Direct Vent Fireplaces
Direct-vent fireplaces are closed systems; this means it pulls outside air into the firebox to feed the flame rather than pulling air from inside your home. The exhaust is then expelled through a vent-pipe outside your home. They are considered primary heat sources as you can run them 24 hours, 7 days a week utilizing a thermostat remote.
All direct-vents will have a solid piece of glass attached to the front of the unit; this is only to be removed during servicing. Running a direct-vent with this glass off is dangerous and against manufacturer’s guidelines. Most units will have a thin mesh screen in front of the glass for safety.
Manufacturers have begun to offer heat-transfer kits on some direct-vent models. This option will allow for combustible materials (like decorative wood facings or standard dry wall) to be installed right next to the unit. This also allows for televisions to be installed just above the fireplace without having to protect it with a mantle. The heat-transfer kits are available for interior movement of heat or exterior dumping of heat.
Direct-vent units can be vented either vertically through your roof, or horizontally through an exterior wall.
Direct-vents come in both a traditional fireplace style look as well as a modern linear vision.
Vent Free Fireplaces
Vent-free (also known as ventless or unvented) gas fireplaces, inserts, log sets and stoves are secondary heat sources. Manufacturers do not recommend burning them more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. While this does not sound very long, due to the 99% efficiency rating, they are an excellent safe supplemental heating system.
When burning gas, water vapor is released into the air. This moisture is both a friend and an enemy. Too much moisture that is a result of burning more than the manufacturer recommends or due to a super tight home, will produce condensation on your walls and windows. If you burn your system as recommended, however, this humidity is a bonus during our dry winters.
If you currently have a functional wood burning fireplace, you can simply install a log set which includes the burner and the logs. If you are starting from scratch, a universal vent-free firebox with a log set is generally the best option due to the variety of selections. Inserts and fireplace systems, which entail the log set and burner being permanently attached to the firebox, are offered for smaller areas, smaller installation, and direct-vent conversions.
The crux of vent-free is that the yellow flames are not “touching” any log. Therefore, you will have “pockets” of flame which is not as realistic as a vented gas log set. If the yellow flame touches a log, you will have soot produced and higher levels of carbon monoxide, which is bad. Therefore, it is essential to make sure your log set is installed properly and service yearly by an experienced professional.
Generally, the vent-free units will be the least expensive gas fireplace option.
If you are looking to take the chill off a room, the vent-free is the right fit for you.
Vented gas log sets are the most realistic gas logs available. This is because the yellow flames are moving through the logs and touching the logs just like a wood burning fire. Soot and carbon monoxide are produced with these logs. Due to this, the vented gas logs must be installed in a wood burning fireplace following the guidelines of the wood burning flue system. Some municipalities may require you to remove the damper or secure it open permanently. Because the flue is always open, most people install fireplace doors to stop cold downdrafts in the winter and air conditioning loss in the summer.
Because the damper must be open during operation of the vented gas logs, the efficiency of these systems is about the same as a burning wood (think around 25%). Some companies are working on systems to improve the efficiency, but these logs are traditionally used more for looks than for heat.
If you are wanting the look of wood burning, the convenience of gas, and not too terribly concerned with heat, the vented gas logs are for you.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
When contemplating a wood burning fireplace or stove, are you looking for decorative or heat producing? The typical fireplace you see in homes are decorative in nature. While you are burning wood, most of the heat is going up the flue.
Heat producing units are available in both fireplaces as well as stoves. There are many different styles, both traditional and more modern. Some can even be connected to your central heat systems.
Wood burning units are perfect if you have a reliable wood source and do not wish to rely on gas or electric for heat. Due to the dry nature of wood heat, cast kettles and steamers kept filled with water are often utilized.
If you are willing to put the work in hauling wood and tending the fire, there are a lot of options for you.
Electric fireplaces come in both traditional form and modern linear (long rectangle). While most do produce heat, think more of a space heater than a furnace. There are also electric inserts that be placed in wood burning fireplaces or for direct-vent conversions.
While not as realistic as wood or gas, electric can be an easier solution. The key to electric fireplaces is to buy from a reputable manufacturer. This is essential for replacement of parts years down the road.
The drawback to electric is obviously that you need electricity to run it. If your home is prone to power outages, electric is probably not your answer.
If you are looking for ambience without much heat, electric may be for you.
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