When installing a fireplace in your home, one of the options you will have is whether to install a vented or vent-free model. The differences between the two types of fireplaces are significant, with each offering its own advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to research all of your options before deciding on the gas fireplace model that works best for you.
Pro: Ease of Installation
The vent-free gas fireplace lives up to its name: it does not need any type of chimney or hole in the exterior of the home through which to vent the fireplace. The burning by-products are vented back into the room, which is also where the air to fuel the fire is drawn from. This makes a vent-free fireplace installation easy to achieve in most homes, including smaller ones, because installing the fireplace doesn't require any extra building, digging or renovations to the exterior of the home.
Air vapor is one of the natural by-products of burning a fireplace, and the vent-free system releases it right back into the home, raising the humidity. In some areas this can be a good thing, especially in dry or arid regions, but for others it causes problems. Homeowners often experience condensation on windows and doors, and the higher humidity can cause expansion in wooden pieces such as doorways or floors. High humidity from the fireplace combined with other humidity problems also creates the potential for mold or mildew problems within the homes.
Pro: Heating Efficiency
Because all by-products of the gas burning vent-free fireplace are redirected back into the room, no heat is lost up the chimney or out the flue. This feature makes vent-free systems almost 99 percent efficient in heating the room. The vent-free system quickly and fully heats the room and any areas to which it is exposed. Remember, however, that you have no option to lower the heating level without extinguishing the fireplace.
Combined with the condensation and moisture problems in the home, the smells of gasoline and soot are also redirected straight into the home, creating an uncomfortable situation for some homeowners. Those with sensitive respiratory senses or with problems such as asthma may suffer discomfort or difficulty breathing with repeated use of a vent-free fireplace. Many manufacturers recommend ensuring proper air circulation when using the vent-free system, but opening a window or having ducts installed take away from the advantages of heating efficiency and ease of installation, respectively.