Vent-free gas fireplaces have been around for nearly four decades now. First developed in the early 1980s, the fireplaces don’t have a flue or chimney.
Instead, they vent directly into the room being heated. They are powered by either natural gas or propane, with some even designed to burn alcohol-based gels. Some also depend on electricity for lighting.
The fireplaces come with several pros and cons. For instance, vent-free gas fireplaces are less expensive and even easier to install than traditional fireplaces. Unfortunately, the vent-free operation also makes them a bit of a safety risk.
If you’re still sitting on the fence about picking the right ventless fireplace for your needs, this guide should help you make an informed decision.
Let’s begin with a review of some of the best vent-free gas fireplaces. Pay particular attention to the heating capacity (BTU-rating), physical size, and features.
1. Pleasant Hearth VFS2-PH30DT 30,000 BTU Vent-Free Gas Stove
The VFS2-PH30DT is a 30,000 BTU vent-free fireplace featuring a minimum clearance design for easy and quick installation anywhere. It comes in a black powder-coat finish, equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) as well as a thermostat to help you monitor heating levels in the room.
For convenience, the versatile VFS2-PH30DT is a dual-fuel fireplace that uses either propane or natural gas. You’ll, however, need to buy a fuel tank separately if you’d wish to use propane. The manufacturer recommends a 100-lb tank or larger with a 2-stage adjustable regulator. These tanks are easily available from local gas companies.
The VFS2-PH30DT measures approximately 31 x 14 x 28 inches, giving you about 32 inches of flame view. It weighs 87lbs and is designed for spaces up to 1,000 square feet. And most importantly, buyers enjoy a 2-year warranty.
- 30,000 BTU/hour
- Oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) included
- Dual-fuel (propane or natural gas)
- 2-year warranty
- Blower sold separately
- No remote control
2. Duluth Forge Dual Fuel Ventless Insert 26,000 BTU (model FDF300T)
An exceptional fireplace that boasts both power and style, the dual-fuel Duluth Forge FDF300T is a majestic insert that will instantly transform your home. Remember that it’s an insert, thus goes into an existing fireplace hearth. Once installed, the unit delivers realistic dancing yellow flames while providing plenty of heat. Five hand-painted ceramic logs make the fireplace even more life-like.
Electricity is not a must as the FDF300T uses a battery-assisted piezoelectric igniter. The flame is delivered by a dual-precision ported vent-free gas burner. To ensure the safety of room occupants, the unit comes with an ODS. It also features a thermostat and auto-shutoff technology that kicks in whenever overheating is detected.
The FDF300T measures 13.9 x 29. X 23.9 inches, weighs 47.6lbs and is ideal for spaces up to 1,350 square feet.
- Dual fuel (NGG and LP)
- Up to 26,000 BTU/hour
- ODS and auto-shutoff
- Ideal for up to 1,350 Sq. Ft.
- Blower sold separately
- It’s a bit pricey
3. Duluth Forge Vent Free 32,000 BTU Dual Fuel Fireplace
A more powerful and gorgeous option than the first two fireplaces on the list, the autumn spice finish Duluth Forge (model #170034) is an artistic masterpiece. It features Duluth’s Furniture Quality fireplace mantel and provides a beautiful and realistic flame pattern for a stunning fireplace experience. The dark brown wood tone creates a valuable contrast to complete any décor.
The product delivers up to 32,000 BTU/hour and is designed for spaces up to 1,500 square feet. Not only that, the patented dual-fuel technology allows it to run on either propane or natural gas. It comes with a built-in remote control, so you can control temperatures and other aspects of heating more conveniently. This model uses six hand-painted ceramic fiber logs and is 99.9% efficient.
The product measures 45 x 45 x 15 inches and uses battery-assisted piezoelectric ignition. Additionally, it features both an ODS and an overheating auto-shutoff.
- Dual fuel technology
- Remote controlled
- Up to 99.9% efficient
- Ideal for spaces up to 1,500 Sq. Ft.
- Some assembly required
- It’s a bit expensive
4. ProCom QNSD250T Ventless Dual Fuel Stove 25,000 BTU
If you’re looking for a moderately priced ventless gas fireplace that still delivers plenty of heat without compromising the safety of your family, the ProCom QNSD250T would be an excellent choice. The QNSD250T is a dual fuel burner, allowing you to use either propane or natural gas. It gives two rows of flame and comfortably heats up spaces up to 1,100 square feet.
Thermostat control is inbuilt and allows you to maintain the desired room temperatures. An oxygen depletion sensor with automatic shutoff is also built-in to ensure safety. Even better, the unit comes with five improved realistic looking logs, with maximum pre-assembly cutting down on installation needs. It uses battery-supported piezoelectric ignition.
