The term ventless is used to describe a fireplace with which a flue or chimney aren’t required. There is a lot of controversy around whether or not ventless fireplaces are safe because the entire combustion and heat producing process takes place inside the home. So we examined the pros and cons of ventless propane fireplaces and we wanted to share our findings with you.

The very first thing we’d like to point out is that there is no such thing as a truly ventless fireplace. Completely ventless would mean that no oxygen can enter, no gases can escape, and the fire would put itself out within minutes. A ventless fireplace pulls oxygen from the room through small vents in the front of the unit and gases are released through similar vents at the top.

* Always install a carbon monoxide detector in the same room with a fireplace regardless as to whether it is vented or ventless.

Ventless Fireplace Pros

  • Physical Size – The physical size of a ventless fireplace is much smaller than a fireplace that is attached to a flue and chimney. They’re roughly the size of a medium bookshelf and don’t take up a lot of room in your home. This makes them a great addition to a small home or apartment.
  • BTU Size – BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the amount of work required to raise the temperature by one degree Fahrenheit. The BTU size of the unit determines how effective it is at heating any given room. A 100 square foot room with a 10 foot ceiling and normal insulation requires 8,000 BTU to keep the temperature 40 degrees above the exterior temperature. So an 8,000 BTU propane powered ventless fireplace could keep one room comfortable in the event of a power outage.
  • Efficiency – A propane, gas, or gel fireplace will only burn as long as it has fuel, and these fuel types burn until they’re burned out. So the efficiency is nearly 100%.
  • Odor – Most homeowners say their ventless fireplace is almost completely odorless. Kerosene heaters emit a very strong odor that most homeowners dislike, but ventless propane heaters do not.

Ventless Fireplace Cons

  • Safety – These types of fireplaces, as we mentioned above, are never truly ventless. The heat and gases are vented back into the room after oxygen is pulled from the room to keep the fire burning. This is the most controversial part of a ventless fireplace and absolutely needs to be addressed. You should keep a window slightly cracked to renew the oxygen in the room and install a carbon monoxide detector so you can know when there’s a buildup of carbon monoxide.
  • Humidity – Because the fireplace doesn’t produce smoke, the gases and moisture are cycled back into the room. This creates a problem with humidity in some homes.

The Bottom Line

Heating your home in the event of a power outage isn’t impossible, even if you don’t have a traditional fireplace and chimney. Propane heaters and fireplaces put off a decent amount of emergency heat or backup heat that will keep your family warm without making the entire home smell like fuel. Call Lou Curley’s Chimney Service at 610-626-2439 if you have questions about building codes regarding ventless fireplaces or if you are in need of any type of chimney service.