If you’re like many homeowners, you’ve always dreamed about having a warm, cozy fireplace in your home. Whether you want a fireplace as a supplemental heat source to cut down on expensive utility bills, or purely as an aesthetic addition to your family room, you’ve probably already considered the costs and hassles associated with having one installed. Or perhaps you’ve included one on your “must-have” list when shopping for a new home.

Traditional wood-burning fireplaces and newer gas-fueled fireplaces require an exhaust flue or vent to remove toxic smoke and fumes from the home. Not to mention, the cost of installing the necessary venting has crushed many homeowners’ dreams of ever having a fireplace in their home. Don’t give up on that dream just yet because there is an alternative: the ventless fireplace.

What Is a Ventless Fireplace?

Ventless, or vent-free fireplaces are a low-cost alternative to a traditional fireplace because they do not require flues or chimneys and can be installed in spaces that would not support a traditional fireplace. Ventless fireplaces are also more energy efficient than their vented counterparts because the heat is not being lost through the flue or chimney. These free-standing units can be powered by natural gas, propane, electricity or alcohol-based gels and some models do not even require professional installation.

Ventless fireplaces are designed to be a cost-effective alternative to traditional fireplaces in situations where it is not feasible to install flues or chimneys or for those homeowners who do not want to deal with the mess of ashes and smoke created by wood-burning fireplaces. Next, we will look at how a vent-free fireplace works.

How Does a Vent-free Fireplace Work?

As we said before, ventless fireplaces can be powered by natural gas, propane, electricity or alcohol-based gels. While a vented gas fireplace that is fueled by natural gas or propane requires two vents — one to remove the fumes created by the burning gas, and one to draw fresh air into the fireplace — a vent-free gas fireplace using natural gas or propane has a regulator that produces a mixture of gas and indoor air for combustion. It burns more cleanly. This reduces the production of toxic fumes, limits the levels of combustion gases released into the room, and allows for the elimination of costly venting.

How Much do Ventless Fireplaces Cost?

Ventless gas-fueled models do require professional installation and can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 to purchase and install. Electric fireplaces, on the other hand, do not require professional installation, simply plug in the unit and start enjoying the benefits. You may even be able to turn it on with a remote control. Gel-powered ventless fireplaces also do not require professional installation and are often the cheapest option, although you do have to purchase the canisters needed to operate the unit. Regardless of which model you choose, make sure to research which type of fireplace will work best for the space you intend it to occupy.

Are Ventless Fireplaces Safe?

Most of the ventless fireplaces you will find on the market include built-in carbon monoxide detectors that monitor the air quality of the room. They are designed to shut off the fireplace automatically if carbon monoxide levels become too high.

Because ventless fireplaces do not utilize fresh air intakes and instead burn the oxygen in the room, most models also have oxygen detection sensors that will shut off the fireplace should the oxygen levels in the room drop to unhealthy levels. Some models even include an automatic ignition feature and automatic thermostats to control the heat output as well. For the more tech-savvy homeowner, some newer models even include a remote control to adjust the settings on your ventless fireplace without leaving the comfort of your couch.

Do Ventless Fireplaces Look Nice?

If you’re looking for a heating solution for your home that is both cost-effective and aesthetically appealing, you are sure to find what you’re looking for with a ventless fireplace. Manufacturers offer a wide variety of high-quality, decorative options to fit any budget and decorating scheme. Whether you’re searching for a more classic wood-burning stove look for a country home, a traditional wood mantel fireplace for the family to enjoy on a blustery winter evening, or a sleek, modern look for your high-rise apartment, you’re sure to find a ventless fireplace that works for you.

Pros and Cons of Ventless Fireplaces

While there are many benefits to having a ventless fireplace, there are some safety concerns that you should consider before purchasing and installing one in your home. Some states, including California and Massachusetts, have banned the installation of ventless fireplaces and they are not allowed in any HUD housing. Make sure to check with your local building authority before you purchase a ventless fireplace.

According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), ventless fireplaces may still release carbon monoxide into your home, although these levels are greatly reduced when compared to traditional fireplaces. It is still a good idea to install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home in addition to any detectors pre-installed in your unit. Ventless fireplaces also produce water vapor as a byproduct of the combustion process and if not properly ventilated, can lead to increased mold growth.

Pros of Ventless Fireplaces

  • Ventless fireplaces are more affordable than vented fireplaces because you won’t have to install a flue.
  • No messy soot, ashes or smoke to deal with.
  • Free-standing units can be placed in any room, adding extra heat wherever you need it most.
  • More energy efficient than vented fireplaces so you’ll save money on utility bills.
  • Ventless fireplaces produce flames that are nearly identical to vented fireplaces-enjoy the same ambience at half the cost.

Cons of Ventless Fireplaces

  • Some fumes will still be released into your home, albeit far less than a vented fireplace.
  • Some states and municipalities have banned the installation of these units. If you are found to have a fireplace that is against local codes, you may be required to remove the unit and could even face fines for failure to comply with building codes.
  • The water vapor created by the burning gas can cause your home to feel humid or muggy and could lead to increased mold growth.

Consider Everything to Make an Informed Ventless Fireplace Purchase

The decision to purchase and install a ventless fireplace is one you should consider carefully, weighing the pros and cons and ensuring you are in compliance with local building codes. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety tips. If you do your due diligence, you and your family can enjoy the benefits of a ventless fireplace for years to come.