9 Oct 2006
The Chimney Sweep Online Fireplace, Woodstove, Gas Stove and Barbecue Shop
Letters From Vent-Free Gas Fireplace Owners
If you're considering a vent-free gas appliance, you should first read these letters, excerpts and E-mail postings written by vent-free owners. We've corrected spelling and grammar where necessary, and edited out the names of specific manufacturers and retailers wherever they appeared in the original text.
# 1: Serious ongoing health problems
My Name is Kim, I am trying desperately to locate other people who have suffered the long term effects of CO. My Family of four was poisoned for over two years, before we found out why we were all so sick. My five year old daughter was having many illnesses, eventually led to seizures. This all stemmed from a ventless gas fireplace we installed in our basement. Three months after it was installed my daughter had her first seizure. Husband began having severe headaches, trembling, memory loss, and numerous other ailments. Neurologists diagnosed daughter as epileptic!!!!! They now know they were wrong.
This began in January 1995. Husband still on oxygen every day, and medication, and extreme memory loss, and other problems. Daughter is having no more seizures, and last EEG done three months after gas shut off, was normal. First normal EEG in two years. We have been through it all!!! If anyone knows about CO, it's me and family. I have found a support group based in the United Kingdom that is helping us deal with this mess. And we are in search of other people who need our help. We are also trying to find a way to inform the public about this silent killer. Would you be able to help us in any way? Your concern could save a life. We have had a forensic scientist in our home doing tests on fireplace, and the final result was determined that you cannot put a combustible gas in an airtight home and not vent it. I have done much research on this situation and talked to toxologists, chemists, and other specialists, and not one of them can believe we are still alive, they are all behind us all the way. I'll be waiting to hear from you.
#2: Headaches, dizziness, unacceptable CO levels
Date: Monday, March 30, 1998
We are a young couple with four children and live in a small community in Ohio. In 1996, we built a new home and moved in in late October. In November, we decided to try out our new vent free gas fireplace. Neither myself nor my husband are familiar with gas appliances, so we called [the owner of the retail shop where we bought the unit]. He had what he called a startup package for around $40. We were surprised at the charge since nothing was mentioned at the time of the sale, however we decided it would be best to know how to use it properly.
We asked [our retailer] about using a CO detector. He told us they really aren't necessary because the unit has a built in sensor that will shut itself off if the level gets too high. He also told us to let the unit burn for 4 to 5 hours to get the initial smell and burn off from the logs. We did this, but still noticed an odor even after 10-12 hours. We called [our retailer] again and were told to burn the unit for 100 hours. This seemed extremely long, but we did this over a series of 2 months.
In early January, we were still experiencing the odor and also seemed to notice a listlessness in our children, dizziness and sometimes headaches, while running the unit. At this time we still did not have a CO detector, so we have no idea how high the reading got at this point.
We finally decided to go out and buy a CO detector. Within half an hour of turning the unit on the warning alarm sounded. We called [our retailer] again and now he says that these detectors warn you way before there is a problem, so he still says we do not have a problem. We decided to buy another one and have one on the first and second floors. The upstairs would alarm within half an hour and the downstairs within 2-1/2 hours.
Again, we contacted [our retailer] and he told us the CO detectors we bought are too sensitive and to call [the manufacturer], to see what they recommend. They recommended a different brand with a digital display. So, we go out and buy our third CO detector. We now have two different brands of CO detectors in a loft area overlooking our great room. The great room measures 17x20 and has a 17 foot cathedral ceiling and this is where the vent free fireplace is located. The great room is also open to a kitchen/dining room and a 2-story entrance. So, it is a very roomy and open area. The following is an example of one days CO level readings:
Time Reading Description
7:50 am 0 Turned fireplace on
8:05 am 7
8:20 am 9 Upstairs CO detector alarm
8:45 am 11
9:40 am 13
10:15 am 14 Downstairs CO detector alarm
10:50 am 15
11:20 am 16
12:00 pm 17
12:30 pm 18
1:20 pm 19
2:00 pm 21 Noticed dizziness
2:20 pm 22
2:45 pm 23 Headache starting - turned unit off
It took until 8:00 am next morning to get the detector reading below 10. These levels are not considered very high, but being exposed to these on a daily or every other day basis which we were in trying to get this 100 hours of burning time in, may become harmful, especially for our young children.
On another day of recording the readings, we got the following results:
Time Reading Description
10:00 am 0 Turned fireplace on
11:05 am 10
11:45 am 12
12:25 pm 14
2:00 pm 20 Turned fireplace off
We called the fire department out and they felt we had a problem and should call the gas company. The gas company came out and they too felt we had a problem. Their representative told us any reading over 10 is unacceptable in a residential home. He also told us he was "red flagging" the unit, which he explained to mean that he had checked out all other possible sources of CO and determined the cause to be the vent free gas fireplace. This would let the gas company off the hook if something would happen to any of us.
Throughout this whole process we had over 30 phone calls to [the manufacturer] and [our retailer]. [Our retailer] was not willing to do anything except tell us to talk to the manufacturer. [The manufacturer] did try replacing the logs, they tried replacing the whole guts of the unit and the logs. The old unit was then to be sent back for testing. [The manufacturer] instructed [our retailer] to install the new burner and logs and return the old unit. I checked on the results of this and every time I was told that they had not received the unit from [our retailer]. They also tried new brick panels too. We still got the same results and every time they sent something new we had to go through the initial burn off process again.
Finally, after one year of frustration, [the manufacturer] suggested we try something new called a catalytic converter unit. They were going to send out technicians to check out the other unit and install this new catalytic converter unit. Well, here's another problem. We have the old unit enclosed in a brick front that goes all of 17' in height. I do not want to have to go through the expense and the mess of having the old one cut out and then the new one put in and still have the possibility of having problems because it would still be an unvented unit. We have done too much research in the meantime and know that we want nothing but a vented unit that has a vertical pipe running all the way up and through the roof. We only wish we knew all we do now before we started building. We are going to go through the expense and the mess and have this unit replaced, but we want nothing to do with any gas appliance that is unvented.
We have since this time talked to several people in fireplace sales and gas appliance installation and none of them are recommending the vent free units. We sure would not recommend one. We only hope that this information may persuade a person who is thinking of buying a vent free unit. Please think twice about it because we have also had moisture problems as well. Which is a totally different story.
#3: Soot all over the house
Date: Thursday, October 14, 1999
Hello, Found your webpage..and was so thrilled..have some questions. We purchased a vent free fireplace from a local distributor 2 yrs ago, and it has been nothing but a nightmare...soot, soot and more soot. I have been told it is the fact that it is vent free, or it is [the manufacturer]...whatever...they have not been able to fix the problem. So we have a beautiful fireplace I won't use, because it ruins the walls, curtains, etc. We have decided the only solution to our problem is to go with a vented fireplace, but will not buy from the same folks, and are very skeptical about buying thru a place like Lowes, etc. This can be a costly addition, and we don't want to have to go thru this repeatedly. Our source of fuel is propane..we also use this with our furnace. We have decided we'd better go to a vented fireplace, so am looking for suggestions. The fireplace we have now says max. 22, 000 btu, if that will help with size, etc. I would appreciate your assistance.
#4: Massive condensation damage
Date: Monday, May 15, 2000
Despite a science background, I failed to consider the water production from burning propane when I left the (installed by builder) vent free wall gas heater on (low) in a mountain cabin during winter months to thwart freezing and supplement electric units. Well the pipes didn't freeze, but all windows had enormous ice deposits along their base and sides from the thaw/drip/freeze of condensed combustion water. This damaged drywall around the windows, cracked a large picture window (several hundred $ repair), and required me to strip and refinish water-damaged sills.
Even worse, the moisture condensed on the underside of the (poorly designed) sheet metal roof, whence it melted in spring to anoint the upstairs ceilings and floors with dripping drywall coatings and stains. This led to the belated recognition of the need for roof rebuilding (couple kilobucks) to help prevent future condensation, and the epiphany that non-vented gas heaters are bad for the house's health even if acceptable for the occupants'.
While pleased with myself for tracing the problem to the heater (I calculated how much water would be produced by the amount of propane consumed that winter while laying awake worrying about the demise of the house), I sure wish someone had educated me about the hazards beforehand.
#5: Odor, dizziness
Date: Saturday, Feb 24, 2001
The only thing we do not like is that we feel very sick when using [a popular vent free model] even after letting the initial use take place. We're sure we let the initial odors and factory smells burn off, but it still has a dizzying effect on us. The dealer didn't help us much after we told them. I think we'll try and contact someone at the company to see if we can trade it in for a vented unit.
Posted at www.hearth.com
#6: Wish they had bought a vented stove
Date: Monday, Feb 25, 2001
[A popular vent free model] needs to be in a house with lots of air holes. If fumes bother you. I sort of wish I had paid a little more and got a vented stove. My house is a little too tight or small for a vent free one.
Posted at www.hearth.com
#7: Hearth product retailer has removed over 200 vent-frees
Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2001
I can't believe ventless products are still on the market. My company has removed over 200 vent free products now and replaced them with direct vents.The problem with this vent free issue is it's going to hurt the whole industry.When people come into our showrooms with problems, they don't say "my vent free product caused the problem" they say "my gas logs or my gas fireplace caused the problem". This is an area that we'd better start looking at as a industry.
