Direct Vent Gas Fireplace Review
Congratulations. You're thinking of going to a direct
vent gas fireplace, accessory, or updating the one you have. I have used non-vented, direct vent, and most
recently ventless gas all my life. These days particularly, it's a great choice for auxiliary heating (which is all
that is allowed in some jurisdictions) or even your primary heating source, if what you're planning on heating is
commensurate with the BTU output of your chosen device.
What is Direct Vent Gas Fireplace?
Most basically, direct vent gas fireplace means that you
have a gas appliance that draws fresh air from the outside, and then vents its combustion products outside as well.
This is accomplished by using a sealed unit with a double pipe to the outside air. Fresh air comes in one pipe and
burnt gas goes out the other. It's efficient, though obviously not as much as a ventless system.
What is the advantage of a direct vent gas fireplace over a
traditional wood burning fireplace?
Personally, I love wood fireplaces. I'm corresponding with you
now from my "workshop" up in the back yard. It's a small building that uses a combination of a space heater and my
beloved "wash heater." A wash heater is what amounts to the bottom half of a pot belly stove with a flat top. It's
a Birmingham Stove Model 181. I have no idea of the age, but the Birmingham Stove Company went belly up with buggy
whips. Outside I have my woodpile and a box which is about half full of oak kindling. Also a huge trash can full of
coal. It's hard to get around here, but it can be done if you're resourceful.
Inside, I have my box of pine kindling. In the yard, I have my unending supply of
stick kindling, as the yard is full of what they call fully mature oak trees. Sometimes they fall over, helped by
mother nature, so as long as they don't fall on me, I rarely have to go out for more wood. However, if I did, that
stuff is getting more expensive every year. Also, I'm not getting any younger. While I LOVE to cut wood with my
trusty Echo chainsaw, I HATE to bust it up. I also hate to stack it neatly. So I don't. My woodpile is a pile...not
Gas fed fireplaces, whatever model you choose produce very little particulate
matter. Particulates are teensy little bits of ash that irritate your nose and eyes. Suppose, for example, that you
live in a densely packed neighborhood of mountain men, each with at least one natural wood fireplace. After about
15 minutes on a cool day, everyone would have to flee to the city to get a breath of air. For a real life example,
do you recall all those nifty old B/W movies set in jolly old England, and the famous London fog? Fact is that that
wasn't an ordinary fog. That was coal smoke mixed in with regular fog to produce a paint peeling mixture of
sulfuric acid and yuck. You don't get fogs like that any more in Jolly Ol, because they have all switched to direct
vent gas fireplaces that they have purchased from here!
In a roundabout way, I have just told you some of the problems with using a wood
burning fireplace. Oh, did I mention the ash thing? Unless you are making soap, you are going to have to do
something with the ashes. You can dump only so much in the flower beds, so eventually, if you're like me, by summer
time, there are little piles of the stuff all over the place.
Disadvantage of A Direct Vent Gas Fireplace
But, while my wash heater isn't really suited for it, a traditional log fireplace
can be used to cook hotdogs and roast marshmallows. You shouldn't try this with your direct vent gas fireplace. It
could get messy very quickly. That's the main disadvantage of going direct vent gas. You can't cook up your dogs
with the darn thing.
Other disadvantages are that you have to run gas to the thing, once... And you
have to cut a hole in the wall to vent it to the outside air. That's about it.
But I Like Looking At The Crackly Little Flames...
True, early on, gas fireplace technology wasn't that great and
there was more hokum than hoo-rah-ing about the fake flames, but times change. While your average gas fireplace is
never going to look as good as the real thing, they're good enough, when you factor in the mess quotient. There
isn't any with a gas fireplace.
Here's the Direct Vent Gas Fireplace Plan...
If you are here looking for deals, great, we have them. On the
other hand, if you're just getting started, you'd do yourself well to bookmark this site before you dot another eye
or cross another tee, and get off that stool and run down to whoever sells gas fireplaces and look over what they
have. See the little dancey flames, and calculate whether or not you can live with it instead of the real thing.
Then, come back here and save a bundle by ordering online. You see, here, we don't have to have a fancy markup
price. Then, when it comes rolling in, install it yourself or hire someone to come do it for you.
