It’s that time of year again, folks. There’s a chill in the air, and at least in my part of the country we’ve started stealing glances at the thermostat. We’re headed straight into the season of pumpkin pies and tossing logs on the fire. But what if you don’t have a fireplace at all? It’s not exactly the kind of thing you can decide to add on to your home on a whim – cozy bricks, chimney, and all that are more than just a weekend DIY project. But what if you could get a stylish, sophisticated fireplace without all the work or expense of installing one? If that sounds pretty good to you, you’re in luck – ventless fireplaces are easy to install, and offer a cool modern update to the traditional brick fireplace in spaces that couldn’t otherwise have one.
So What Are Ventless Fireplaces?
There are a couple different kinds of ventless fireplaces, but they all act on the same principle and use similar materials. Traditional fireplaces burn wood, gas, or some combination of the two, producing heat but also fumes, and in the case of wood, ash. Ventless fireplaces like this Tribeca II use an ultra-clean burning liquid or gel fuel that produces heat but neither fumes nor any kind of residue, and can be burned anywhere without ventilation. This immediately nixes the complicated structural element of fireplaces with a versatile, even portable kind of fireplace that can easily be installed in any room in your home, or even outside.
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Where Do You Put Them?
Ventless fireplaces come in several different forms, from ones you “install” simply by setting them down on a flat surface to ones that mount to your wall a-la a flat screen TV. It’s important to note that most models can’t be recessed in the wall like a traditional fireplace because they produce too much heat and need access to air from all sides, but again a TV style mount that’s included with ventless fireplaces will give you a fairly seamless finish, while floor mounted ones like this Madison Fireplace provide 360 degree heat in the center of your room. Many models can even be used outside, from tiki-torch style to simple, elegant table toppers and centerpieces.
How Does That Work?
All ventless fireplaces, like this Lorenzo from Bio Flame (which incidentally can be used with a recessed installation), have built in reservoirs or troughs that you fill with liquid fuel (more on that in a moment) and ignite with a long match or wand-style lighter. It burns cleanly, producing only water vapor and a small amount of carbon dioxide, for up to five hours per filling. Just like with a traditional fireplace, this produces a lively, orange-yellow flame (not the blue flame of natural gas) and lightens, brightens, and – yes – heats the room its in.
But How Much Do They Heat, Really?
If you want to get really technical, how much ventless fireplaces heat depends a little bit on the model, size, and type of fuel you use. By and large, though, ventless fireplaces are capable of heating about a 375 square foot area. More technically, with the fuel container fully uncovered, ventless fireplaces like this SoHo Fireplace can produce up to 13,000 BTU or 3.5Kw/H of heating energy, which is roughly equivalent to a traditional fireplace (though that varies pretty widely) and perfectly capable of warming a small room. As well, because there’s no heat lost up a vent, flue, or chimney, and because ventless fireplaces can be either wall mounted or installed in the center of the room, you actually feel more of the heat produced.
Let’s Hear More About This Fuel
All ventless fireplaces use some form or another of bio-ethanol. This is a plant-based alcohol that’s typically made from agricultural byproducts and processed to be completely pure and clean burning. If you hate trying to clean out a conventional fireplace, or even hesitate to use one because of the environmental impact of burning wood, ventless fireplaces like this Lexington Tabletop Fireplace are a good, eco-friendly alternative, as they release no toxic particles into the air and are made more sustainably.
Cool Modern Styles
Now, if I could offer you a traditional brick or stone fireplace without any of the muss, fuss, or pollution, I would, but ventless fireplaces are really fixtures designed for a modern home. Many of them are designed to be more like living art than cozy hearths, made of brushed steel, glass, and stark black finishes. But this is perfect for a more modern decor, whether you want a TV-style wall mount like this Chelsea Fireplace from Anywhere Fireplace, a small table-top centerpiece, or something to accentuate your patio decor.
A Word About Outdoors
I’ve mentioned a couple times that ventless fireplaces can work inside and out. Now, while this isn’t true of all models, it is true of many of them. Some are small and lightweight enough to actually be moved (like the petite Oasis), but many are made with all-weather materials so they can be left outside and provide light, warmth, and a nice gathering space for your entertaining out of doors. Something like this Gramercy Fireplace produces enough heat that it can even extend your back yard BBQ season, especially if you live in a slightly warmer climate.
So what do you think? Do you like the look and convenience of ventless fireplaces? What’s stopping you from getting a traditional fireplace – cost, the type or location of your home, or environmental concerns? Let me know in the comments!
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