How to Pick Out a Ventless Gas Fireplace

A ventless gas fireplace, also known as a vent-free fireplace, is a great way to add warmth and ambiance to any room without the need for venting or chimney installation. With some knowledge of the different types, features, safety considerations, and installation requirements, you can pick out the perfect ventless gas fireplace for your needs.

Introduction to Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Ventless gas fireplaces are self-contained units that do not require venting to the outside. They use the oxygen in the room for combustion while producing very little emissions, allowing for installation virtually anywhere without exterior venting. Here are some key advantages of ventless gas fireplaces:

  • Flexibility in installation – Since they don’t require venting, they can be installed in nearly any room without major construction work. This makes them perfect for renters or homeowners who want to convert an existing wood-burning fireplace.
  • Heat output – Ventless models provide supplemental zone heating for up to 1,000 square feet. They help reduce the central furnace load and can even be the sole heat source in some smaller spaces.
  • Ambiance – With realistic logs, flickering flames, and optional media like crushed glass or river rocks, ventless fireplaces create beautiful fireplace aesthetics without much effort.
  • Cost – A standalone ventless unit costs significantly less than a full builtin fireplace and chimney system. Installation is also quicker and cheaper without venting.
  • Efficiency – There is no heat loss up the chimney since ventless models don’t have a flue. This makes them more energy-efficient.

With proper use and maintenance, a ventless fireplace can be an excellent addition to dens, bedrooms, apartments, condos, cabins, and more. But there are some safety considerations as discussed later. First, let’s look at the different types and features available.

Types of Ventless Gas Fireplaces

There are two main types of ventless gas fireplaces available:

Manual (Match-Lit) Units

As the name suggests, manual ventless fireplaces are lit with a match. Turning the control knob allows gas to flow to the burner where it can then be ignited using a match or lighter. These are the most affordable and basic ventless fireplaces.

Electronic Ignition Units

Electronic ignition units ignite with the flip of a switch or the push of a button. An electric spark lights the burner, removing the need for matches and lighters. More expensive models have remote controls, thermostats, timers, multiple flame settings, and blowers.

Within these two types, ventless fireplaces can further be categorized based on fuel type and design:

Fuel Type

Natural gas – Needs connection to an existing natural gas line. Provides the most convenience and lowest operating costs.

Propane – Uses a refillable propane tank. Gives more flexibility for installation anywhere without gas lines.


Fireplace inserts – Designed to fit inside an existing wood-burning fireplace cavity. Allow you to easily convert to gas.

Freestanding stoves – Standalone units to place in any room. Come in a range of sizes with zero clearance to combustible surfaces.

Built-in fireboxes – Recess-mounted fireplaces that install directly into the wall. Require framing and non-combustible surrounding material.

With so many options available, carefully consider your needs to choose the right type of ventless gas fireplace.

Key Features and Considerations

Here are some useful features and factors to evaluate when picking out a ventless gas fireplace:

Safety Features

Since ventless models produce indoor air pollution, look for important safety features:

  • Oxygen detection sensor (ODS) – Automatically shuts off the fireplace if oxygen levels drop too low. This prevents carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Adjustable heat settings – Lower heat models produce less carbon monoxide. Look for units with thermostatic or step controls.
  • Sealed combustion chamber – Isolates the combustion chamber to minimize indoor pollution. Models with a glass front prevent room air from entering.

Design Aesthetics

Look at design aspects like:

  • Log styles – Ceramic/fiber logs or layered rigid logs. Rigid logs look very realistic but ceramic logs glow best.
  • Media accents – Crushed glass, river rocks, pebbles, and ceramic stones or logs for decorative effect.
  • Flame patterns – Yellow dancing flames, blue flames, or a combination.
  • Front design – Glass enclosure only or metal/stone surround adding framing and detail.
  • Finish options – Powder-coated black, stainless steel, antique copper, etc.
  • Built-in trims – Surround panels and trims that finish the built-in installation for a clean, flush look.

Heating Capacity

  • Up to 40,000 BTU for supplemental heating of 1000+ sq. ft.
  • Lower BTUs like 20,000 or 25,000 for smaller rooms of about 400 sq. ft.

Ignition Types

  • Match-lit, continuous pilot, or electronic ignition. Electronic is most convenient.

Control Features

  • Manual on/off, remote control, thermostatic temperature control, programmable timer.

Special Technologies

  • Blower – Heat-activated fan to better circulate warm air into the room.
  • Accent lights – LED strip lights or downlights for added ambiance.
  • WiFi – Smart app control and temperature monitoring.

Ventless Gas Fireplace Safety Tips

While ventless fireplaces offer great flexibility and ease of installation, they need some special care and precautions for safe operation:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.
  • Only operate for short periods of time – no more than 4 hours at once.
  • Keep the surrounding area well-ventilated. Open doors or windows and use exhaust fans to bring in fresh air.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near the fireplace.
  • Have your gas fireplace serviced annually by a professional.
  • Turn off when not in use and avoid letting the unit run overnight.
  • Keep furniture, drapes, and other combustibles at least 36 inches away.
  • Never leave the fireplace unattended or allow children or pets close without a safety screen.
  • Avoid using in tightly sealed new homes or in windy conditions which can trap fumes.