The product measures 25 x 32 x 13 inches, weighs 56.5lbs, and is protected by a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.
- Uses natural gas or propane
- Ideal for up to 1,100 Sq. Ft.
- Battery-supported ignition
- One-year warranty
- No remote control
5. Regal Flame Elite Lenox Ventless Bio Ethanol Recessed Fireplace
As you may have noticed, the Regal Flame Elite Lenox is the only fireplace on this list that doesn’t burn either natural gas or propane. Instead, it burns bioethanol, making it an excellent option for those trying to cut back on their carbon imprint. While bioethanol is a hydrocarbon too, it’s renewable (the fuel is produced from crops).
The Elite Lenox is a wall-mounted fireplace that measures 53.5 x 21 x 5.7 inches. As such, you get a 54-inch fireplace. It produces 18,000 BTU and delivers a 12 to 14-inch high flame. The burner is a 3 x 1.5 dual-layer design made of 430 stainless steel. The 1.5 liters of bioethanol burns for between 4-6 hours.
For safety purposes, the fireplace includes three panes of tempered glass situated to the front and sides of the flame. It comes with mounting hardware and a flame adjuster.
- Burns renewable bioethanol
- Get up to 18,000 BTU/hour
- Clean, environmentally-friendly heating
- 3-year warranty
- Bioethanol isn’t readily available in most locations
6. Pleasant Hearth 42 Intermediate Heritage Natural Gas Vent-Free Fireplace
Finally, the rich natural heritage-finished 42-inch Pleasant Hearth is another beautiful mantel-style fireplace that packs plenty of heating power. Adorning a rich heritage finish, it delivers an incredible 27,000 BTU/hour while requiring minimal clearance.
The fireplace doesn’t support a millivolt remote controller. But, it features a thermostat knob to help you control indoor temperatures as you wish. The dual-burner provides two rows of flames for a more full-looking fire while a blower (sold separately) allows you to distribute the heat faster and more evenly. This fireplace is ideal for spaces up to 1,000 square feet.
Unfortunately, this fireplace is strictly natural gas only; fuel conversion is prohibited. It measures 42 x 42 x 28 inches and weighs 121 pounds.
- Delivers up to 27,000 BTU/hour
- Ideal for up to 1,000 Sq. Ft.
- Gorgeous rich heritage finish
- Minim clearance design
- Single fuel burner (NG only)
- A bit pricey
With the reviews done, let’s now discuss how to choose the best ventless gas fireplace. There are several things you’ll need to know, including;
What is a Vent-Less Fireplace?
Alternatively known as vent-free or unvented fireplaces, ventless fireplaces do not have vents. A vent, in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, is a means through which air inside the house escapes to the outside.
Traditional fireplaces use chimneys for venting, while vented gas fireplaces often use flues and narrow pipes. The primary role of the chimney, flues, and pipes is to direct combustion gases outside the house. Ventless fireplaces do not have chimneys, flues, or pipes for venting. Instead, any gaseous byproducts of the combustion process are released into the room.
It’s important to note that special plans are put in place to ensure that very few combustion gases are released from ventless gas fireplaces.
How Do Vent Free Fireplaces Work?
The working of vent-free gas fireplaces prioritizes two things – efficiency and safety. The design isn’t very different from other gas fireplaces, except for the missing chimney/flue. Essentially, gas is piped into a gas unit. When lit, a flame runs through gaps in artificial ceramic fiber logs.
The gas unit is located in a fire-rated firebox and has a control panel with valves that allow users to control the pilot light and the ignition mechanism (often a piezoelectric striker button). Within the firebox is an ember bed with artificial logs laid beautifully on the bed. These logs have holes. They also have pins that hold them to each other in a predetermined shape.
When you ignite the fireplace, whether through piezoelectric ignition or manually, the gas burner produces a flame. The ember bed and logs help create the impression of a wood-burning stove.
The fireplaces are designed such that oxygen enters the bottom of the fireplace from the room, and any combustion gases vent back into the room. The entire process creates a U-shaped path.
Vent-Free vs. Vented Fireplaces
Vent-free fireplaces differ from vented models in many ways, ranging from venting method to fire logs and flame patterns to the range of combustion byproducts.
- Venting method
As we’ve already seen, the two fireplace models vent completely differently. Vented fireplaces feature mechanisms to draw oxygen into the fireplace and release combustion gases outside the house. Vent-free models, meanwhile, draw oxygen from the house and vent any combustion gases into the house.
