Vent-free fireplaces have taken the marketplace by storm due to their significantly lower price point and ability to be installed virtually anywhere.
Installing one of these ultra-efficient fireplaces can be done in an afternoon with the help of a licensed plumber.
Lifeduna.com does not recommend installing a vent-free gas fireplace or rerouting gas lines without the assistance of a licensed professional.
In some localities it is illegal and most insurance companies will not cover damages if a professional installation was not performed.
There are two types of vent-free fireplaces, the traditional vent-free gas fireplace, and the electric heating element variety.
Although installation procedures are similar for both models there is a major difference in both operational cost and safety. Before choosing either one of these fireplaces it is important that you do your homework.
Although this tutorial will walk you through vent free fireplace installation, there are significant studies that suggest that they may do more harm than good in the long run.
Dangers of Ventless Fireplaces
Ventless gas fireplaces claim a 99.9 percent efficiency rate because although actual flames are produced none of the heat or gases are vented out of a chimney.
What the proponents don’t mention is that 0.1 percent does leak out into your home environment and it contains carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.
While these units do have built-in warning sensors that automatically shut off the unit when levels get too high, each unit is only equipped with one sensor and if it goes bad there is no safety net.
Also, if anyone in your household has respiratory illness the small amount of gas may be enough to trigger respiratory ailments.
Electric fireplaces also don’t need vents, but in this case, it is because no flames are produced and no “off-gassing” happens. Electric units have their own safety concerns though.
They must be plugged into an outlet, meaning there is a cord that can be damaged either during the installation of the unit or at a later time by a household pet or child.
There is also the chance of the wall socket catching fire due to the heavy draw by the fireplace.
Most of these units are self-contained, so it’s a simple case of leveling it off and dropping it in place to install, but there are some helpful tips for getting the fireplace in cleanly and making the floor around it look professional.
- Duct tape
- Carpet knife (or utility knife with extra blades)
- Carpet tape
- Gas line
- Pipe tape
- Adjustable crescent wrench
Once you have done your homework and have picked out the perfect vent-free fireplace, the installation comes next.
Before you bring the unit home make a mock-up of it with cardboard and duct tape. This will give you a good idea of how much space the unit will take up and how it will affect the current furniture arrangement in the room.
Adjust the furniture so when the unit arrives you can focus on the installation and not on rearranging the room.
If you are planning on purchasing a gas-burning fireplace, call a plumber (or other licensed gas line technician) to have the gas line run to your specified location in the home.
This should not be done by an amateur and in many cases, it is illegal to do so; a leaking gas line could result in your entire home going up in flames.
Unbox and inspect the fireplace upon arrival. Look for any damage to the exterior of the unit. If it looks like the unit has been damaged in any way, refuse it and have a new one sent to replace it.
Damage on the outside could mean the unit shifted in transit and there could be internal damage to the sensors and gas line.
If you are installing it on a carpeted floor create a template for the base of the fireplace out of cardboard. The template should be 1/8” smaller than the base.
Use this template to help you cut away the carpet from the place the fireplace will sit. This will help to both level the unit and give it a more professional look when it is finished.
Remove the carpet (store it in case you want to move the unit someday) and tape the entire edge down with carpet tape.
Place the unit base and hearth against the wall. The hearth should cover the taped edge of the carpet and make it look like the carpet was installed after the fireplace.
Insert the firebox in the hearth and hook it up to the gas line that was previously installed. The firebox hose should come with a locking mechanism that will click into place (similar to the valve on a propane tank).
For an electric fireplace simply place the firebox in and plug it into the wall.
Install the fascia plate to the firebox. These also click into place. Press down on the upper part of the fascia panel first and then continue putting pressure on the sides to press the clips into place.
If you have a mantle, install it per the manufacturer’s instructions. Most mantles slide into slots on the top of the unit, but some need to be mounted to the wall.
Tips and Tricks
If you choose to install a vent-free gas fireplace, purchase a carbon monoxide detector and place it in the same room as the fireplace.
Place it on a wall opposite the unit to prevent any false positive readings. This will serve as a backup to the internal sensor and give you a bit more peace of mind.
If humidity is a problem in your region, then you might want to purchase a dehumidifier. Ventless units often raise the moisture level in a home.
Clean out the filtration system and heat vents monthly. Clogged filters lead to higher rates of gas discharge and a less efficient fireplace.
Keep a sharp eye out for the production of soot. If soot starts to discharge from your unit, turn it off immediately and clean it. If cleaning doesn’t stop the problem, have it looked at by a professional.
Sooting is a sign that the internal chemistry of the unit is off and enough oxygen isn’t present. This is usually a symptom of a bad sensor.
It used to be true that you could only put a fireplace in the main room with access to an exterior wall and chimney, but now there are units that don’t need chimney access, that are vent-free.
Fireplace installation can now be done in a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, or any other place you can think of. Adding the crackle of a beautiful fire to a master bedroom can be done in less than a few hours and with minimal professional help.