With some basic precautions, you can safely enjoy the cozy, ventless convenience.

How to Choose the Right Size Ventless Fireplace

One of the most important considerations when picking out a ventless fireplace is getting the right size unit for your space. Follow these tips:

  • Measure the floor area where you want to install the fireplace. Leave at least 6 inches clearance on all sides.
  • Add up the square footage of all adjacent rooms open to the space.
  • Aim for around 40 BTU per square foot for supplemental heat. So a 400 sq ft bedroom would need around a 16,000 BTU unit.
  • For a main heat source, allow for 60-70 BTU per square foot. A 500 sq ft living room would need at least a 30,000 BTU fireplace.
  • Large spaces over 1000 sq ft will require multiple ventless units or a vented fireplace.
  • Bedrooms and smaller spaces need lower BTU units to prevent overheating and air quality issues.

Take your time measuring and calculating to get the ideal fireplace size. An authorized dealer can also help you determine the right BTU ratings. Buy larger rather than smaller for ample heating capacity.

Where Can You Install a Ventless Gas Fireplace?

One of the best aspects of vent-free gas fireplaces is their incredible flexibility for installation virtually anywhere in your home:

Living Rooms

The main living area is a popular spot to install a standalone ventless unit or convert an existing wood-burning fireplace. Opt for higher BTU models that can serve as a primary heat source.

Bedrooms and Dens

Add extra ambiance and zone heating to bedrooms, dens, and home offices with a properly sized wall-mounted or freestanding ventless fireplace.


Integrate a ventless fireplace into kitchen island designs or install compact models into breakfast nook areas.


Introduce spa-like warmth to master baths and powder rooms with small, recessed vent-free fireboxes. Always maintain humidity precautions.

Basements & Garages

Supplemental zone heating from ventless models come in handy in colder basement family rooms, garages, and workshops.

Apartments & Condos

Freestanding portable ventless fireplaces offer cozy heat without having to run venting through a multi-unit building.

Just be sure to observe all safety precautions previously covered when installing in any confined residential space. With the proper clearances and ventilation, a ventless fireplace can transform virtually any room in your home.

Buying Considerations for Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Follow this checklist when evaluating and purchasing a vent-free gas fireplace:

  • Intended use – Primary heat source or secondary ambiance/zone heating? This affects BTU requirements.
  • Fuel type – Existing natural gas line or need for propane tank portability?
  • Dimensions – Will it fit the allotted space? Check depth, height, and width.
  • Design – Desired log set, media, flame style, finish color, etc.
  • Features – Any special technologies like blowers, lighting or smart controls?
  • Efficiencies – Are there adjustable heat settings and sealed combustion?
  • Certifications – Tested and certified to ANSI safety standards for indoor air quality and carbon monoxide emissions?
  • Brand reputation – Well-established brands like Napoleon, Heatilator, Duluth Forge, etc. often have better warranty support.
  • Budget – Prices range from $300 to $3000+ depending on size, fuel type, and features.
  • Warranty – Typical warranties range from 1 year to limited lifetime.

Always buy from qualified dealers and confirm that your selected model is certified and permitted for use in your area. Investing in a quality ventless gas fireplace from a reputable brand will provide cozy heat and ambiance for years to come.

How Much Do Ventless Gas Fireplaces Cost?

The price range for ventless gas fireplaces is quite wide depending on the size, fuel type, design, and extra features included:

  • Smaller units under 20,000 BTU with manual controls can cost between $300 – $700.
  • Mid-sized units from 20,000 – 40,000 BTU with some automated features generally range from $700 – $1500.
  • Large fireplaces over 40,000 BTU with premium enhancements like blowers and media beds often run from $1500 – $3000+.
  • Fireplace inserts designed for existing fireplaces average $1000 – $2000.
  • Built-in and customized installations with recessed fireboxes, custom surrounds, stone or brick veneers, etc. can cost upwards of $5000 fully installed.

Propane models cost more than natural gas units due to the propane tank requirements. Prices also vary by the quality of materials and durability of the unit. Basic match-lit units are cheaper than those with electronic ignition. Remote controls, thermostats, accent lights, and other features add to costs.

When getting quotes, look at both equipment and professional installation costs. A high-quality, well-installed ventless gas fireplace adds great value and enjoyment to any living space.

Professional Installation

While smaller portable ventless fireplaces can be DIY-installed, it is strongly recommended to have any unit properly installed by an authorized technician for safety:

  • Gas line connections should be installed to code by qualified professionals only.
  • Built-in fireplaces require careful framing, recessed electrical, and finishing work best left to experts.
  • Professionals have extensive experience with ventless fireplace requirements for clearance to combustibles, mantel heights, load-bearing capacity, floor protection, and non-combustible finishing materials.
  • Leak tests must be conducted to verify gas line integrity and appliance safety. Combustion and air quality also need proper adjustment.
  • Certified installers can obtain all necessary permits and ensure your local codes allow the ventless application.