#8: Hearth product manufacturer refuses to offer "lung vented" products
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2001
I ran across your site yesterday when searching under "vent free". What a refreshing breath of fresh air to find a dealer who "gets it" when it comes to lung vented products! As you know, we (Heat-N-Glo, Heatilator and Aladdin) will not manufacture room vented products for the very reasons detailed on your website.
Vice President, Business Development
#9: Soot damage
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Just thought you would like to know that I am currently the unhappy owner of a vent free fireplace that has sooted up my entire house. I just completed building the house this past spring, and heated it with the ventless almost exclusively this past winter after receiving a $600 electric bill after heating with my furnace for one month. Initially, the ventless fireplace seemed like a godsend.
After a couple of months, however, we noticed that the ceiling edges were beginning to collect soot. Shortly thereafter, all of the ceiling joists, wall studs, and drywall nails began showing up due to soot highlighting. We are now working with our insurance company to determine whether the cause is moisture in the gas or some failure in the ventless fireplace system. Regardless of the cause, all the walls and ceilings in our new home now looks black and dingy. Insurance will pay to have them washed and repainted, but in the meantime, the place is a mess.
#10: Can't live with vent-free
Date: Thursday, August 2, 2001
I currently own a vent free fireplace in Orlando and am in negotiations with my home builder over it. We can't live in the house when it is on! He is offering to return some of the money paid for it and remove it and leave a useless space for the fireplace, or vent it. I think I want it vented, with glass on the front and proof that there are no leaks. He cites two studies done by the manufacturer that say the fireplace doesn't have harmful gases and was built to code. But there is a terrible odor that causes your eyes to burn, throat to itch, and eventually you get a headache.
#11: Headaches, dizziness, noxious odor
Date: Saturday, October 6, 2001
I read your Q&A about vent-free stoves. I have a [popular vent free model], and for 2 years I've been trying to make it so it doesn't smell and give me headaches and dizziness. I don't leave it on for more than half an hour because I can't stand it, so leaving it on too much is not the problem. It is in a large room with lots of windows and an open hallway; the noxious odor goes upstairs, so I know the problem isn't ventilation or the wrong size space.
I've done the burn-off routine, and the shop that sold it to me gave me replacement logs, but the problem persists. After reading your site, I know I'm not crazy. The dealer will not take it back, and I'm done trying to make it work. Can you give me any info to get into direct contact with [the manufacturer]? There is no email address at their website. You have my permission to forward this to [the manufacturer] or post it on your Q&A page.
#12: Wife has headaches
Date: Thursday, November 29, 2001
Hello - We recently purchased a vent free gas fireplace for our home. My wife started getting terrible headaches when it was on. We stopped using it and turned the gas off to it and her headaches went away. Is there any way to properly vent a ventless fireplace or do I need to purchase a new one?
Unless your vent-free was designed with the option of installing an exhaust vent (some are), there is nothing you can do with a vent-free except replace it with a vented model. You can view our selection online by clicking the thumbnail photos on our gas fireplace main page.
#13: Vent-free manufacturer gets 100 complaints per day
Date: Saturday, December 15, 2001
I'm so glad I came across your web site. I purchased a propane vent free gas log set during 2000. I have been unable to use it because of the smell. I've made various attempts to correct the problem: I let it burn off, I followed the manufactures recommendation and burned it on high for eight hours, I opened the windows, I've done everything to get rid of the exhaust / C0 smell. Nothing works. I've had the propane company check the recommended flow rate / pressure rate, in fact I had two companies do it. No one has offered to replace the log set, the seller told me to contact the manufacture, the manufacture hung up on me when they couldn't answer my questions. The vent free set burns our eyes, makes us dizzy and affects our throats and noses. No one will tell you this, everyone I talk to tells me my set is unusual, normally they can't smell a thing.
When I called the manufacturer, I heard another operator telling the caller he gets a hundred complaints a day. I couldn't tell what the complaint were, but I'll bet it's the smell. I was told by the manufacturer, get rid of the candles, don't buy new carpet, don't use spray cleaner, don't paint, on and on.......Believe me, I will not operate my vent free system. I will, when I can afford it, purchase a vented unit.....And I didn't tell you about the moisture, film on the windows and the complaints from visitors.
So I'm stuck with a lemon, but others beware, I have nothing to gain by telling you the truth about vent free gas logs. Be smart, you just can't breath the fumes.......Thanks for allowing me to address this issue. I wish I had found your site before my purchase. And to think I was going to invest in another vent free system thinking my first set was not operating properly.
Thank God for the internet and The Chimney Sweep.
#14: Suffering from black lung
Date: Thursday, February 14, 2002
We too had soot damage in our home from vent free gas logs, to the tune of $41,000. In addition I started experiencing shortness of breath. After 3 months of tests I had a lung biopsy which showed that I have "black lung". Both lungs have soot inside and outside. This is something that will not go away. I'm going to the University of Michigan Medical Center today with the hope of finding out what will happen from this point on. I was told that my lungs are worse than those of a coal miner exposed to coal dust for over 20 years. In addition to the lung problems, I have a heart condition developing because of the lack of oxygen going to the heart. I have read many of your comments and encourage everyone to be checked. It's quite apparent that some of the manufacturers appear to hiding something. The logs we purchased have been discontinued and the manufacturer refuses to say why.
If anyone has similar conditions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg C. Filer
#15: "Shoe Polish" on walls
Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2002
I found your site fascinating.. wish I had seen it before I purchased my gas logs... now... to my question.. my husband and I recently retired to the country. We purchased a lovely double wide home for this purpose. We had ventless gas logs installed into our fireplace and sat back waiting for cold winter days and nights. It has been two winters now and holy smokes I've noticed the walls of our new home are reddish brown and yellowed as if this home were 50 years old and neglected. The entire house will have to be repapered and painted as soon as the spring thaw occures. I cleaned a picture that hangs over the mantel and the rag was totally brown as if shoe polish had been wiped up with it. This must be very unhealthy to our breathing equipment. Now, is there any way I can hold the manufacturer responsible for the damage to my home?
We're not lawyers, but here's a link to an online organization that will provide a list of vent-free legal specialists in your state: http://www.anattorneyforyou.com/legal/vf_index.htm
#16: Sick of soot, smell
Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002
We have been experiencing soot problems on our ceilings in a huge family room that has a ventfree gas log set up. It is propane based and I am considering replacing it. What do I have to do to replace it? The company that installed the gas lines and tank stated I just needed a hood to push the heat into the room more. I got the hood and it has not helped. Also, my husband hates the smell which goes upstairs even when the unit is on low. Needless to say, we rarely use it and it cost a lot of money to install. By the way, it is in a regular masonry fireplace that has glass doors and a screen. Can you please advise me?
If you're mostly looking for the aesthetics of the fire, you can replace your vent-free gas logs with a vented set: you'll find the flames are MUCH more realistic in vented log sets. You can view our selection on our gas log page. If it is heat you're looking for, check out our vented gas inserts. As a bonus, our vented gas inserts offer even more realistic displays.
#17: Mom belatedly diagnosed with CO poisoning
Date: Monday, July 29, 2002
I was so relieved to find your site so I could send my mother letters that would validate her as to her health problems of the last two years. She has a ventless system in her new home and her health problems began the first winter of use - it was run 6-8 hours a day. She had sinus problems, headaches, lethargy, dizziness, disorientation, hallucinations and eventually breathing problems. In eight months of use she went from 140 pounds to 99 pounds and when tested at 99 pounds she had a lung breathing capacity of 21%. She was sleeping on the couch most of the day. My sister and I felt like she was dying before our eyes. The doctors were stumped and ran test after test including 2 aids tests and a lung cancer screen.
After the fireplace was turned off for the spring/summer season of 2001 she began to feel much better. She still has residual symptoms - shaking, dizziness, breathing problems and confusion. Her lungs have been permanently damaged and her lifespan has been shortened by several years.
The fireplace manufacturer denies responsibility but is going to run the fireplace and do a CO test. It is very hard to prove that the fireplace is responsible for her condition. We are searching specifically for evidence that these systems could have been the cause of her problems. If anyone has any information about ventless symptoms that could help us PLEASE email me at SMOSELY@nc.rr.com.
#18: Appreciates the info
Date: Friday, September 6, 2002
I applaud your site and information about vent free appliances.
Keep up the good work.
#19: Thanks for the website
Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2002
I too purchased one of those vent-free gas fireplaces, and experienced the headaches, plants dying, and moisture problems. I also found the house had a mold problem. Your information about the CO issues explain a lot.
Thanks again for the VERY informative website.
#20: Gas Company warns against buying vent free
Date: Monday, November 4, 2002
I was very close to buying a vent free fireplace for my home. I just happened to call my gas company to see what the cost would be to install gas lines for this. The man I spoke to mentioned that I may want to think twice about getting a vent free model due to the odor. He said he had a customer who had one installed before talking to him and they are extremely upset about the odor. He told me he just wanted me to be aware of this before spending a lot of money on one. Well, I am thanking him a thousand times over. After he told me this, I decided to do a search on the Internet about odors emitted from vent free fireplaces, which is how I found this web site. After reading these letters, I am so glad that I didn't waste my money! Thank you so much for this information. If I ever buy a gas fireplace, it will be a vented unit only.
