To me, there’s nothing that signals the beginning of the holiday season quite like the first time my family lights a fire in the fireplace. But these days, all grown up and in an apartment far away from that childhood hearth, the beginning of fall seemed a little extra chilly – in more ways than one. I know a lot of you probably feel the same. If you live in a house without a chimney or a an apartment or condo, gathering around a live flame is basically out of the question, short of starting a bonfire in your living room, right? I thought so, too, until I heard about ventless fireplaces. A little more modern than your gramma’s fireplace, these self-contained personal fireplaces don’t need chimneys and are safe to install in even the smallest apartments, which might make them my new favorite holiday decoration.
So What’s A Ventless Fireplace?
Ventless fireplace are, more or less, what they sound like – fireplaces that don’t need a chimney or flue to vent smoke and ash the way a traditional fireplace does. This is possible because ventless fireplaces don’t use gas or firewood for fuel. Instead, they use a clean-burning liquid bio-ethanol. This is a grain-based type of alcohol that’s purified and clarified so that, when burned, it produces only water vapor and a small amount of carbon dioxide, keeping the air in your home totally breathable without any ventilation.
NOT A Tacky Space Heater
To be clear, ventless fireplaces aren’t the same thing as electric fireplaces or electric space heaters. While there are some pretty decent, fireplace-esque space heaters out there (and a whole lot more really terrible ones), ventless fireplaces offer you more than just the opportunity to watch the Yule log on your iPad. Ventless fireplaces are real fireplaces that have a real, live flame. Each one comes with a small canister or trough that you fill with the liquid fuel, then ignite with a long match or wand-style lighter to get a strong, yellow-orange flame that will last for several hours. Like a traditional fireplace, ventless fireplaces are capable of heating a 375 square foot room. So while the fireplace itself might look more like a TV than a brick-and-mortar hearth, it’s capable of producing the same flame.
Great Holiday Decoration For Small Spaces
If you’re like me, and the notion of lighting a fire in the fireplace is one that’s linked to the holiday season, it makes sense to include a small ventless fireplace as part of your holiday decor. Many ventless fireplaces are large – roughly the size of a small flatscreen TV – or are meant to sit in the center of your room like a coffee table. But you can find table-top versions as well that are small and light enough that they’re easy to move in the off season. Surrounded by some holiday greenery or a few well-placed gourds, the living flame makes a beautiful, eye-catching centerpiece that can add a little warmth (literally and figuratively) to your room. And because the fuel is all natural, one of these small ventless fireplaces is actually safer for roasting marshmallows than the chemical logs often used in full sized fireplaces.
Extends The Outdoor Season In Warmer Climates
Anyone who lives in a place where leaves change color or winter lasts for more than four months should probably skip reading this next bit. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Now, the rest of you. Having an indoor fireplace of any kind might seem unnecessary when your temperature rarely drops below 50 or 60. But ventless fireplaces are great for people who live in warmer climates, too, and not just the ones that think 50 degrees is the temperature water freezes at. A large, outdoor ventless fireplace can significantly extend the “outdoor” season, allowing you to continue entertaining into the holidays not only by producing light (and a beautiful centerpiece) but primarily because of the heat. The real beauty of a fireplace, as us frozen-north dwellers know, is getting warmed up, and even if you have to go outside to find some cold, it’s a great way to foster a warm, cozy, homey, holiday feeling among your guests.
Modern Fireplaces For An Old Tradition
It’s okay, cold weather people, you can come back now. Now, I know these ventless fireplaces don’t exactly look like the kind of fireplace you think of when you think about the holidays. There’s nothing rustic or homey about them, no logs to poke, and not even a place to pretend Santa can fit through. But as many of us strike out on our own, often into more modern homes, there isn’t always room (literally or aesthetically) for a traditional stone hearth. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy the beauty and warmth of a good old fashioned holiday fire, with the family gathered around and a nice cup of cocoa. Even a small flame reminds me just a little of fireside chats and the warmth of home and holiday.
Which is why ventless fireplaces beat out fall leaves and Christmas greens as my personal favorite holiday decoration. After all, what’s the point in having stockings if you don’t have anywhere to hang them?