Ventless vs. Vented Fireplaces: What’s Right for Your Home?

Vented vs. ventless fireplaces: You don't need a chimney.

Vented vs. ventless fireplaces: You don’t need a chimney.

There’s something incredibly appealing about the idea of having a fire crackling merrily behind the grate on a cold winter night (or even on some of the cool-brisk spring and fall evenings!) However, not everyone has a chimney or wants to renovate their home to add one, especially when traditional fireplaces use more energy and release environmentally-harmful fumes.

That’s where gas fireplaces come in. They’re easier to use (no need to chop firewood!), more straightforward to install, and better for the environment.

Of course, if you choose to go with a gas fireplace, the next thing you need to decide is whether you want ventless vs. vented fireplaces. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Understanding the differences can help you determine what’s best for your home and family.

Ventless vs. Vented Fireplaces: Pros and Cons

To get you started, we’ve put together a basic guide—including the pros and cons—of ventless vs. vented fireplaces.

Vented Fireplaces

What Is It? As the name would suggest, vented fireplaces require some kind of flue or ventilation pipe to keep combustion by-products out of your home. Traditional vented fireplaces rely on ductwork routed through a chimney, but if your house doesn’t have a chimney, you can also find direct-vent fireplaces that route combustion by-products out of your home through ducts in your wall.

Pros. The biggest advantage of vented fireplaces is safety. You don’t have to worry about sparks, hazardous particles, or combustion by-products getting into your home. The flames also look natural, and certain direct-vent models can be great heaters.

Cons. Vented models are more expensive to install than unvented models, and installing a vented fireplace in the lower level of a two-story house can sometimes be difficult because there’s not always a good place to run the venting. If you’re considering adding a vented fireplace, Sea Island Builders can help you determine if that’s a potential problem for your home.

Cost. Basic vented fireplaces can be purchased for around $200, while higher-end, custom designs can cost $5,000 or more.

Ventless Fireplaces

Pros. Unvented models are less expensive to purchase and install than vented fireplaces, and they’re sometimes the only option if you want to add a fireplace to an existing two-story home. Because heat is not leaving the house through a chimney or duct, ventless fireplaces also make very effective heaters.  

Cons. Ventless fireplaces have stirred up some controversy, because of the fear they’ll release harmful combustion by-products into the home if they aren’t installed and maintained correctly. Since there is no vent, they can release trace amounts of carbon monoxide, other chemicals, and water vapor into your living area. Manufacturers recommend keeping a window partially open when this kind of gas fireplace is in use or even installing separate ductwork.

Cost. Smaller, basic models are available for less than $300, while custom ventless fireplaces tend to be in the range of $2,500-$3,000.

If you want to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of ventless vs. vented fireplaces, talk to a professional at Sea Island Builders, your custom home builders in South Carolina. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Ventless vs. Vented Fireplaces by Jason Fowler of Sea Island Builders, Charleston’s premier custom home builder and contractor.

About Jason Fowler

I currently work with Sea Island Builders and have been for the past four years. I am officially the "Pre-Construction" manager although that title does not capture all that I do. I am always researching to learn more about building a better business. Favorite quote, "Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten".
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9 Responses to Ventless vs. Vented Fireplaces: What’s Right for Your Home?

  1. Sara says:

    We have a ventless fireplace in our bedroom. The propane company just came by for a new customer inspection and turned it off. They said we could not have one. Is there some law against them?

  2. Jason Fowler says:

    Sara,

    Where do you live? Who is your gas company? This is the first we’ve heard of such a thing. We install propane fireplaces in homes regularly including bedrooms.

    You are not allowed to have a propane log lighter indoors as these pose hazards as they can be left running inadvertently when not lit and pose a hazard. Indoor propane burning log sets are different in that the gas cannot be left running without a flame which prevents your home from filling with dangerous gas. I’m wondering if maybe you have a log lighter installed ?

  3. Jason Fowler says:

    Sara,

    That must be a ordinance within Hilton Head. It is not the case anywhere that we have worked. You may want to call another gas company just to confirm.

  4. Niall Cahill says:

    We are having a house built and have opted for a ventless gas fireplace. The builder has constructed a chimney that protrudes onto the porch and has a significant chimney stack through to roof height.
    Is a chimney stack required by SC code?

    • Jason Fowler says:

      A ventless fireplace would have no chase or chimney. It is not code to have a vented fireplace. If you do a vented fireplace, your chimney must terminate at an elevation 3′ higher than the nearest point within a 10′ radius of the chimney chase.

      • Niall Cahill says:

        Thank you for your speedy reply. Can I ask, just for my education, how many inches are needed to be left around the unit? Am I right in assuming that this “airspace” must be packed with fireproofing?

        • Jason Fowler says:

          The clearance to combustibles (airspace that you referred to) is completely up to the manufacturer of the firebox/fireplace that is being installed. Read the installation manual or go online as this information should be readily available on the manufacturer’s website.

  5. Dan Steel says:

    We recently bought a home that has what we believe to be a ventless propane gas fireplace. The brick chimney has a flu,should we have that open or closed?
    Thanks,
    Dan

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