Dianne in Ohio
#21: Getting rid of vent free logs
Date: Saturday, December 21, 2002
We are replacing a [vent free] log set. Thought I was alone in my complaints until I read your site. Both the manufacturer and my installer acted like I was the only one who had these odor and health complaints. Even with a CO2 meter which read 0, we still felt sick. On top of that, we had mechanical problems, and even though the working parts of the unit were replaced, still had the same problems.
Thank you for refusing to sell vent free products.
#22: Will conversion from LP to natural gas stop "room poisoning"?
Date: Sunday, January 5, 2003
We have a ventless propane fireplace. We've learned it's poisoning the room with black smoke and causing all sorts of problems. Can we convert this ventless to burn natural gas? What are the health problems associated with natural gas, and the difficulty converting propane to natural gas? We might also want to use the same system upstairs if possible.
Converting your vent free fireplace from propane to natural gas won't affect the combustion emissions that are poisoning your room; the emissions from both fuels contain the same poisons. If you want to eliminate the room poisoning, your only option is to replace your vent-free with a vented model. You can view our selection by clicking the thumbnail images on our gas fireplace page.
#23: Second try for vent free, having same problems, looking for support group
Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003
We bought our first [vent free] in 2001, and it sooted up our house. The serviceman the dealer sent out to inspect it said the [vent free] was faulty. We believed the dealer when he said no safety problems had been reported, and that this was just an isolated incident, so we purchased a replacement. The second [vent free] has a redesigned burner (the company is saying this was done for cosmetic reasons only), and although it is not emitting soot that we can readily see, our home still has damage from soot. After we paid for painting & cleaning at the end of the first season and had the heater cleaned it emitted soot again the following season. My daughter has recently seen her doctor because of severe headaches. We had no idea that the [vent free] could be causing this. I am terrified now.
I have questioned the manufacturer repeatedly about safety, and about the fact that we're living with the soot. The manufacturer and their lawyers are denying that the [vent free] is malfunctioning. Instead, they have said that it wasn't properly installed and that maintenance wasn't done, that the report the dealer sent in said that the [vent free] was clogged with dust and debris.
Is it possible to let the persons who have contacted your web page know that they should contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in their area regarding problems they have with their vent free heaters? I have also contacted the Attorney General's Office and will not stop until something is done to stop the danger sold to us. If there is an organized support group please E-mail me at email@example.com
#24: Removing vent free fireplace because of toxic by-products
Date: Saturday, February 8, 2003
I recently finished my basement and decided to install a ventless fireplace to help heat the basement during the winter months. I was assured from several different store owners that vent free is completely safe, and that they burn so efficient (99.9%) that there is no concern over carbon monoxide (CO) levels, smell, or O2 depletion. My basement is 1200 sq. ft. and open. The fireplace was installed by a licensed workman. Despite turning the gas log set on low and allowing for adequate ventilation, the unit still produced a lot of odor and high levels of CO (over 20 PPM within 1 hour). I called the store where I bought the unit and they said that I should try "curing the logs" by burning it on high for about 6 hours. I explained that this does not account for the high level of CO. He said that up to 30 PPM is considered safe. I did a little research, and it turns out that IAQ guidelines allow a MAXIMUM CO level of 25 PPM/1 hour. In addition, I removed the logs and the burner unit still produced high levels of CO and odor. For the safety of my family and those who may purchase our house in the future, I am removing this fireplace. I believe that anyone considering buying a vent free should use common sense in this decision. Natural or LP Gas fuels produce toxic by-products. Period. The "studies" referenced by many sellers of vent free fireplaces are sponsored by the vent free gas log industry, and the results are inherently biased.
#25: "Horror Stories" help make decision for vented fireplace
Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2003
I went to three fireplace stores today and each salesperson told me that the vent free models were hands down a better choice. I just came across your site as I was looking for vent free fireplaces online. After reading the countless emails of horror stories regarding vent free fireplaces, I have decided to purchase a vented model instead. I am shocked that these vent free models can still be sold with all the health related illnesses they can cause. I'll make sure to sway people away from vent free fireplace models in the future.
My family and I thank you.
Chris and Erin Minchk
#26: Saving lives
Date: Saturday, November 8, 2003
Thank YOU for this outstanding website. People need to know the truth about vent free heating appliances.
You are saving lives.
#27: The tobacco companies say these new cigarettes are less poisonous, so let's light up!
Date: Saturday, November 15, 2003
Can you please post an update [on vent-free fireplaces], given recent advances in manufacturing and technology? I understand that models built in the last two years are much better, release next to no CO or other gases, and are much more efficient than older ones, and the information on your site appears somewhat dated.
Thanks for the inquiry! We update this page as new letters come in and time allows: we received your letter today, and as you can see, it is already posted above. If you look further, you'll find that well over half of the letters on this page were written within the last two years, and they indicate that the newer "less-poisonous-than-before" vent-frees are still causing sooting, odor, moisture and health problems.
As to the other pages in the vent-free section of our Sweep's Library, there has been no cause to update them. Consumer Reports Magazine has not rescinded its 1998 cautionary statements regarding vent-frees; in fact, they published the same warnings on their website as recently as January, 2004. Air quality scientists like Jim White have not changed their stance regarding the potential hazards of "living in a chimney." Canadian health codes still prohibit installation of vent-frees in that country. The websites of the American Lung Association (ALA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Mayo Clinic still caution against the use of vent-free products.
Also unchanged are the ongoing claims by vent-free fireplace manufacturers that their newer models are less poisonous and troublesome than their earlier models. We view these claims with some skepticism, as those same manufacturers have always maintained that their products, even the earlier models, are completely safe and trouble-free, while our observations and the feedback we get from vent-free owners provides much evidence to the contrary.
The bottom line from our perspective is, why should you accept any level of room poisoning from your gas stove or fireplace? The direct-vented gas products we choose to sell consume no oxygen from your breathing space and introduce no carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, unpleasant odors, moisture or soot into your house. They cause no headaches, nosebleeds, mold spores, or soot damage. As hearth product retailers who feel we have a responsibility to be concerned about the safety and well-being of our customers, that's the only standard we find acceptable.
#28: Legislation needed
Date: Monday, December 29, 2003
I was doing research on these products and found your site. I too have a vent free that has sooted my entire house before I figured out where all this black dust was coming from. My curtains, my carpet, my clothes, you name it, it's black. I think the time has come to unite together and get legislation passed to eliminate these health hazards. Less than 6 months after my vent free was installed, I developed a thyroid disorder. Can I attribute it directly? No, but I can attribute this sooty black dust to my coughing and feeling ill when I use it. The question here is, how many of you posting at this site agree and would be willing to participate?
I am tired of the service man coming to my house and checking this heater and pronouncing it perfectly safe when I know it's not. I am compiling a notebook of all the health issues associated with these products and documenting case histories. I am not a lawyer, but I know when something is unsafe and needs to be changed. Please have your site visitors let me know if they are interested in trying to get a resolution to this issue. Please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
#29: Ready to sue
Date: Saturday, January 17, 2004
I wish I could have found this site before. I too bought a set of nonvented fireplace logs from a dealer that sold [Manufacturer] products. A couple of months later my whole house and contents need cleaning. Black soot is everywhere. The installer came back and double-checked, and said he installed them correctly and that I must have got a bad set. After both he and I contacted [the manufacturer] with no satisfaction he said I might as well get a lawyer. That's what I'm in the process of doing right now. How can this be? How can a company like [Manufacturer] sell me something and after it ruins my house tell me that it is not their fault, that it is the layout of my home or that it was not installed right, when it was installed by one of their licensed dealers? Any suggestions would be really helpful. I am out over $15,000 for cleanup and repainting.
Here's a link to an online organization that will provide a list of vent-free legal specialists in your state: http://www.anattorneyforyou.com/legal/vf_index.htm
#30: Vent Free Safety Alliance website on the way
Date: Monday, January 19, 2004
Greetings fellow Consumer Advocate! I am John Galloway of Hearth Services. We are gas heating systems service and maintenance company serving North and South Carolina.
I am a founding partner of the soon to be public Vent-Free Gas Safety Alliance. I have a special request of you as well as an invitation to join our new association.
We are finished with basic structure for our web site. We are now organizing our content, and the site is not open to the public at this time. We admire your position on vent-free heating appliances and would appreciate your permission to publish various letters from your site onto our web site.
John D. Galloway
Hearth Services Fireplace Experts
Thanks for the invitation to join your association, but a visit to your website-in-progress reveals that your members will be companies that service and repair vent-free products. Our company's gas service technicians don't work on vent-frees, mostly because they don't want to inherit the barrage of complaints listed in the letters on this page, and also because of potential liability issues (notice how many of the letter-writers are planning lawsuits?).
Here is our mission statement regarding vent-frees:
If you're buying a gas stove or fireplace, buy a vented model, not a vent-free.
If you already have a vent-free stove or fireplace, replace it with a vented model.
If you can't or won't replace your vent free, don't use it.
