There is nothing quite like walking into your home, on a chilly winter day, and being embraced by warmth. It is like a welcome home hug. A comfy chair by your gas fireplace, a warm cup of cocoa, and the worries of the day just melt away.
Owning a gas fireplace is a terrific investment, not just for the efficiency and easy cleaning, but for the time and energy you aren't wasting chopping wood, just to burn it later. Gas burns clean, therefore limiting your carbon footprint. You help the environment, and save your money, with one simple choice: gas instead of wood.
What types of gas fireplaces are available?
There are three main choices in gas fireplaces, each with its own needs and recommendations. Venting, placement and aesthetics are all a factor in making an informed decision.
If you want a worry-free gas fireplace, this is for you. These are the safest as an alternative to other fireplace options. They don't need a traditional chimney. Instead, the unit, and venting system is completely sealed, preventing the escape of harmful gases into your home.
The sealed venting system is designed to pull fresh air from outside the home, specifically for combustion, and expel the combustion gases back outside. You need not fear gases, like carbon monoxide, building up, which is often a concern with burning gases like propane.
Keeping air quality where it should be, and your home heating efficient, all while allowing the fireplace to work optimally, is why this is the most commonly installed gas fireplace.
The most efficient and economical choice, a ventless, or vent-free fireplace does not need a traditional chimney or venting system. All of the heat produced by this model stays in the home, none being expelled via a vent system or chimney. If warmth is more important than decorative continuity, this is a good choice for your home.
These models are free standing, and are most commonly sold only for heating purposes, it's aesthetic appeal somewhat lacking due to smaller flames. The display is less intense, versus the other two options.
Ventless fireplaces are designed for 100% efficiency. It draws air from inside the home, uses the air for combustion, then the warm air cycles around the firebox, radiating heat.
All toxic gases are burned off during combustion, typically leaving water vapor and carbon dioxide as its only, non-heat byproducts. If any carbon monoxide is still present, it is well within safe limits.
That moisture can be a bonus on dry winter months, but also a deficit if the humidity becomes too high. Too much humidity can cause mildew and mold. Opening a window, just for a few minutes, can help balance out the oxygen and humidity levels in your home.
B-vent, or natural vent, are not a very popular choice, due to their extreme inefficiency, and placement options. The are however, the most affordable over their DIrect vent and Ventless counterparts.
Pending the look and feel of a real log fireplace is more important than heat output, you need look no further than a B-vent unit. They have an open-front design like a wood-burning fireplace and require a vertical pipe to expel combustion exhaust. Because of this venting need, most of the heat produced by this model escapes with the exhaust and combustion gases.
These are installed more for aesthetics than for warmth. And they must have a direct vertical exhaust line to the roof, which limits where they can be installed. Attaching them to an existing fireplace is the best option.
What kind of venting do I need for my gas fireplace
Venting is critical! It can't be emphasised enough. The draw of oxygen and expulsion of gases can be dangerous if proper ventilation isn't taken seriously. The type of venting largely depends on the fireplace you choose.
The most common venting option, co-axial utilizes a double-walled pipe, and the pipe is either flexible or rigid. These pipes are installed in sections. They connect to the flue on a Direct Vent fireplace, which can be on the rear or top of the unit. They can also terminate the exhaust vertically as well as horizontally. The outside air is drawn in through the external pipe, exhaust expelled via the smaller pipe within.
Since they are built in sections, they can be manipulated to maneuver around things like joists and wall studs. And some manufacturers require specific co-axial exhaust systems that only fit their brand of Direct Vent fireplace.These apply to Direct Vent fireplaces only.
Used for Direct Vent inserts only, co-linear is the less likely of the Direct vent fireplace venting options. It consists of two flexible aluminum pipes, instead of one with a double wall. And nearly all co-linear venting systems occur in masonry chimneys. Outside air is pulled in one pipe, gases and exhaust expelled through the other. These also apply to Direct Vent fireplaces only.
The b-vent uses a different type of double walled pipe for its exhaust. The type needed for this fireplace, is designed with the notion of increased air flow, carrying the fumes and gases more effectively through the vertical flue. It operates in a very similar fashion to a chimney.
Where can I install my gas fireplace?
Having a fireplace is good. Having it in the right room is better. Options for placement vary from model to model, as well as the building codes and fire enforcement guidelines for each.
