4 Differences Between Vented and Unvented Gas Fireplaces

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A gas fireplace allows a homeowner to enjoy all the benefits of a wood fireplace with none of the unwanted side effects. In other words, investing in a gas fireplace means you can say goodbye to things like soot, smoke, and dirty piles of wood inside your home. To enjoy the best results from your fireplace, you’ll need to select the most appropriate gas fireplace for your needs.

One of the most important distinctions in gas fireplaces has to do with venting. Homeowners must choose between a vented and an unvented gas fireplace, but what are the differences between these two styles? This article identifies four key distinctions you should know about.

  1. Appearance

One of the most noticeable differences between vented and unvented gas fireplaces has to do with how well each style mimics the appearance of a real wood fire. Both vented and unvented fireplaces often contain ceramic logs meant to look like real wood. But only vented systems can really replicate the look of real wood flames.

A vented fireplace has attractive yellow and orange flames that lick upward around the sides of the ceramic logs. An unvented fireplace, by contrast, has much less striking flames. These flames tend to be smaller and bluer. As a result, an unvented gas fireplace won’t create quite the same illusion as a vented one.

  1. Efficiency

While the orange and yellow flames may look nicer, vented gas fireplaces are less efficient. Those colorful flames mean that the combustion is not as efficient as it can be. In other words, a portion of the fuel passing into your combustion chamber fails to burn up the way it should.

An unvented gas fireplace, by contrast, maximizes the amount of energy produced from a given amount of fuel. As a result, unvented fireplaces operate with a relatively greater degree of efficiency, capitalizing on as much as 99 percent of the heat stored in the gas. A vented gas fireplace tend to have efficiency ratings of only 70 to 85 percent.

The greater efficiency of an unvented gas fireplace, the more you’ll save more money on your monthly gas bills.

  1. Venting Needs

As its name implies, a vented gas fireplace contains a vent system used to carry combustion byproducts out of your home. In this regard, a vented gas fireplace has more in common with a traditional wood burning fireplace than an unvented gas one. In fact, a fireplace contractor can often retrofit an old chimney to function as a vent for a vented gas fireplace.

Unvented gas fireplaces do away with the need for conduits leading out of your home. For those who don’t have a pre-existing vent system, unvented gas fireplaces carry lower installation costs since a contractor won’t have to design and install a dedicated roof vent. Instead, an unvented gas fireplace vents directly into the room where it resides.

In order to remove potentially toxic exhaust byproducts from the air, unvented gas fireplaces have catalytic converters that work like the ones found in cars. As the hot air passes out of the fireplace’s combustion chamber, the converter uses chemical reactions to break down dangerous gases into relatively harmless ones like water vapor and carbon dioxide.

  1. Potential Health Risks

The United States government has deemed unvented gas fireplace systems safe enough for indoor use. That said, unvented systems have the potential to create more serious health risks if for any reason the catalytic converter stops working. A vented system may also end up releasing dangerous byproducts into your air if the air-to-fuel ratio becomes too skewed.

Fortunately, federal law mandates that all unvented gas fireplaces contain an oxygen depletion sensor. This sensor automatically shuts off the gas supply in the event that oxygen levels drop to dangerously low levels.

Homeowners must take numerous factors into account when deciding between a vented and an unvented gas fireplace. For more information, please contact the experts at Alpine Gas Fireplaces.

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