If you must use your vent-free, open a nearby window ALL THE WAY, limit fires to a maximum of two hours per day, and get REGULAR tune-ups from a qualified professional.
#31: Many, many thanks for the information
Date: Thursday, February 19, 2004
Thank you for all the info on vent free products. I was planning on buying a 30000 btu vent free stove that was on an internet website as a close out for $150. All the vented products seem to start out at $1000, so I got so excited when I found this stove.
I am now not going to buy it. Thank you for your information. I do not want to take a chance with my health. When I called the manufacturer, I asked if there was any additional info that he could provide for me. He said that many customers open a window. I thought that to be strange because then all the heat is going out. After reading your info, I now understand. Thank you thank you thank you. (I may have to save for another year to get heat in my basement, but it will be worth it).
Thank you again,
Freezing But Healthy In California.
#32: Can we vent our vent-free fireplace?
Date: Saturday, February 21, 2004
Wondering how we can vent our ventless fireplace. We are experiencing odor. It's a brand new home and we never realized that they installed a ventless system. We are told that a chimney could not be put in because the pipe on the roof would not be 8 feet from an existing bedroom window. (Which is building code.)
Thanks for the inquiry! There might be a way to vent your vent-free: consult with your dealer or manufacturer and see if your fireplace is cross-approved for partial or total outside venting. If so, you might be able to vent the exhaust to the outside, unless the only technique available would also violate your thru-the-roof code. If your fireplace isn't cross-approved and the fireplace is located on an outside wall, you could replace it with a direct vent fireplace: these vent out the backwall instead of through the roof, as shown in diagrams #1 and #2 on our direct vent info page. You can view our direct vent fireplace selection by clicking the thumbnail photos on our gas fireplace main page.
#33: Can we vent our vent-free fireplace?
Date: Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Hope you can help us. Have a beautiful Amish-made ventless fireplace. Can not use it. Everything yellow. This year we could smell gas, so we haven't used it at all. Too afraid. Is there a way to convert it to be vented outside?
Thanks for the inquiry! As you can see in our answer to the letter immediately above, there might be a way: consult with your dealer or manufacturer and see if your fireplace is cross-approved for partial or total outside venting: if so, you might be able to vent the exhaust to the outside. Prepare to sacrifice heat, as once you vent a vent-free, it can no longer deliver the heat into the house with the exhaust gases, the way it was designed to do. A better choice would be to replace your vent-free with a direct vent model, as these are designed to maximize heat transfer into the room while at the same time venting their exhaust outside.
#34: Other airborne poisons
Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2004
We bought a house with a vent-free gas fireplace already installed, and felt pretty safe with it because we studied the owner's manual and were always careful to open a nearby window and limit the duration of our fires. However, we soon encountered a problem that doesn't appear on your website (that we can find).
We painted our living room, and when we lit the fireplace soon after, the whole house was filled with the most awful smell that made us both sick. We called the manufacturer, and were told you can't paint, because anything airborne in the house (like paint fumes) gets drawn into the fireplace flames, where it burns and creates its own nasty emissions! They told us this also applies to the fumes that come off new carpet, room deodorizers, hair spray, household dust, pet hair, spray cleaners, candles, etc. etc. etc. Pretty much anything in the air gets sucked into the flames and stinks up the house.
Since then, whenever we have a fire we're almost afraid to move, lest we stir up some dust or something that will hit the flames and raise a stench. The dog is banished to another room, so he doesn't scratch himself in front of the fire (burnt pet hair is the most sickening smell you can imagine).
You're obviously up on the chemicals contained in the gas exhaust, but do you know what emissions you get when you burn the vapor from spray cleaners or any of the other stuff that floats around the air in a typical house?
Ray & Eileen
Hi Ray & Eileen,
Sorry, we're not aware of any studies that have been done about health problems deriving from breathing the emissions from burned vapors, fumes or pet dander. However, we're sure your description of the bad smell these things generate will help dissuade some people who are considering vent frees, and thank you for sharing your experience.
#35: Poisoned over time
Date: Thursday, June 3, 2004
When we were told by many people that vent free units were dangerous and malfunctioned, we would always come back with that fact that our family had a unit that was excellent. Compared to electric heat, we saved a ton of money and had a WARM house.
However, we had no idea that we were being slowly poisoned by carbon monoxide. I always react extremely to kerosene and wood stoves, but this unit never seemed to bother me much when we got it, so I assumed that it was okay. BIG MISTAKE.
After becoming violently ill at a restaurant a few weeks ago, we determined it was the flu. It took only a week before I collapsed and my three year old laid on the ground lethargic- FINALLY it dawned on me that it was our heater.
Carbon monoxide detector showed reasonable low levels (under 50 ppm) but the damage done by this unit to my body in particular and to that of my family can not have a price on it.
After only a week without any heat, I am still suffering greatly from the poison. I wish that we had gotten rid of our heater when we were warned a few years ago, but we did not.
PLEASE, if you are thinking of having a unit like this, or any other vent free unit, PLEASE LISTEN TO THE WARNINGS. The CO levels will accumulate in your body and it might be too late before you discover how much damage it is doing to you. Believe me. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is something you do NOT want to experience. I know from personal experience.
Feel free to email me at any time about this. I would be glad to talk to you about it.
Posted at www.hearth.com
#36: Telephone Inquiry: Why should a healthy, non-pregnant young adult be concerned?
Date: Thursday, June 10, 2004
Q: In your answer to Rache [see letter #27 above] you mention that the websites of the American Lung Association, the Center for Disease Control, the Emissions Protection Agency and the Mayo Clinic all warn against the use of vent-free products on their websites. I had a look, and it seems to me that most of these cautions are directed primarily at young children, small animals, pregnant women, the elderly and people with diabetes, asthma or cardiovascular problems. I don't belong to any of those groups, so I don't think those warnings need concern me.
I've been looking at two identical gas stoves made by the same company: one is direct-vented and one is vent-free. To me, the only difference is the vent-free is $150.00 cheaper, and doesn't require a $200.00 vent kit! A net savings of $350.00 is a powerful incentive. I see no reason why a healthy young adult like myself shouldn't go vent-free.
What do you think?
A Long-Distance Runner in Vermont
Hi Marathon Man,
We think there's a flaw in your reasoning. Just because certain groups are at greater risk from exposure to gas exhaust, it doesn't mean that others are at no risk whatsoever. Example: when the AMA warns seniors to be extra careful walking on icy streets because they're at greater risk of breaking a hip should they slip and fall, that doesn't mean you won't break your hip should you hit the same patch of ice.
Even allowing your unsupported contention that a healthy young adult with runner's lungs isn't as likely to experience severe health problems from sharing his breathing space with the poisons contained in gas exhaust, you might want to take the following Vent-Free Purchaser Quiz:
1) Do you think exposure to gas exhaust will have no adverse affect on you at all? Isn't it logical to assume that if the very young, aged and health-impaired are at serious risk from exhaust gas inhalation, even a healthy set of lungs might be adversely affected?
2) What about the other problems vent-free fireplaces can cause? Wouldn't you pay $350.00 to eliminate any chance of the unpleasant odors, blackened walls, moisture damage, mold and mildew vent-free owners complain about?
3) Vermont Winters are mighty cold. Are you sure you'll be willing to open a window, as vent-free manufacturers say you must, every time you have a fire? And are you sure you'll be willing to limit your fires to the mandated couple of hours a day?
4) What about the other folks who occasionally share your home? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have a cheery fire when Granny visits, or your friends with infant children? How about your buddies who come over every week for poker night who have never mentioned they have diabetes or asthma?
Scoring: Buy the vent-free if your answer to all the above questions is "I don't care."
#37: Sooting, chronic lung condition
Date: Thursday, September 30, 2004
We have a 4000+ square foot home that now has soot all over it. Our insurance company states this happened over time so will not cover it and have attributed this problem, after calling in several experts, to our unvented gas fireplace. We are now faced with the task and expense of cleaning and repainting our entire house. We have 18 foot ceilings in places and this will be no easy task. Additionally, I quit my job in 2001 due to respiratory complaints and started a different job. I thought I had environmental allergies at the workplace but now find the culprit is in my own home. I have been told that I have bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition caused by irritants. They assumed it was due to measles and pneumonia I suffered as a young child, however, now I am questioning whether it was the fireplace. We only used it rarely and for no more than 2-4 hours, maybe 15 times per season. The house was built in 1997 and the fireplace is installed in a large open room with an open floor plan that far exceeds the cubic foot requirement. Our beautiful house, in which we took so much pride, is now a sooty dingy mess. I am ashamed to have anyone in our home and now am experiencing chronic lung problems. Is anyone having any success in collecting damages from the manufacturer?
Thanks for your prompt response.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Several of the others whose letters appear on this page mention lawsuits, but none have written back to share the results. If any of you are revisiting this page, will you please click our E-mail link at the bottom of this page and fill us in on the outcomes of your lawsuits (and CC a copy to Carole)?
#38: Sooting, who do I contact?
Date: Thursday, September 30, 2004
I have been reading all of the emails on your web site concerning the black soot that the unvented stove gives off. I have had a problem with my stove for 3 years and I always thought it was from something I did wrong while installing. I have changed the connections numerous times with no change. Who can I contact to check my stove? Also, for safety reasons should I go to a different type of stove?