Direct vent. Because of the options for venting, you can put a direct vent fireplace pretty much anywhere. In the basement, in the bathroom; anywhere they won't defy fire code and local building code ordinance.
Ventless. While they offer placement flexibility, they do have some guidelines for where they can be placed. For instance, since ventless units draw from the air in the room, they cannot be placed in a room below certain dimensions. The fire needs air for combustion and oxygen depletion happens faster in a smaller room.
B-vent. Because they are designed to vent vertically, the b-vent is limited to install where it can terminate directly through a vent to the roof, just like a stone or brick chimney.
Are gas fireplaces safe?
Because they use gas as an accelerant and air for combustion, the safety of a gas fireplace is always an important aspect in choosing the right type for your home.
These are one of the safest options, especially if installed by a professional. The model is designed to be a sealed system, so no combustion byproducts pollute the air inside your home. That said, it is wise to install a carbon monoxide alarm, just in case. Having a safety barrier or glass in front of the unit will also prevent accidental burns. And of course, routine maintenance done by a professional once a year is advisable.
While they are technically safe, if any part of the unit fails, there is a possibility of dangerous gases leaking into your home. Ventless systems safety is defined as"controversial." Some states have outlawed their use, and others have strict guidelines on specific usage durations. They are, however, programmed to shut off by sensors in the unit, that regulate the oxygen depletion of the room where it is installed, as well as the BTUs produced in a given amount of time.
These units are very safe. The exhaust system expels all noxious gases through the vertical pipe, and not into the home. Some of the units even have a sensor that detects downdraft, shutting off the fireplace to prevent the possibility of gases not being vented properly.
What are my gas fireplace aesthetic choices?
Warmth may be enough, but what about matching your gas fireplace to the decor of the room where it is to be installed?
Direct vent and ventless fireplaces are units of a multitude of styles, only limited by your imagination. With linear, traditional, single and multi-sided, see-through and corner options, they can add an element of class to any room. The linear look is the most popular, as it is very modern and sleek.
Available with lots of customizable options, b-vent fireplaces are available as inserts and masonry fireboxes. They have the option to design the finish to match whatever you want, giving it continuity in your home decorating scheme. It can be classic or modern design, bringing together the room beautifully.
What kind of decorative additions can I make to my gas fireplace?
Sometimes, giving your fireplace character with the inclusion of aesthetic enhancements, can change the visual appeal of your gas fireplace. But nothing should be added without consulting a professional to calibrate the unit to accommodate. Any change in the air to gas ratio, can have consequences, if not properly respected.
Logs: Just like a wood-burning fireplace, the cozy scene of burning logs has a timeless quality.
Ember Glow: Having the fire burning through special gas fireplace logs is all well and good, but it is missing something. WIth ember glow, the fire can have that trademark crackle of a real log fire.
Stones: Like logs, using stones as a fireplace media adds an element of mystic.
Apart from aesthetic additions, there are also options that will make your gas fireplace more functional:
Hood: Adding a hood can change how the heat is distributed, but if you want to put a media device or hang a work of art above your gas fireplace, it can keep those valuables from overheating.
Remote: Everything has an on/off remote. Being able to turn on your fireplace without leaving your favorite chair or having to crawl out of bed, is a nice option.
How do I clean my gas fireplace?
Unlike wood-burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces don't have the same burn-off debris, as the gas burns clean without additional accelerants. But there is the need on occasion to clean and maintain your gas fireplace with some basic steps.
Turn the gas off.
Brush off the gas logs (if you have them as a media), take them outside for cleaning. A soft paint brush works well for this.
If you use lava rocks, vacuum them. They are heavy and will not suck up into the vacuum.
Clean the interior with a vacuum, using the hose attachment.
Clean the protective glass. Special fireplace glass cleaner is best.
Wipe it down. A damp cloth is more than sufficient.
If tough build up occurs, a mild liquid dish soap will work to remove it.
While your unit is disassembled, another thing to consider is maintenance that can be done by you, the owner. Some maintenance, however, absolutely must be done by a professional.
Inspect for any damage. Especially with ventless units, damage can cause leaking of gas into the home. If any damage is found, call a professional for repair. DO NOT do it yourself.
If there are any special care instructions, follow them to the letter.
Get your gas fireplace inspected by a certified professional annually.