It’s that time of year again, folks! There’s a chill in the air, and in my part of the country we’ve started stealing glances at the thermostat. ‘Tis the season to bundle up and toss a log 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 modern alternative to brick fireplaces 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; they produce heat but also fumes, and in the case of wood, ash. Ventless fireplaces 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. That means no invasive construction, just a fireplace you can set up anywhere – inside your home or out.
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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 you won’t be able to recess all models into the wall, the way you would with a traditional fireplace; they produce too much heat and need access to air from all sides. That said, fireplaces with a-TV style mount will give you a fairly seamless finish. Floor mounted ones provide 360 degree heat in the center of your room. Depending on the fireplace, you may even be able to use them outside. That includes traditional-looking fireplaces, biofuel tiki-torches, and simple, elegant table toppers and centerpieces.
How Does That Work?
All ventless fireplaces 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 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 you can place them wherever you want, with no heat lost up a vent, flue, or chimney, 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. Hate trying to clean out a conventional fireplace, or worry about the environmental impact of burning wood? Ventless fireplaces are a good, eco-friendly alternative; they don’t release 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 tend to be more akin to 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, 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 both inside and outdoors. Now, while this isn’t true of all models, it is true of many of them. Some are small and lightweight enough to be moved, 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. Depending on the size, a ventless fireplace can even produce enough heat to extend your back yard BBQ season, especially if you live in a slightly warmer climate.
Adding a traditional fireplace to an existing home can be prohibitively expensive, if not outright impossible. But ventless fireplaces let you get the warmth and beauty of real fire without the hassle of major construction.
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