If you've read the letters above, it should be obvious that your healthiest and least-sooty solution will be to chuck your vent-free stove and replace it with a vented model. If you choose to keep your vent-free and want to try to tackle the sooting problem, your first step should be to contact the manufacturer and see if there's an authorized service technician in your area. Observe how he tunes up your stove carefully, as most manufacturers require that vent-frees be serviced at least once per month during the heating season, and you'll want to save the expense of bringing in a pro in the future.
#39: Retired Hearth Products dealer refused to sell vent-frees
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Thanks for having the courage to address the serious issues of vent free products and refusing to make a quick buck on it. I was part owner of a chimney sweeping/stove sales business for 10 years and we also refused to sell anything ventless. It never made any sense to me that if anyone would actually research it and read the owners manual, why they would still decide on buying one. (stubborness, most likely. they always think they know more than the professionals) If it is dangerous for most types of people, it's dangerous for them too. But I know that you have heard from many a customer, like we did, who said something like "it hasn't killed me yet" regarding their dangerous situations. We quit our business partly for that reason. We had a good company and were consciencious about the work we did. We did not sell anything that we wouldn't use in our own homes, and we tested out many different stoves in our home. But, we would NOT sell anything ventless and always warned our customers about it if we heard them talking about possibly buying them.
Not many businesses will forego profit for the sake of protecting the people because many dealers & manufacturers do not have a conscience. It's all about what sells and lines their pockets.
#40: Can we make our vent-free gas logs safer?
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2004
We purchased a propane vent free gas log set for our house last weekend. I just discovered your website today. I should have seen it BEFORE I bought the logs! We have a central heating system that is new and works well. We burn wood in our basement fireplace in the winter for supplemental heat because the basement gets cold. The upper main floor is where we have installed our vent free logs. We wanted them for ambiance and for occassional supplemental heat. Sometimes that room gets chilly when the fire is going in the basement because the furnace doesn't kick on as much. The basement gets very warm and the main floor cools down. I thought we could use the vent-free gas logs to balance out the heat a little. Now I am worried that we bought the wrong thing.
We installed the vent free system in an existing vented fireplace. Do you think the health concerns, soot concerns, etc are minimized if we open the flue an inch? I tried it and we are still getting heat from the system with the flue open a crack. I don't want to use this vent free if we are going to be sick from it, but if opening the damper would minimize the health risk, I would keep it.
Your opinion is appreciated!
By all means, open your damper enough to vent as much of the poisonous exhaust as possible. Had you bought a vented set, it would have come with a clip to hold the damper open about an inch, so yours sounds like a reasonable plan.
#41: Vent-frees compared to cigarettes and asbestos
Date: Friday, November 12, 2004
I am a fireplace dealer in Ohio. Over and over people come in with the thought of placing a ventfree appliance in their home. Over and over I explain the problems associated with the vent free units. I lose many sales because other companies tell the client that vent free fireplaces are no more dangerous than a gas range (except that you don't have a big exhaust fan over it). I would rather lose the sale now than have suffering, unhappy customers forever. I want my customer to be as happy with their purchase 5 years from now as they are the day they bought it and, unfortunately, that will not happen if they purchase a vent free. If that makes me a bad businessperson, so be it.
We, as an industry, need to educate the consumer as to the best possible products for their needs. A direct vent or electric fireplace will give them all they need and want without compromising their health or the health of the family. Please keep up the good work with educating the consumer. I will recommend your website to anyone contemplating ventfree and will continue to fight the good fight here in Ohio. Just remember, there was a time when people thought cigerette smoking and asbestos were good for you too!
North Royalton Ohio
#42: Gas Service Technician wouldn't even consider a vent-free fireplace
Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Hi, I have been a HVAC service tech for almost 30 years and when I was going to purchase my fireplace, vent free did not even enter my mind. I knew of the potential hazards but I did not realize the extent until I stumbled upon your website. Why contractors actually sell this stuff amazes me. Have our morals dipped this low, to knowingly endanger lives for a buck? They know the potential dangers when they sell [vent frees] but still continue. They won't stop until they are forced to stop. You are carrying the torch in the battle against vent frees.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the support! Please note that we don't carry the torch into people's houses.
#43: Decided to go with direct vent stove
Date: Wednesday, December 1, 2004
I was about ready to purchase a vent-free gas stove, but still felt a little uncomfortable with the concept. It was hard to buy off on the fact that the system burns so efficiently that there is no substantial exhaust. After reading the horror stories on your web site, my wife and I have decided to go with the direct vent stove. Thank goodness I was able to stumble onto your web site.
Thanks so much for making it available.
Michael R. Sylvain, P.E., R.L.S.
#44: HVAC dealer warns cunsumers against vent-frees
Date: Monday, December 20, 2004
My husband and I own a heating and cooling business and occasionally we are asked about vent free fireplaces. I always tell everyone to avoid vent free because of the many problems associated with these vent free units including condensation on windows and noxious gases venting directly into the home. If homeowners have small children, health problems (asthma etc.), pets (vent free will kill birds fast), they will regret ever installing a vent free fireplace. From the letters I read on your website the health risks are not limited to people with health problems.
Also, I wonder if people read the instructions that are included with the vent free fireplaces. The one I read clearly states that windows must be cracked open and units have a maximum operating time.
If homeowners want to enjoy a fireplace, the only way to go is with a VENTED unit. Homeowners, do not try to save money by purchasing vent free fireplaces!
I will direct all further inquiries about vent free fireplaces to your website. Hopefully these vent free units will be recalled and outlawed in all 50 states in the near future.
#45: Vent-free Owner: much maintenance, vigilance required
Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Vent-free doesn’t mean maintenance free. Operation of a vent-free gas fire place requires regular cleaning and dusting of the unit and its surroundings to keep the CO levels down. Average CO levels of both CO monitors in my home are around 5-10 ppm max. year round. Peaks are more notable after getting out of a car after a few hours in traffic, as clothing will hold in a number of different compounds including CO. When peaks are noted above 10 ppm, during the winter season when the fireplace is in use, a good cleaning and dusting of the unit brings the levels back to 5-10 ppm.
Any smell of natural gas will indicate a problem with the unit not igniting completely. A single blocked hole in the manifold can create a delay in the firing of the rest of the unit leading to the smell of natural gas; you should turn off the unit and have it inspected for a possible blockage. The smell of kerosene when the unit is burning has also been noted when the gas company installs or upgrades a gas main in the area. This is a rare occurrence in some areas, but for newer developments it might not be as rare, as the welding of the new line and the cleaning process to remove the slag sometimes leaves a residue in the line.
Yes, I have to wash the windows in my home on a monthly basis, but the problem is not as bad as a neighbor who burns a lot of candle in her home. I do have to run a dehumidifier on occasion in the winter but I’ve always had to do that to keep the moisture levels down in an older home that doesn’t have an automatic venting system now required.
Also how many people have their CO monitors calibrated on an annual basis or replace the CO unit annually (much cheaper)? Read and understand the entire instructions with any CO monitoring system before you set it and forget it. People who trust their lives to their CO monitors, at home or place of business have the units calibrated regularly and test their units before each use. How many people fill a bath tub with hot water and just hop right in without testing the temperature?
Every source of heat requires some amount of maintenance, some just require a little more. Maintenance wise I would place a vent-free fireplace halfway between a wood fireplace and electric base board heat. Cost wise vent-free is the lowest price per BTU, but what are the other costs in your time and health?
Thanks for the comments! You seem extremely well educated as to the maintenance and operation of your vent-free fireplace, and we agree with most of your points, but would take exception to your statement that "vent free is the lowest cost per BTU". We have long maintained that, when you factor in the hidden expenses associated with vent-free usage you mention, such as the monthly cleaning and servicing of the logs and burners, monthly window cleaning, annual CO detector calibration or replacement, operation and maintenance of a dehumidifyer, etc., and then consider that vent-frees can only be used 2-3 hours per day, the advertised maximum annual heating savings of 3% to 7% over a direct vented gas heater totally disappear.
What doesn't disappear is the long-term exposure to low level CO gases and other gaseous emissions associated with vent-free use, and the harmful health affects that result. Despite your unusually diligent best efforts to keep your vent-free fireplace tuned to minimize harmful emissions, you report that the CO level in your home fluctuates between 5ppm and 10ppm,, a level that an increasing number of medical professionals consider unacceptable. If you haven't done so yet, please click here to read about the study entitled "THE EFFECTS OF CHRONIC EXPOSURE TO CO", sponsored by the British non-profit organization CO Support (you'll also find a link to the text of the entire report on the same page).
#46: Soot, Soot, Soot
Date: Wednesday, January 5, 2005
We purchased a vent free gas log unit 3 + years ago, and now have soot, soot, soot everywhere. Ceilings, walls, inside cabinets, refrigerator, and on everything plastic we own. Western Natural Gas installed the units and has been the only company to service them. We noticed the soot back in March, they came and picked up the logs, "fixed" them saying they would take care of the soot damage, today we learn that their insurance company denied our claim. Has anyone had luck going after the manufacturer "Vanguard"?
