Is Choosing A Vent-Free Gas Fireplace Stupid or Foolish?... You Decide.

Dec 16, 2003

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I have written many articles about the foolishness of vent-free gas fireplaces. I have rambled on about the stupidity of expecting them to be safe for you and your families. I have tried to express in logical argument as well as, technical terms why they are a stupid and extremely foolish concept. In response to the many decisive and as yet, undisputed arguments, seemingly intelligent people continue to buy them, abuse them and wonder at the ways in which they can hurt them.

I've come to realize that I can't stop people from buying them. I've come to accept that I can't stop people who have them, from abusing them. I've even come to accept that people will continue to have bad experiences with them.

I can only hope that this message will continue to make some people aware of the dangers they present and I hope that a few of you listen, read, and learn. My only hope in writing these warnings is that some of you will come to understand where you are heading and you will act to stop personal disasters, before they happen to you and your family.

Vent-free gas fireplaces, whether fired on natural gas or propane offer the foolish promise of being close to 100% efficient. Yes,... they are delivering almost 100 percent of the heat from the gas consumed into your home. They are also delivering 100 percent of the by-products of combustion into your home. Carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, water vapor, sulfur dioxide and heat are the primary by-products of combustion.

A brand new, properly designed, installed, and set-up vent-free fireplace may operate reasonably safely for the first few years. If your installing contractor fails to follow specific installation instructions, and manufacturer's specifications, you and your family may have a problem. If you, as the consumer, fail to follow the manufacturer's operating instructions and maintenance instructions, you may have a problem. If the appliance becomes old, which all appliances do, it could develop defects which create problems for you and your family.

* The problem could be carbon monoxide poisoning, CO is silent, colorless, odorless, and extremely deadly. It could result in the death of a small pet or even a family member.
* The problem could be water vapor damage to the structure of the home. Wall paper peeling off and structural damages have been recorded.
* The problem could be that, you or some members of your family are susceptible to the fore-mentioned by-products of combustion and develop respiratory problems.
* The problem could be coming home one day to a home that has been devastated by soot damage and your home insurance company denies your claim. (Some already have, such as State Farm.)

The point I am trying so hard to make is this...

Unvented (Ventless, Vent-Free) gas fireplaces are not forgiving. If the manufacturer, makes a mistake in the fabrication of it, you pay the price. If the installing contractor makes a mistake, you pay the price. If you fail to have it maintained properly over the years, you will pay the price and when it fails from old age, as all appliances are bound to do, you will pay the price.

So what began as an opportunity to save a few dollars per year will eventually become your nightmare, or perhaps, if you are one of the lucky ones, the nightmare of the person you sell your home to. In any event, having spent the better part of my life in this industry and having seen the damage these products can do to a family, I know that the short term efficiency benefits are very short in terms of human life and the fuel savings are over-shadowed by the penalties of those who eventually face product failure.

Some countries around the world have wisely banned vent-free fireplaces. Some states within the union continue to ban them. Too many accept the premise that this industry represents a precious contribution to retail sales that make the economy stronger, without regard for human health and welfare.

I do not speak of these things from the side lines of the world. I am intimately involved in the day to day resolution of problems with them. I would like nothing more than to find people waking up to refuse this technology that was developed for the sole purpose of making another almighty buck at the expense of people who know no better.


Direct vented and naturally vented gas appliances are readily available and can be installed in virtually any situation for almost the same cost as a vent-free appliance. The small cost of lost heat through the flue pipes are an extremely small price to pay for the enjoyment you gain from a vented gas stove or fireplace, the enhanced integrity of your home and the health of your family.

My last ditch reminder of the dangers you will face with the selection of a vent-free gas fireplace are;
* Was it properly designed? (How can you know?)
* Was it properly applied to your home? (Size, input rate,
recommended air changes per hour?)
* Was it properly installed in your home? (Qualified
* Have you had a proper combustion analysis conducted in
your home? (CO and CO2)
* Was it properly maintained in your home? (Annually as
recommended and promoted by those liable for your
* Are you aware of what to look for when it fails, ( and
it will) from old age and use in your home? Such as
sudden sooting problems, headaches, vomiting, members
of the family becoming comatose.

Please feel free to email me for alternative suggestions to vent-free gas fireplaces. There are many products, many options and they are all favorable to your health.

NOTE: I do not sell or endorse any specific products.

Best regards,

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