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By its design, a direct vent gas fireplace is a sealed unit,
which operates independently of your breathing air inside your domicile. It gets air from the outside, and vents
the combustion product back outside as well. They are upwards of 90% efficient and can run up to 40,000 BTU. 40,000
BTU is meant for more than decoration. This is enough output to heat most of a smaller home.
If you have a tired old wood burning fireplace, the easiest solution is to the
problem is to purchase a gas fired insert, and if you have none, then a direct vent fireplace in a prefab mantel is
what you need. Some of our mantel arrangements are simply stunning, and all are much more affordable than they
What Kind of Gas Does It Use?
There are two types of gas, natural and propane. Liquid Propane (LP Gas) is used
by country folks, whereas natural gas it used by folks closer into town. Natural gas is piped into your home by
your local natural gas company, whereas, those without a natural gas hookup have a large tank somewhere close to
the house that is filled up by the gas man who comes around every so often to top off the tank. Lest this seems
like a silly explanation, consider that to some city folks thinking of moving to the country, the art of LP comes
as news they had never thought about.
The only consideration you need be concerned about at the time of purchase is
whether you'll need an LP kit or a Natural Gas kit. Your gas type dictates the size of the screw in gas jet in your
burners. No big deal as long as you don't cross the two.
Can I Control The Heat Of My New Direct Vent Gas Fireplace?
Folks that use traditional wood burning fireplaces have always been able to
instantly moderate the high temps produced by burning wood and glowing coals instantly with a pan of
In today's modern world, your direct vent gas fireplace most
likely comes equipped with a valve adjuster that will allow you to set the flame for differing heights, thus
allowing you to change the BTU output.
My personal choice is that I set mine on high to get the most dancey flame effects
and just forget about it. My unit is controlled with a remote. I set my remote for the desired temperature, place
it in a convenient place, just about so high, pointing at my fireplace, and when the room temp is reached, my unit
cuts off automatically. Both the remote, and the receiver in the fireplace are powered by common 9 volt batteries.
They each last about a year and a half. This is a very neat little arrangement! Since my fireplace doesn't use a
blower, the whole town can be without power, and we'll still be snuggy warm!
In summation, direct vent fireplaces come with an on/off switch. You can control
your output that way. Some come with remote controls. And most ought to offer you the option to connect it to a
wall mounted thermostat. Of all the choices, the remote control option is the nicest. No holes to drill in the
floor to hook up a wall mounted thermostat and no youngus necessary to turn the unit on and off for you with the
Blower? What Blower?
Your direct vent gas fireplace will most likely have a blower
unit. It siphons off heat produced by your very fashionable dancey flames and delivers it to your room. The blower
is dependent on electricity to run, but doesn't have to run. Therefore, if the power goes off, you can still have
the warming fire, though the heat output will be diminished. Even in the coldest situations, it may be the
difference between frozen burst pipes and not.
Different models of direct vent gas fireplaces are...different...
But in general, your blower will be controlled by a speed dial of some kind, and will most likely be hooked into a
thermostat. What this means is that the fan won't blow cool air. It will only come on as the unit warms up, and
likewise, turn off when the unit cools.
The Direct Vent Gas Fireplace Pilot Light
Most direct vent gas fireplaces come with a handy free pilot
light. A pilot light is a standing flame that is used to ignite your gas logs when called for. It's a small flame,
compared to the main burner, and it runs all the time.
Besides being used to ignite your gas fireplace, it is also a safety feature that
functions in case the your gas pressure fluctuates, which rarely happens, by the way. You light the flame only
once, by turning your gas valve knob to a certain place and pushing down hard on it while you light the pilot
flame. You must hold the knob down for several seconds to let the flame heat up the thermocouple which is in the
path of the pilot light. If you let up too soon, the pilot light will go out and you'll have to repeat the process.
The safety feature of the pilot/thermocouple is as simple as it is ingenious. As long as the unit has gas, the
pilot light stays on, heating the thermocouple, which generates a teensy bit of voltage, which feeds back to the
gas valve telling it that there is gas, and the pilot light is on.