Kelly and Doug Stephens
#47: Your website saved me today
Date: Monday, January 10, 2005
In my search for pros and cons for vented vs vent-free, I came across your site. Enticed by the promise of increased heat distribution, I was leaning towards a vent-free gas log set. After reading the letters on this site, I can honestly say your website saved my life today.
Thanks and have a great day!
Melissa in Dallas
#48: Any way to vent these fireplaces?
Date: Monday, January 10, 2005
Hi - I've been reading your site concerning the dangers of vent-free fireplaces and accounts by those who have suffered health issues due to their ventless fireplaces. I was hoping you might be able to offer some advice. My parents are just about finished building their home and I recently learned the fireplaces they have installed are all ventless. I was actually trying to find a smaller, bedroom model that my Mom was interested in for their bedroom and it was during this search that I ran across a lot of disturbing opinions on the use of vent-free fireplaces.
I've warned my parents about the dangers I've read about vent-free fireplaces, but I know they don't have the money to just replace their fireplaces with vented models. So, I was hoping you might offer some advice on whether it is possible to run venting to their existing fireplaces? One is located on an exterior wall, so I was thinking that a direct vent might be an option? The other fireplace is a 2-way that is not located on an exterior wall, but I thought that perhaps venting could be run from the fireplace down through the floor and then out to an exterior wall along the basement ceiling? Or maybe the 2-sided fireplace might vented up through the attic and roof. Do you have any thoughts on this? Can most/all models be converted, or is this not really a feasible option?
I appreciate any thoughts, advice, or additional resources that you might be able to offer to help. All of the research that I've seen discussing the dangers of these fireplaces has me very concerned. Especially as my Mother has a slight asthmatic condition.
Thank you for your time.
As mentioned in response to previous letters above, some, but not all, vent-frees can be vented. To find out if your parents' fireplaces can be vented, contact the manufacturer. You won't be able to vent the see-through downward, so you'll need to investigate a vertical location for that pipe. Note: even the people who sell vent-frees caution against use by asthmatics, so if the fireplaces can't be vented, you need to convince your folks to replace them with vented models.
#49: Vent-free owner saw doctors more than family & friends
Date: Friday, January 14, 2005
I am so grateful to find your website. I had a vent-free fireplace installed in August, 2003, which never functioned properly. Over a period of 15 months, every part was replaced at least once. Eventually, a new burner was installed for the same model in 9/04. It too did not function (front row would light - not back row). Another model was installed in 11/05. This one would not light if the gas furnace was on!!
In the interim, I was constantly ill - eye, throat, blood pressure and heart problems - and was hospitalized four times. I had a pacemaker put in, felt fine in the hospital but once I came home, felt awful. I saw doctors more than I saw family or friends. I was practically an invalid. Eventually I called my local gas and electric company and who discovered I had a gas leak where the gas pipe joins the burner. It was leaking badly.
Here is my question: I want to sue these disgracefully incompetent people who assured me repeatedly that the installation was fine. But, I need expert medical advise as to the short and long-term effects of natural gas and carbon monoxide. My doctors tell me they have never had a patient who was exposed to natural gas, etc. Are you aware of anyone who has successfully won a lawsuit regarding a vent-free fireplace and what type of expert is needed. Toxicologist, industrial or environmental specialists? Or, can my doctors find out this type of information.
In the meantime, I am being treated by a pulmonary specialist for continued breathing problems.
Any help you can give me would be so appreciated. My advice to anyone is never, never get a vent-free fireplace. There is a reason why there are vents in the fireplace, I guess.
Sorry about your medical problems, and thankful that you chose to share. Nobody has written to us with the results of their lawsuits, but there's a non-profit organization in England dedicated to fighting CO poisoning that may be able to help you with specialists, documentaion, etc. They are called CO Support, and you can read about them online by clicking here. There is a contact link at the bottom of the page.
#50: MD switches out vent-free in new condo
Date: Monday, January 31, 2005
Enjoy your website. We just moved into our new condo where all units but ours have a ventless fireplace unit. I changed out to an electric unit. This was a last minute change-out and there was no time for installing a vented fireplace. I'm concerned for my fellow owners. This same builder used ventless units in his previous condo project, also in Tacoma. The construction is tight, and in my opinion, these fireplaces should not be used more than the 2-3 hours recommended. What is the Washington State law regarding these units? Has anyone ever forced a builder to replace the fireplaces?
Terrel J Michel, MD
Thanks for the inquiry! Washington State has yet to pass any legislation regarding vent-frees, we're sorry to report. A few people have written to say they've "forced" their builders to switch to vented fireplaces during construction, but our impression was their hammer was more a matter of economics than of law (put in a vented fireplace or I won't pay you).
To our knowledge, there is no organized anti-vent-free lobbying effort at this writing, so our legislators probably see this issue as a wheel that isn't particularly squeeky. Since you obviously have strong feelings about this matter, we urge you to write your legislators and let them know. If enough concerned people make the effort, legislation similar to Canada's banning vent-free fireplaces might be forthcoming.
#51: Vent-free dealer glosses over problems, loses customer
Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2005
I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who run this web site. I was considering a vent-free purchase to install in my basement, but after reading all these horror stories it won't be happening. My wife has asthma and my allergies are hard enough to deal with without that problem. I would also like to add that I was at a home show in Cobb County, GA and two of the dealers told me of the problems with vent-frees and directed me towards the direct vents. When they first told me of the problems I didn't believe them because the dealer I'd been planning to buy the vent-free from never, ever mentioned the health concerns or the moisture problems. Needless to say, I won't be buying from them. Again I would like to say thank you to everyone for their stories and information. Question: are there any problems with the direct vent fireplaces?
Not a single one of the problems described in the letters above apply to direct vent products. Direct vents don't dump gas exhaust into your indoor breathing space, and they don't consume any of your oxygen: they get their combustion air from outside, and vent their exhaust outside.
#52: Was sold on vent-free, now going vented
Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2005
I just finished my basement, and was going to use a ventless propane fireplace for heating. My gut feeling didn't like the ventless idea at all, but after a lot of shopping, and talking to so-called professionals I was sold on it. I figured I would do one more search on ventless vs vented fireplaces before purchasing, and I found your site. I can't thank you guys enough. You just saved my family from a lot of potential problems. I will definitely get a vented setup installed by a professional.
#53: Vent-frees, not oil furnace, causing sooting
Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2005
I'm glad I found your site. I was at a customer's house yesterday. She wanted me to check her almost new oil furnace, (installed by the company I work for), because her house was sooted up with all of the telltale problems others have reported on your site. Investigating further I found that she had an unvented fireplace log set upstairs and an unvented stove-type fireplace in the rec room. As I told her, "The Indians knew enough to put a hole in the top of the teepee." I am calling her immediately with your website address.
Oil Burner Technician
#54: Has had no problems with vent-free, but cautions against nuclear radical production
Date: Monday, July 11, 2005
I have very mixed emotion about the entries at the website. 8 years ago I built a house and installed a 48,000 Btu vent free fireplace. We did the burn off time and NEVER had a CO reading above 3ppm. The house was built very tight. In fact so tight that your ears would pop when the front door would shut. We installed 2 CO detectors and had both the fire department and the local gas company come check the fireplace (they both found that the cook stove/oven produced more CO). We enjoyed the fireplace and the tremendous savings in the fuel bills. I am thinking that these units your web posters have commented on may be susceptible to poor installation, poor quality, or poor understanding of maintenance. In any case I have recently taken a new position with a university in another state and plan to install two vent free fireplaces, neither of which will be used for other than occasional heating on cold days.
Of interest and value to readers of your website would be a few studies that have been conducted that relate vent free fireplace use in basements and Radon gas. There is a potential for the added moisture from the fireplace and the combustion of radon resulting in nuclear radicals to be released (hence the concerns for asthmatics- or anyone worried about lung cancer). Fireplace (vented or vent free) installations in basements should be done in conjunction with a radon test.
Lastly, there are many folks that have had wonderful experiences with ventfree. I would like to see a few of these posted to assure that there is not a bias being taken.
Thanks for your time and best of luck in your endeavors
Michael B. Knight PhD
Assistant Professor Computer Information Systems
John A. Walker College of Business
Appalachian State University
We publish every letter about vent-frees we get, and for whatever reason, yours is only the third one we've ever received defending vent-free products (see #27 above to read the first one, and click the link at the bottom of this page labeled To read a letter from a vent-free dealer in defense of his products, click here for the second).
Thank you for the info on the interaction of vent-frees with radon gas: we hadn't known this combo would produce anything as scary as nuclear radicals. However, we must take exception to your statement that all basement fireplace installations should require a radon test: direct vent fireplaces don't produce any moisture in the room or burn any room air, so even in the presence of radon, no nuclear radicals would be created.
We'd also like to examine the "tremendous savings in the fuel bills" you mention. We'll agree that gas fireplaces, both vent-free and direct vented, are much more efficient than forced air furnaces, because they deliver the heat directly into the living space without the need for energy-wasting ducting (typically, it would take an 80,000 btu gas furnace to heat the same house you heated with your 48,000 btu vent-free). What we don't agree with is your statement that the fuel savings with vent-frees are tremendous, especially when compared to direct vents.