Professional installation costs typically range from $500 – $2000 depending on the complexity involved. Always hire an NFI certified expert for ventless gas fireplace installation. The investment helps ensure durable function and peace of mind.

Maintaining Your Ventless Gas Fireplace

Follow these tips for proper maintenance and operation of your ventless gas fireplace:

  • Always keep the surrounding area free of dust buildup and debris.
  • Avoid placing anything on top of the unit.
  • Turn off gas supply before any cleaning. Only use manufacturer approved cleaning agents.
  • Inspect the pilot assembly seasonally. Clean or replace parts as needed.
  • Have a professional technician service the logs, burners, and related components annually. This helps keep the flames looking their best and operating safely.
  • Periodically check the gas lines for leaks using a soapy water mixture. Fix any leaks detected immediately.
  • Clean glass doors with vinegar and water to remove soot. Avoid abrasive cleaners that can scratch the glass.
  • Inspect the fireplace exterior and surrounding finish for signs of damage or overheating.
  • Replace batteries in electronic ignition and remote control units as needed.

Following the manufacturer’s care guidelines and having a certified gas technician handle any necessary repairs will keep your ventless fireplace in excellent working order for years of enjoyment.

Troubleshooting Common Ventless Gas Fireplace Problems

Here are some troubleshooting tips for common ventless gas fireplace issues:

Pilot won’t light – Check that gas supply is turned on. Listen for ignition spark. If no spark, replace igniter or batteries. If spark present, inspect pilot hood for dirt or obstruction.

Flame is blue and lifting off burner – This indicates incomplete combustion. Try adjusting the air shutter to allow more air. Have unit serviced if problem persists.

Burner won’t light – Confirm manual/pilot valve is completely opened. Check for obstructions or dirt around the burner. Clean or replace burner orifice if needed.

Flame is only burning partially – Make sure the media bed (rocks or glass) is not packed down too tightly preventing flame spread. Loosen and spread out media if needed.

Flame is burning more on one side – This is another issue caused by obstructed media. Clear any blockages and redistribute fireglass or rocks evenly across the pan.

Low flame – Evaluate flame height on the high setting. If lower than manufacturer specifications, have a technician adjust gas pressure and verify propane tank volume (if applicable).

Flame sputters and extinguishes – Strong air currents like open doors/windows, ceiling fans, or central heating can disrupt the flame. Eliminate drafts when operating.

Burner makes popping noises – Some natural gas fireplaces make light popping sounds during use, but loud frequent popping may indicate a problem. Have the orifice and burner inspected and cleaned by a professional.

Gas smell – Any gas odor warrants immediate action. Shut off the gas, extinguish flames, open windows, and call the fire department. Have a technician inspect for leaks.

Heater is smoking – A ventless fireplace should never emit smoke. This indicates a blocked chimney/flue if installed into an existing woodburning fireplace. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned immediately to prevent dangerous smoke buildup.

Diagnosing and addressing issues promptly keeps your ventless fireplace running safely and efficiently. Call a service technician for any malfunctions beyond basic troubleshooting.

Safety Tips for Using Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Here are important safety guidelines for proper operation of ventless gas fireplaces:

  • Always run a ventless fireplace with the chimney flue and damper completely open if installed in an existing woodburning fireplace.
  • Keep a carbon monoxide detector in the room to alert you of any dangerous buildup.
  • Open a window at least 2 inches when operating a ventless fireplace to allow oxygen exchange.
  • Limit use to no more than 4 hours at once and refrain from overnight operation.
  • Turn off the fireplace before going to sleep or leaving home.
  • Keep furniture, drapes, clothing, and other flammables at least 3 feet away.
  • Use a screen to prevent direct contact with glass fronts which get extremely hot.
  • Keep children and pets safely away and never leave them unattended near an open flame.
  • Avoid locating ventless fireplaces in windy or tightly sealed rooms which can trap emissions.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s operational guidelines.
  • Have your ventless gas fireplace inspected annually by a certified technician.

Exercising proper precautions goes a long way in safely enjoying all the cozy ambiance ventless fireplaces have to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about vent-free gas fireplaces:

Are ventless gas fireplaces safe to use?

Yes, ventless models are safe when operated properly with adequate room ventilation. Always follow the manufacturer guidelines and keep safety accessories like carbon monoxide detectors. Never run overnight.

What is the difference between vented and ventless fireplaces?

Vented fireplaces release all combustion byproducts via a chimney or flue leading outdoors. Ventless models use oxygen in the room for combustion and release gases directly into the home.

Can you install a ventless fireplace anywhere?

Ventless fireplaces don’t require venting so they can generally be installed anywhere. But always check manufacturer clearance specs and local building code regulations first.

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