If the pilot light is blown out, or the gas pressure
drops...if anything happens to disturb the pilot light flame, then the valve shuts down completely, and won't
deliver even an atom's worth of gas to anything until you restart the process. The fellow who dreamed this up
should have received the Nobel Prize. Instead, Algore gets it for inventing global warming. It is not
Installation of My Brand New Direct Vent Gas Fireplace
For home with or without traditional fireplaces, a direct vent gas fireplace is
the cat's meow and as cheery as honey to the bee. They can be mounted on an inside wall and vented through the roof
or an outside wall and vented to the outside. The vent piping is relatively easy to master.
Simply put, your direct vent gas fireplace is a firebox sitting
inside a steel shell. Air is circulated around the firebox to deliver the warmed air into your room.
Naturally, you will get installation instructions with your new direct vent gas
fireplace. If you are handy with tools and your local code permits, have all the fun following and installing.
Else, if tools make your nervous, you would be well advised to let a professional handle your
Assuming your new unit has an electric blower, besides fitting your appliance to
its destination location, you will need to be proficient with making power and gas available, as well as knowing
enough carpentry or masonry to vent your fireplace. Again, if you are unsteady with any of these processes, let the
pro do it for you. While not particularly complicated to folks who have done this sort of thing before, you will be
working with electricity and gas. If you don't know what you are doing, it is not advisable to try and learn while
doing in these disciplines. Put another way, if your direct vent gas fireplace was powered by water, the worst
thing that could happen is that you might need a mop. On the other hand, if you make a boo boo with gas, it could
be a LOT worse. So, don't try and learn what you don't know solo. Call the pro, or at least call for help from
someone who is competent. When you put your tools away, be confident that you have a proper installation, whether
you do it yourself, or pay for those in the know.
If you do decide to do all, or a portion of it yourself, it can not be said
strongly enough... Follow the directions PRECISELY. Even a quarter inch deviation can put you in an unsafe
situation. Don't ever think you know more than the folks who manufacture your product. Why, it's like playing with
Direct Vent Gas Fireplace vs Ventless Gas Fireplace
We are mostly talking about direct vent gas fireplaces here, but
it is worth noting that the cousin of the direct vented gas fireplace is the ventless fireplace. Whereas the direct
vented gas fireplace uses outside air exclusively, the ventless variety uses your inside air, strictly. The
problems discussed below don't apply to direct vent installations.
I grew up with the old natural gas space heaters. There were two
chief complaints. First, because they burned their fuel somewhat inefficiently, they did tend to smoke a bit. Even
if you couldn't see it, the smoke was present, and would collect on the walls and ceiling of the home over time.
The second problem is that they also produced water vapor. In older homes, this wasn't a particularly bad problem,
because back then, the air exchange rate was a lot higher than in modern homes that are as tight as a styrofoam
When water vapor is present, it makes for a nice cozy warming, but it also can
cause problems like peeling paint, and soppy attics. Mainly, it could cause mold to start, which as you know, is
nearly impossible to stop. Water vapor is a consideration in modern, tightly constructed homes. However, that old
smoky smell is not. The new burners are so good at what they do, that you'll not get smoke...unless....and this is
a big one...unless you have chemical vapors present.
Chemical vapors can come from lots of sources, including your rug, hairspray, any
kind of petrochemical, such as oil, insecticide... Many things. But of all of these, any kind of oil is the worst.
The burners in our new gas fireplaces are so darned good at what they do that they'll smoke you out of the room if
it gets even a whiff of any oil based product. Old, inefficient space heaters wouldn't dare dream of doing such a
thing, but the new ones will smoke in a heartbeat if there is the slightest oil mist in the air. Just a whiff will
So, if you home already has fumes of any kind...don't go ventless. If your home is
box tight, and you don't have any good way of air exchange, don't go ventless. It's something to consider. If you
only find this out after all is said and done, then you are in an expensive jam.
brand new shiny direct vent gas fireplace is a GREAT way to not only
spruce up a room, use as a sparkly hot decoration, source of auxiliary heating (or maybe all your heating), but it
will eventually become a good friend and family heirloom. The dancing fire never ceases to capture the gaze, and to
serve as the oldest form of television. When all electricity has fled, the dancing flame remains.