Let's take a look at the numbers. To create the maximum possible savings you might experience, we'll consider the coldest days of Winter, when your 80,000 btu furnace needs to run continuously to heat your house. In those conditions, that furnace would consume 240,000 btu's every three hours. If you burned your 48,000 btu vent-free instead of the furnace for three hours (the maximum daily usage recommended by vent-free manufacturers), you'd consume just 144,000 btu's, for a net savings of 96,000 btu's, or 40%. This sounds impressive, but it only holds true for the three hours you're allowed to use your vent-free. Since you'd have to use the furnace for the other 21 hours that day, at the end of the day, you'd have burned 1.824 mbtu instead of 1.920 mbtu, for a net fuel savings of just 2%.
Today's direct vent fireplaces achieve delivered efficiency ratings exceeding 86%, which falls a bit short of vent free manufacturers' advertised 99% efficiency, but is still far better than the delivered efficiency of a forced air furnace. If you burned a direct vent fireplace instead of your furnace for three hours every day, you'd save 35% for those three hours instead of the 40% you'd save with your vent-free, which would seem to give the vent-free a 5% fuel savings advantage over the direct vent........ BUT: that advantage, which is pretty small to begin with, only holds true for the three hours you're allowed to use your vent-free! Since you can use a direct vent fireplace all day long with no health concerns whatsoever, your monthly savings with a direct vent fireplace would be 35%, compared to the vent-free's monthly savings of 2%.
#55: Author of letter #54 admits direct vent fireplaces are best choice: more about the vent-free / radon issue
Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Thanks for the reply Tom,
The savings that I was talking about was in comparison to our old furnace. I think that the vented fireplace is the best if it is drawing combustion air from outside and then venting outside. The radon issue is one that comes from pressure differences caused by using indoor air for combustion and then venting it outside. Overall pressure differences cause radon to be pulled into a house and further complicate the situation. Needless to say, a proper working fireplace used the correct way and maintained correctly is best
Assistant Professor Computer Information Systems
John A. Walker College of Business
Appalachian State University
#56: Walls gray, but not because of paint choice
Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
I just bought a house with a Superior (SFC) vent-free fireplace (model VF6-CMP). We didn't notice it was vent free until we moved in, and neither did the inspector (the gray wall colors weren't paint - if you know what I mean). Anyhow, it's got to go. Can it be vented? If not, what would nicely fit in its place?
Thanks for the inquiry! Bad news: According to the manufacturer's website, your Superior can't be vented to the outside. Good news: we do carry a direct vent model, the Mendota DXV-35, that would fit inside the framing for your VF6-CMP. You can view it online at http://www.chimneysweeponline.com/mendxv35.htm. The DXV-35 is smaller in every dimension, so all you'll need to do is open up the front of your enclosure, remove the VF6-CMP, take some 2x4's and shrink the existing framing opening a bit, install the DXV-35 and venting, then refinish the front. The DXV-35 can vent straight back, up-and-out the rear or side wall, or straight up, so you've got every possible venting option going for you.
#57: Thanks to all who have written to share their vent-free experiences
Date: Monday, November 21, 2005
Thank you so much for the online information site. I have a direct venting system that goes out to my back porch. I am having a sunroom built on this back porch and wanted the vent put inside running out through the roof so that no one would get burned by the hot metal. The construction company added this to our contract not knowing how much it would cost them to hire an outside contractor to do this work. Well, they had it assessed and asked me if I wanted to go ventless. I was totally naive about what ventless consisted of so I researched it and came upon your site. Thank you everyone for all your input. I immediately called the construction company and told them that I did not want a ventless fireplace and proceeded to tell them of your website of all the hazards involved in having one.
Your website has probably saved many lives from the potential dangers of ventless fireplaces.
#58: Replacing vent-free due to smell, dizziness issues
Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Q: Can a vent free fireplace be converted to a rear vented unit? My unit is inserted in a small bump out on the exterior wall of the house. All of my neighbors love their fireplaces. They have rear vented units and don’t have the smell or dizziness issues we experience. Temco said no; we should buy another model from them.
Only some vent-frees are cross listed for external venting. If your manufacturer says you need to replace the model you have in order to vent to the outside, thats what you need to do. By the way, if you're going to replace your vent-free, don't choose a cross-listed "ventable" vent-free to replace it unless you don't use the fireplace for heat: once you vent a vent-free, you lose virtually all the heat. A direct vent model, which is designed to maximize heat output into the room while venting the exhaust outside, would be a better choice.
#58: Adding "Glowing Embers" to a vent-free fireplace
Date: Friday, December 9, 2005
Q: Do you sell add-on glowing embers for a ventless gas fireplace?
Trust me, if your vent-free fireplace didn't come with glowing embers, you don't want to add them. What makes glowing embers glow is contact with the flames, so the embers must be placed in close proximity to the burner openings. If the embers are too close to the burner openings, however, a phenomenon known as flame impingement occurs, and flame impingement causes sooting. In a vented system, sooting is only a small problem: if soot deposits are noted on the fireplace walls, logs, front glass or exhaust flue, it is easy to fire down and adjust the embers so there's no impingement. In a vent-free fireplace, flame impingement will cause soot to deposit all over your floors, walls and furniture.
The vent-free fireplaces we've seen that incorporate glowing embers are specially designed with racks or trays that hold the ember chunks away from the burners. If yours is one of these, and you're looking for replacement embers, consult with the manufacturer to obtain the right type of embers and detailed installation instructions.
#59: No vent-free under this tree
Date: Saturday, December 17, 2005
I was all ready to buy vent free gas logs for my daughter's family for Christmas but wanted to check them out on the internet. After finding your site and reading the letters from owners of these vent free gas logs I think it's best to find out how we can make her vented fireplace less drafty or just close it up. She has a newer home in Delaware and other people in her development are just closing them up. I'm not sure about the codes in Del but none of their vented gas fireplaces have dampers so when they are off the wind comes howling through. I don't want to put my grandchildren in harm's way so until I find more positive independent findings on these vent free logs they are off Santa's list.
It might be a little late for Christmas, but here's a gift idea: find the name of the fireplace manufacturer (it is usually on a metal label just inside the fireplace opening at the top of the right sidewall), and contact them to see if they offer glass doors.
#60: Dissatisfied with vent free
Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2005
As with all your other posters, we have a ventless system and hate it. We have been dissatisfied since we installed it in 1999 during a new construction. Do you know if there is any record of insurance companies paying for replacement due to the fumes, health and/or soot concerns?
We are looking to replace ours with a vented system. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated
Sorry, we don't know of any insurance company payouts due to vent-free health or property damage. Maybe we can help with choosing a vented replacement, though. You can read about our favorite gas direct vent fireplaces on our fireplace main page.
#61: Not told about health cautions
Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2006
You are rendering a terrific service by providing the bulletin board on vent-free gas fireplaces. My wife and I are about to install propane heat in our home. Neither the potential contractor, nor all but a few of the potential dealers, provided any note of health caution regarding vent-free heaters or fireplaces. While one dealer advised us that the exhaust can cause condensation, deposits on window and possibly mold, the CO danger and possible long-term health effects were played down or not mentioned, maybe because the sales staff worried that generating such health concerns might discourage us from buying the vent-free units from them, or even from going with propane as a heating source. They were wrong, because we are going to move ahead and install propane heat, but with vented fireplace and heaters.
We plan to use the printout from your website to further educate our architect and installing contractor. Most important, this valuable information educated us in time.
#62: Can't get windows clean
Date: Friday, January 13, 2006
Q: Our vent free fireplace leaves a film on the windows that is very hard to clean. Cleaned 3 times and film still there. Any suggestions on what will remove this film?
Whenever you burn your vent-free fireplace, water vapor and nitrogen dioxide enter the room's airspace. The water condenses on the inside surfaces of windows, where it mixes with the nitrogen dioxide to form nitric acid, which leeches ions from within the glass surface. Once this leeching action has occurred, it is important to remove the acid leechate mixture from the glass, or permanent fogging can result.
To remove the nitric acid leechate mixture from your windows, use a good scrub brush and a mixture of ammonia and trisodium phosphate, then rinse with clear water. This must be done on a regular basis whenever the vent-free is in use, to prevent etching. If the surface of the windows has become fogged, try polishing it with gas stove glass cleaner, available at hearth product shops, home improvement centers and hardware stores. Gas stove glass cleaner is a mild abrasive paste that looks and works like metal polish: you apply it to a rag, polish the glass surface until the fogging is removed, then rinse with clear water.
#63: Do vent-free "heaters" pose the same risks as log systems?
Date: Monday, January 23, 2006
We are remodeling the attic of a house into two bedrooms and are researching residential vent free heaters, not fireplace log systems. Do they pose the same risks as are detailed on your website?
It doesn't matter if a vent-free gas burner is a stove, a set of gas logs, or a fireplace. If it is vent-free, it is venting its poisonous exhaust into your breathing space. For this reason, vent-frees are a particularly bad choice for bedroom installations. The reasoning is, you might go to sleep one night and not wake up.
#64: Thanks for honest help on vent-free, I was sick for 3 years!