- Log types
Vented and vent-free gas fireplaces don’t use the same log types. Logs for vented fireplaces are larger and more decorative than efficient. They typically emit a brilliant yellow flame similar to wood-burning stoves. Vented fireplace logs are also less expensive. Ventless fireplace logs, meanwhile, are more efficient, even at the expense of aesthetics.
- Flame patterns
The logs used in vented fireplaces allow the flames to run through, around, and over the logs, creating a more realistic wood-burning experience. That luxury isn’t affordable in ventless fireplaces. To increase efficiency and safety, the flames in ventless fireplaces must go through prescribed holes in the logs. Thus, you’ll get a less realistic flame without that roaring fire effect.
- Combustion byproducts
Since spent gases in vented fireplaces are driven out of the house without delay, the fireplaces haven’t bothered too much with the volume of byproducts. They often produce soot, ashes, and several gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Ventless fireplaces burn more cleanly, producing very few spent gases, in very little quantities. Most are 99% efficient, with the 1% mostly made up of water vapor and small traces of CO2.
Pros and Cons of Ventless Gas Fireplaces
- Less expensive: Cost is, perhaps, the biggest advantage of ventless gas fireplaces. They cost up to half of the similarly-rated vented models. Direct vent models are particularly pricey.
- Easier installation: Since a venting system isn’t required, ventless gas fireplaces are very easy to install. Unless it’s a recessed model that requires removing some part of the wall, the installation might only involve several minutes of assembly.
- Maintain home’s structural integrity: The holes required for vented gas fireplaces are usually small (about 4 inches for direct vent models and slightly larger for natural-vent). Nonetheless, drilling a hole through the wall or roof compromises the structural integrity of the building. Ventless fireplaces don’t require these holes.
- Deliver plenty of heat to the room: This is another major advantage of ventless gas fireplaces. There are no flues or chimneys that could serve as escape routes for heat. Thus, all the generated heat is retained within the home.
- Can produce odors: Since combustion stays in the room, ventless fireplaces can cause odors and strange smells.
- Poor heat retention: Although ventless gas fireplaces produce lots of heat, retention of the heat is very poor. The logs aren’t designed to retain heat. Even worse, the heat often leaves the firebox within seconds of being produced.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Ventless Gas Fireplace
Ventless gas fireplaces come in all shapes and designs. The following are top factors to consider when shopping for one;
- Heating capacity (BTU)
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that ventless heating capacities max out at 40,000 BTU. Since all the heat from the unit ends up in the house, higher BTU values would put room occupants at risk. With regards to the best size for your application, we recommend about 25,000 BTU for large homes and around 5,000 BTU for smaller rooms.
- Fuel type
Most ventless gas fireplaces run on either natural gas (NG) or liquid propane (LP), or both. Others, meanwhile, run on biofuels such as ethanol. Natural gas is typically piped to homes. Propane, however, isn’t piped. Instead, it’s purchased in specially designed tanks ranging in size, up to 40,000lb, or more. You may need to buy both the tank and fuel regulator separately.
- Installation method
Ventless gas fireplaces can be built-in, inserts, or freestanding. Built-in models are recessed into the wall. A portion of the wall is taken out, and the fireplaces installed in the created space. Inserts go into existing hearths. You should only choose these models if you have an existing hearth. Lastly, freestanding models stand on their own feet. Some resemble cabinets, while others are designed as media centers. They may or may not have wheels.
Ventless gas fireplaces cost in the region of $2,000 to $6,000, with some costing more or less. In addition to the purchase costs, you also need to factor in installation. The final may also vary depending on a number of factors including, heating capacity, brand, and type of fuel used. Dual-fuel models cost more.
Ventless Gas Fireplace Safety
A lot of prospective buyers often ask whether ventless gas fireplaces are safe. The answer is yes, and no. Yes, because the units have been designed to be as safe as possible. They are not only more efficient than other fireplaces but also feature more safety features. No, because even the best technologies fail occasionally. If any of the built-in safety features of a ventless fireplace was to fail, it would put occupants of the room in serious danger.
To protect consumers, various states have in place strict laws governing the use of ventless gas fireplaces. Indeed, in some states, the products are banned outright. Be sure to check your local codes to find out if the units are allowed in your area.
Additionally, if you decide to buy a ventless gas fireplace, make sure that you also invest in the following items;
- An oxygen depletion sensor (ODS)
- A thermo-coupler for the pilot-line
- A smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
- An approved fire extinguisher installed within reach
A ventless gas fireplace can be a wonderful addition to your home. These units are not only more beautiful but also more efficient than vented models. What’s more, they are less expensive! One major downside, though, is that they vent combustion gases inside the house, which can create safety risks. So, if you decide to buy one, make sure to invest in the necessary safety equipment.