Many homeowners in Washington DC want a fireplace installed in a room that currently does not have one. When you decide to have a fireplace installed in your home, you have many options. However, one of the first choices you’ll likely need to make is whether you will have a ventless or ventilated fireplace installed. Some homeowners will opt for ventless or vent-free options as a means of saving money. Unfortunately, ventless fireplaces present specific risks.
How ventless fireplaces work
Ventless fireplaces operate through the use of natural gas, propane, or even a type of gel; these free-standing units do not redirect exhaust or fumes from the fireplace to the outdoors. Instead, these units rely on indoor air for combustion and emit the gas back into the home. Ventless units are designed to emit lower levels of gases than a “traditional” fireplace with ventilation. As a result of the reduced gas levels, manufacturers believe that ventless fireplaces are safe.
Despite the manufacturer claims of reduced gas levels, many fireplace professionals consider ventless fireplaces as unsafe. These fireplaces can pose a number of health, fire, and other risks to those in your home.
Potential Risks of Ventless Fireplaces
When you take a minute to think about what a ventless fireplace entails, it makes sense that these units are not without their inherent dangers. Although there may be a lower amount of fumes exhausted by a ventless fireplace, there are still some fumes—and unfortunately, these fumes have nowhere to go but into your home and thus into the air you breathe. Once you have a better understanding of the many risks of ventless fireplaces, you’ll be able to make a better-informed decision regarding which type of fireplace is right for your home.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
One of the greatest risks of using a ventless fireplace is that of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be deadly inside your home. Specifically, carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that, in high enough concentrations, can lead to serious health problems such as:
- loss of consciousness
Unfortunately, carbon monoxide is also a known by-product of ventless fireplace materials. And because of the colorless and odorless nature of the gas, many families will not even realize that they’re being affected by carbon monoxide until it’s too late. In the early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning, family members may report feeling ill or thinking they have come down with a cold. If not caught, however, this poisoning can have severe and even fatal health consequences.
Having a carbon monoxide detector located near a ventless fireplace may help to alert a household if levels get too high but shy of not using the fireplace at all, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with a ventless fireplace altogether.
Increased Fire Hazard
In addition to the higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning involved with a ventless fireplace, there is also a more significant fire hazard with these types of fireplaces. The increased fire hazard is a result of the toxic by-products that are released into the air with each use. From there, many issues could lead to a house fire, including:
- an undiscovered gas leak
- a faulty burner
- furniture placed too close to the fireplace
Respiratory Health Risks of Ventless Fireplaces
A ventless fireplace can pose a risk to the respiratory health of people inside the home. In addition to carbon monoxide, there are numerous other toxic by-products that ventless fireplaces are known to release into the air.
Examples of toxic byproducts released by ventless fireplaces
- nitrogen dioxide
- sulfur dioxide
When these gases are released into your home, they become part of the air you breathe; the more you operate your ventless fireplace, the more present these toxins will be in your air. These substances are known to be damaging to the body’s respiratory system, especially when inhaled in large amounts over the course of time. Gases can be especially dangerous for those who already have pre-existing respiratory conditions, including asthma and allergies. However, even those with an otherwise clean bill of health could have serious adverse health effects when they inhale these toxins on a regular basis. With a ventilated fireplace, you can ensure that these and other toxic by-products will be exhausted far outside of your home.
Risk of Sensor Failure
All ventless fireplaces are equipped with a small device known as an oxygen-depletion sensor. The purpose of these sensors is to detect the levels of oxygen in the room and to automatically shut off the fireplace if the sensor detects low oxygen. Unfortunately, these sensors are subject to failures, especially when you consider the fact that they are small electronic devices that are not designed to last forever. If the oxygen sensor fails, you could be operating your ventless fireplace in a dangerous environment where oxygen levels are unsafe in the room, which could be hazardous to your health and the health of your loved ones.
Potential for Mold and Mildew
Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that ventless fireplaces tend to release a lot of water vapor when they are in use. Due to the lack of a ventilation system, there isn’t anywhere for this water vapor to go or fully evaporate.
Increased moisture inside home results in the following risks:
- home moisture damage
Mold and mildew, of course, can have serious health effects on those living in the home—especially for those with known respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies.
Safe Ventilated Fireplace Alternatives
With all these potential risks in mind, do you want to put your home, your possessions, and your family in danger by opting for a ventless system? The cost for installing a traditional, fully ventilated fireplace may be higher. However, in the long run, you will get to enjoy much higher peace of mind in knowing that your fireplace is safe.
If you’ve been thinking about having a fireplace installed in your home, make sure it’s adequately vented by a professional fireplace installation company likes ours. By doing so, you can avoid these common dangers and use your new fireplace with confidence and peace of mind.