Vent-Free Fireplaces...Stupid Is, As Stupid Does...
Dec 29, 2003 (Updated Oct 23, 2008)
The Bottom Line I hope you continue to be safe. If you have any specific questions about this subject, feel free to email me.
The following are complete excerpts of my response to someone named "Sheepshine", who though, has never written a review since joining Epinions in May of this year, felt the need to declare their love of unvented gas fireplace technology. I respond below in kind, with honesty and with a technical integrity (I have earned over almost 30 years in this industry). Please, let those who would challenge my viewpoints, do so with similar intentions and credentials
I love to hear comments like yours. It honestly warms my heart to learn that some people are living well with ventless gas fireplaces and are enjoying them to the fullest. Obviously, many people share your experiences and your views or else the death tolls and the lawsuits would force "more" government agencies to ban them.
You should consider and take heed to some of my advice, with respect to the dangers that lurk behind ventless gas appliances and particularly, ventless gas fireplaces. Yours is, after all, only three years old, which is quite young for a fuel burning appliance, that cost you thousands of dollars. It is a new log home and I see you have ensured an adequate volume of infiltration air to the home. The "room" is about 900 square feet, which is a very large square footage for a ventless fireplace. Even based upon an average 7.5' ceiling height, that equates to a room with 6,750 cubic feet of air, available for combustion. If we consider the minimum American National Standards Institute (ANSI) required cubic footage, of air supply available to a fireplace at 50 cubic feet per 1000 Btu/H's of gas input, that room could comfortably support up to 135,000 Btu's per hour of gas input.
Fortunately, ANSI limit the Btu input of vent-free fireplaces to 40,000 Btu's. So, in your case the input is less than a third of the nationally mandated maximum input rate for vent-free fireplaces.
The manual lighting feature was not a mistake, it was a recommendation, made by the American Gas Association Research Division (AGAR) in the mid-90's after investigating the pro's and con's of vent-free fireplaces. In their report they stated that, "these appliances should not be used as a primary source of heat." AGAR further stated that these appliances should not be operated for more than 8 hours per day, for heating purposes, when sized correctly.
You may enjoy having your fireplace take over when the power goes out, but how often does your local power go out? If it's often, you may wish to consider moving to some place with a better power grid. The long and the short of it is that, you will not likely ever need to heat your home with this product in a prolonged power failure.
With respect to your happy friends, again, I am pleased to hear they are not suffering any ill-effects from their ventless gas logs. These are, for the most part, the average and the lucky ones who subscribe to a technology that is less than 10 or 12 years old. Ventless gas "fireplaces" have not been in production for more than a dozen years. Vent-free gas heaters are a completely different type of product, which have been around for decades, with a limited Btu output and a clean, blue flame burn.
Have ANY repeat,...ANY of your friends ever had a combustion analysis done on the emissions of their ventless gas logs? Perhaps they are healthy, have adequate infiltration air, their appliances were set-up professionally and they pay someone to maintain them on a regular basis?
I haven't only "heard about" lawsuits that involve these kinds of products, I am a regular participant in preventing and fixing them. I have literally hundreds of stories tucked away about the damages to homes and health. Hundreds of stories from one source do not constitute a national problem, when compared to the population of the USA. However, I am but "one", source of such statistics and I have heard their cries.
Let me close by repeating one other point that I have made several times in the past....
"ALL GAS AND FUEL BURNING APPLIANCES WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL FROM THE FATIGUE OF HEAT, POOR PLANNED MAINTENANCE, WEAR & TEAR, EXPANSION AND CONTRACTION, AND FROM CORROSION."
Accept, the undeniable fact, that they "will" fail one day, and you accept that, at least with a vented fireplace, these bad products of combustion and unburnt gases will be vented out of the building. Then,... where will they go with a ventless fireplace,... on the day that they fail? Answer, ...directly into your home, your lungs and the lungs of your loved ones.
Please remember that these warnings are not meant to scare you into some product type or make. These warnings are meant to make you consider the means to avoid future illness, property damages, and even death. Direct vented and B-vented gas appliances have a fall back safety mechanism,... that ventless do not have.
I am truly glad that you are currently a, "healthy" user of ventless gas logs. I'm not much of a praying man, but I do pray you continue to be so.
As a postscript to my lengthy response to your comment, I wondered if you were even aware of the controversy swirling around ventless, vent-free, unvented gas fireplaces today?
Are you aware that many countries around the world have made them illegal? (Including Canada.) For health and welfare concerns.
Are you aware that they are still illegal in many states and municipalities within states that have approved them, in the United States? For health and welfare concerns.
Are you aware that the American Lung Association(ALA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Mayo Clinic have all issued warnings on web sites about the use of these products? These warnings are directed particularly with regards to pregnant women, the elderly, those with pre-existing cardio-vascular difficulties, small children, and small pets.
Did you take time to notice that the original American Gas Association Research Division (AGAR) study on these types of products, focused on gas appliances that did not exceed 15,000 Btu's per hour. They did not assess gas logs and fireplaces putting out up to 40,000 Btu's per hour, which is the current input limit on ventless fireplaces.
You are somewhat correct in stating that you have not seen any lawsuits relating to this issue and that, you see as a good sign. Unfortunately, most of the folks who suffer from these products are not a part of the big picture. They don't make headlines. They don't have the clout. There have been individual suits but, no class action suits,...yet.
You heard it from me first,... there will be.
When was the last time you had your gas fireplace tested for combustion emissions?
I hope you continue to be safe.
If you have any specific questions about this subject, feel free to email me.