On a chilly winter night, there is nothing more comforting than the warmth of a crackling, wood-burning fire. However, preparing, tending, and cleaning up after a fire can be a hassle, not to mention dangerous. Gas fireplaces can be an effective alternative, offering the look and warmth of the real thing without the inconveniences. They can be inserted directly in place of an existing fireplace, and with the flip of a switch create a beautiful, clean burning fire to warm your home. If you think this option sounds appealing, there are a few things you should know before upgrading. Here we’ll take a look at the different types available and their benefits.
Direct Vent Fireplace
The direct vent style is the safest and most popular option today. Flames burn behind sealed glass and air is drawn and expelled through a single pipe with two separate layers. The sealed glass prevents any gas from entering your home and any heat from escaping, making it one of the most efficient options as well. Direct vent fireplaces retain around 70% of the heat they produce, compared to about 30% with a wood-burning fireplace. They can also be a great option for those without an existing fireplace, as they can vent through an exterior wall as well.
B Vent (Natural Vent) Fireplace
Sometimes referred to as a natural vent, the B vent is the most commonly used in conversions because they utilize the existing chimney and create the most realistic flame. Harmful gases are vented to the outside similarly to the direct vent. Unlike direct vents though, this style is not sealed off by glass and draws air from inside the house, allowing for a bigger, more beautiful flame. However, if the unit has a gas log and a standing pilot light, the damper must be permanently open and can cause warm air to escape when the fireplace is not in use. For this reason, many people will choose to install retractable glass doors on a B vent style unit.
Since they don’t require a vent to the outside, this type of gas fireplace can be installed anywhere in a home. They are more fuel efficient than their vented counterparts and can produce more heat. However, there are a few downsides to this type of fireplace. They don’t vent outside so carbon monoxide and any other harmful gases that are produced will be released into the house. They also produce moisture that can peel wallpaper and damage the integrity of a house in other ways. It is not suggested to run an unvented fireplace for more than 3-4 hours. In fact, they are not even legal to install in some states, including Wisconsin.
An improperly installed fireplace can be a fire hazard as well as a health hazard. Here are some ways to help prevent this.
- Have your chimney professionally cleaned to remove creosote build-up. Creosote is a tar-like flammable byproduct of burning wood, especially wet wood and wood that is burned at too-low temperatures. When creosote deposits get to be more than an 1/8 inch thick it is time for a cleaning.
- Inspect for Chimney Spalling. Spalling occurs when moisture is allowed to seep into brickwork and freeze, causing bricks to crack and crumble. It is important to repair any chimney damage before converting your fireplace. Any damage that goes unrepaired only invites further damage to occur.
- Make sure your fireplace is properly fitted to the flue size. If the chimney is too big it will not get hot enough to create an efficient draft, causing gas and moisture to linger in your home and in the flue. This can be a hazard for your health and contributes to flue spalling.
In order to make sure all of these issues are accurately addressed, it is highly recommended to hire a professional to install your fireplace.