like the smart way to go because of the ease of installation.  But experience has shown that the risks outweigh the benefits in some conditions.  Many fireplace dealers, All Seasons Fireplace included, refuse to sell these types of products unless the proper conditions exist.  Nick Niesen, our fireplace technician with over 20 years of experience, has some horror stories to tell including emergency visits to free cabin dwellers from their frozen homes.


Frozen House from Dr. Zhivago


Moisture is a byproduct of combustion in cold climates. Tightly insulated homes in cold climates hold onto this moisture and mold, mildew, warping, and frozen doors and windows can result. Most manufacturers recommend they not be used as an alternative heat source in cold climates and suggest that if they are used that they not be run for more than 4 hours at a time.  Carbon Monoxide is another byproduct of burning gas or gel fuel without proper ventilation. Carbon monoxide detectors are recommended in rooms where these types of fireplaces operate. Protect yourself from the dangers of Carbon Monoxide. Don't take unnecessary risks.  

Consider the safety and efficiency benefits of using a direct vent fireplace.

Save yourself the headaches, literally!

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