A wonderful fire in the fireplace

Key Differences between Vented and Unvented Fireplaces

What you know about your propane fireplace or the propane fireplace you might be thinking about installing is this: it’s great to fire up on a cold night and sit around with the family to watch movies, and it’s a godsend when the power goes out, and you’ve lost heat. You also know it adds ambiance to whichever room the fireplace is or will be located.

What you may or may not know is: do you have or intend to have a vented gas fireplace or vented gas fireplace insert, or a unveted gas fireplace or unvented gas fireplace insert? What is a direct vent fireplace? And, what’s the difference between a vented and unvented fireplace?

We’re going to explore both the benefits and drawbacks of both types of gas fireplaces. You’re going to learn some information about a direct vent propane fireplace, unvented fireplace, and vented propane fireplace.

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a better idea about which might be best for you should you be considering adding a new or reconfiguring an existing gas fireplace.

Beautiful living room with a gas fireplace
Photo From: Shutterstock

Brief Overview of Vented and Unvented Fireplaces

You’ve likely driven by houses on a cold winter’s day and witnessed smoke curling from the chimneys. What you’re seeing are houses using a vented fireplace.

A vented fireplace is vented through a wall or roof, sending any harmful carbon monoxide emissions outdoors. A ventless gas fireplace does not need a flue or chimney as these types burn more cleanly than vented fireplaces. A ventless fireplace has a sensor that constantly measures oxygen levels and will automatically shut off the gas supply should levels fall low. They also contain a catalytic converter that turns harmful gases into less lethal byproducts.

A vented or unvented gas fireplace insert can be installed in an existing wood fireplace; the flue of the chimney would be closed if you’re using an unvented insert.

Benefits of Vented

If you want the look of a real wood fireplace, a benefit of having a vented gas fireplace or vented gas fireplace insert is that the flames will look more like that of a wood-burning unit. Authentic-looking yellow and orange flames will provide a healthy glow and ambiance that you might prefer to the less stark flames of an unvented fireplace.

A vented propane fireplace also carries any harmful byproducts out of your home through the wall vent or chimney. Although unvented fireplaces have sensors to avoid any disasters, some consumers might be more comfortable with having the emissions from a gas fireplace directed harmlessly outside the home. 

Drawbacks of Vented

As with nearly anything, there are drawbacks in addition to advantages when it comes to a direct vent gas fireplace. The biggest drawback is that vented fireplaces are much less efficient than unvented fireplaces, as heat is lost through the vent. So, if you’re using your fireplace as a heat alternative during power outages, you won’t experience as much warmth as you would with a vent-free gas fireplace.

One way to combat this heat loss is to consider a direct vent propane fireplace. A direct vent gas fireplace uses a dual-chamber flue; the air is brought in through one chamber, and gases are exhausted through the other chamber. This system is designed to minimize heat loss.

With brighter and more intense flames comes more soot being produced as the flames meet the gas logs, so you’ll have to be more diligent when it comes to cleaning your fireplace if you have a vented rather than vent-free unit. A vented fireplace is the perfect heat source to consider if you are remodeling your home!

Benefits of Unvented

Efficiency rules when it comes to an unvented gas fireplace. Very nearly 100% of the heat in the gas used for the fireplace is utilized by a vent-free fireplace, so you get maximum efficiency (by contrast, a vented gas fireplace may have only a 70 efficiency rating).

Unvented gas fireplaces are also more budget-friendly. These are easier to install since there is not the added labor of venting through a wall or roof. You’ll save on both extra parts needed for venting as well as the extra labor costs.

It’s worth noting that vent-free gas fireplaces are not permitted in Massachusetts or California, so if you reside in either of these states, the decision about having an unvented or vented fireplace has been made for you.

Drawbacks of Unvented

As discussed earlier, perhaps one of the biggest concerns with having a vent-free gas fireplace is that you are relying on a sensor and catalytic converter to ensure that harmful gases are not emitted into the home. While these units have been deemed safe by federal government agencies, some people might feel more comfortable knowing that gases are directed outside with a vented unit.

With an unvented fireplace, you must remember to clean the oxygen sensor as required. Check with manufacturer recommendations for when and how to clean an oxygen sensor for an unvented fireplace.

Condensation might be an issue with unvented fireplaces. Since air vapors are released into the room rather than outside, humidity rises, and this could lead to a build up of condensation. Higher levels of humidity could result in mold or mildew, which could be a health hazard especially for those with allergies. Humidity could also cause issues with wood flooring or door or window trim.

Another drawback of a vent-free gas fireplace is that you are more apt to smell the soot and gas since these odors are not being directed out of a vent or chimney flue.

Finally, a vent-free gas fireplace uses various electronic components, such as the aforementioned oxygen sensor and catalytic converter, in addition to a blower. Having more parts that could break down and need repair or replacement as compared to a vented fireplace could deter some from choosing this option.

Diversified Energy Offers Both!

With Diversified Energy as your propane supplier, you get the best of both worlds: our technicians are trained to install and repair both vented gas fireplace inserts and vent free gas fireplace inserts. Diversified carries propane fireplace inserts from top partner brands such as Hearthstone, Kozy Heat, Regency, and Napoleon. Many of these can be purchased in unvented and vented configurations.

Diversified can also install gas lines and propane tanks and deliver the gas you’ll need to power your direct vent propane fireplace or vent-free fireplace. And, Diversified makes it entirely worry-free with automatic watchdog delivery: propane is delivered when you need it without you ever having to call. We can also take care of your outdoor fireplace!

Other Diversified services include 24/7 emergency response to gas leaks, storage tank sales and leasing, gas piping design, leak testing, and gas pressure adjustments.

Still not sure which way to go: vented or vent-free? Stop by your local Diversified Energy showroom at eight locations throughout North Carolina as well as one in Mount Joy, PA, to see models and ask questions.

Fire Up Your Home

Now that you have an idea of which type of fireplace you want, you only need to pick a brand! We can help with that too. Give us a call!

Once you choose which fireplace is right for your situation, Diversified Energy is ready to make your dream of having a fireplace in your den, family room, living room, or anywhere else in your home a reality.