Date: Friday, February 17, 2006
Thanks for the info on vent free health issues! I used [a vent-free] for the last three years. I have been sick, all of the exact health issues as posted by others on your Great site. After reading a couple of comments, I turned the [vent free] off !!!!! Bless You ALL!
#65: Wasn't told about any usage limits
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2006
Hi. Great website. I saw on one of your responses that ventless units should only be run 2-3 hours a day. I was not told this when mine was purchased or installed. Does this apply to all units? (mine is LP). My current CO detector only reads at 30ppm+. If I get one that is more sensitive and the levels stay below 10ppm, can I run it longer than 2-3 hours per day? This unit is the only heat source in one room.
Thanks for any info!
The final authority about usage limits for your vent-free will be the manufacturer. Try going to their website and downloading the owner's manual for your particular model. In the fine print, you'll most likely find wording like:
"This appliance is intended to be used only for supplemental heat.
DO NOT USE IT ROUTINELY AS A PRIMARY HEAT SOURCE"
(copied from a Temco vent-free fireplace manual).
#66: Author of letter #65 again: Manufacturer speaks with forked tongue?
Date: Friday, February 24, 2006
I didn't have my manual so I called the company and they claim it can be run 24 hours a day. Its a Desa Comfort Glow blue flame heater (CBP30T). I have a CO detector but it only starts reading at 30ppm. I don't have any moisture problems but do get a heavy film on the windows. Should I assume their advice (that I can run it constantly) is incorrect? Better said, is even possible that it is that safe?
Hello again Victoria,
You can view the owner's manual for your Comfort Glow online by clicking here. First, note pages 4-6, where it shows the required airflow into the room, and make sure your room ventilation complies (I'm betting it doesn't). Next, read the box at the top of page 7, where we find the predicted phrase, almost verbatim:
This heater is not for use as a primary heater, only for supplemental heat.
|#67: Four pictures worth 1,000 words
Date: Monday, May 8, 2006
I was so pleased to find your site and have no idea why it didn't turn up when I searched before a couple of years ago. I'm in the process of trying to find out why my health made a rapid decline since I've been in the current house. The problems are headaches (which I have rarely ever had in the first 56 years of my life), bad lung problems, and memory loss problems.
It's a rental house and the landlord thinks vent-free is the only way to go. My suggestion that there could be a health risk met with an angry glare and avid support for vent-free safety. We don't have the option to move at this time since there are no rentals available within our price range, but we hope to find something before the next heating season.
I'm in the house 23 hours per day, most days during winter. The vent-free fireplace is the only heat source and runs continuously unless I turn it off. After turning it off, the living room quickly cools to 55º, a temperature that I can't tolerate at my age. On the days when the outside temperature is 20º or less, the fireplace doesn't even heat the living room.
The house isn't air tight, nor does it have any insulation, so we do have a fresh air source. Even so, just step in my living room and smell the fumes ... actually, walk up on the front porch and smell the fumes.
I have some sooting and a lot of gummy, shiny, brown residue almost everywhere, but worst on the wall behind the fireplace and on all the ceilings. There is also mold in various places, including all window sills. The windows are likely already ruined with fogging, which I didn't know about until reading your page today.
I'm washing walls today, preparing to paint and found your site while taking a break from the work. Here are some pictures, I thought you might like to see ... taken with my little web cam, so they aren't the best. You can see where I've cleaned: it doesn't take a lot of thought to realize what the inside of my lungs must look like.
Please note, the picture on the wall is brand new, just put up last week. The walls used to be just that white!!! Check out the first picture and notice how clean and white the lower wall looks, especially the baseboard ... and realize I have not yet cleaned the lower parts of the wall.
Thanks for a great site and wonderful info.
Fireplace, rather pretty
Wall above fireplace,
after 1st cleaning
Wall above fireplace,
after 2nd cleaning
Corner Left of Fireplace,
not cleaned yet
#68: Soot-covered dreams: will the culprit step up to the plate?
Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2006
I have a home that is less than 1 year old. My husband and I installed ventless gas logs that were manufactured by DESA. We have soot all over our ceilings, walls, carpet, furniture, clothes....well you get the point. We called our gas company to come and check out the problem, and they told us that the wrong orifice was in the unit: it was for a natural gas unit and we have propane. The gas company sent the part to DESA . DESA came to our home and took photos, then took our unit to "test" in their lab. ( how convenient). We were told that they could not duplicate the problem, and that the orifice was not wrong. We have asked for our unit back with the original orifice, and a copy of their test report. We do not have it yet. We have been living with soot, soot everywhere: I just hope that the culprit of this problem steps up to the plate and takes care of the problem. Yes, I am probably dreaming, but remember-my dreams are covered with soot!!!
Your gas company's technician was most likely mistaken about the orifice foulup. Propane is delivered under considerably greater pressure than natural gas, so propane burner orifices are quite a bit smaller than natural gas orifices. If you truly had a NG orifice in your propane fireplace, you'd have had flames shooting up about a foot tall!
Vent-free product manufacturers generally attribute sooting to improper log placement, improper air/fuel mixture, dirty orifices or burners, or airborne matter that hits the flames, like candle fumes, hairspray, etc. You don't mention which brand and model DESA fireplace you have, but here's an exerpt from the "Customer Awareness Sheet" for DESA's Vanguard VMH26 PR propane fireplace:
While heater is "ON", the following can produce soot:
* Burning candles or oil lamps of any kind
* Burning incense
* Cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke
* Incorrectly placed logs causing flames to contact logs
* Objects placed in or near the flames of your heater
* Burner air inlet or pilot burner dirty with dust, dirt, lint or pet hair
* Running ceiling fans or other drafty conditions. This can disturb the normal flame patterns in your heater
In the fine print on page 8 of the owner's manual, cleaning fluids and kerosene lamps are added to this list.
According to these documents, DESA says they're not responsible for soot damage if you burn candles, oil or kerosene lamps, tobacco or incense, if you have fans or drafts that cause air movement around the fireplace, if your logs get bumped out of position, or if there is ever any dust, dirt, lint, pet hair or cleaning product fumes present in your home that might be drawn into the burner inlet or pilot burner.
In other words, if yours is a normal household, DESA says your vent-free fireplace can cause sooting. And if DESA's owner's manual and customer awareness sheet can stand up to legal scrutiny, they're off the hook for any damage caused. This disclaimer, common in the vent-free industry, is unconscionable, and should be tested in court. C'mon now, what reasonable juror would allow the manufacturer's insistence that the home be free of CLEANING FLUIDS?
In our opinion, another "culprit" to go after might be your dealer. It sounds like he or she didn't inform you about all the things that can cause sooting with vent-frees prior to the sale, to enable you to make an informed decision about installing a vent-free in the first place.
#69: "Quit knocking vent-frees, you MONEY-GRUBBING CROOKS!"
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Let me tell you one thing.....and one thing only.....YOU DON'T WANT TO SELL VENT FREE LOGS simply because they don't COST as much and you make more BANG on your buck installing and selling Vented Fireplaces!
What a joke about ALL THE MOISTURE....and opened windows! IF....IF.....and that's a big IF....about opened windows! I've owned a free standing vent free fireplace....the logs burn beautifully....helped MY HEATING BILL TREMENDOUSLY....and I've NEVER....NEVER....had a problem with moisture nor have I had a problem with dangerous gases! I have sensors in my house and NOT ONCE...not once have they gone off. YES...I plan on keeping the sensors in my house and I have three for safety (even if I didn't have a vent free fireplace)
But I suppose, you'll SCARE OFF more idiot type people so they have to go to installers/sellers of vented systems....WHICH IS BIG BUCKS! Face it, you know and I know....I can put in a free standing fireplace....but more than likely....when YOU SELL YOUR VENTED FIREPLACES....YOU INSTALL THEM TOO! What a joke!
By the way....don't say alot of states in United States don't allow for Vent Free ...... why don't you tell them the FACTS! There are only THREE STATES....California/Minnesota/and Wisconsin that don't allow these vent free logs! But, don't fail to mention...California probably don't need the heat....Minnesota/Wisconsin is lagging in legistration on passing bills....so they too will join the rest of the STATES in allowing for a product that companies are fully satisfied to put on the market because THEY TOO....wouldn't want lawsuits that would cost them big dallors!
Why don't you tell the people how many....people die from there cookstoves/conventional stoves.....compared to these vent free gas logs! You can't....because if it was/is so dangerous....the GOVERNMENT would be bigtime against them!
Your article makes me laugh....trying to scare people...so YOUR BUSINESS can survive!
Another thing for your thoughts! Ask a plumber if he likes installing plastic plumbing and he'll tell you COPPER is the way to go!! Why? More man hours.....costly materials.....and MORE MONEY FOR HIM!
Keep selling the dumb people that get scared off about Vent Free Logs.....they'll easily be sold your product along with dipping into there pockets for SEVERAL THOUSANDS OF DALLORS.....you can take from them! Bet with all the money you make...you can leave your windows open....while these sheep come knocking down your door to have you install vented systems that PUSH ALL THE HEAT OUTDOORS!
P.S. You didn't sell me on your Vented Logs.....I've been saving lots of money with my Vent Free Logs.......so, you won't get my money
Open a window.
Take a couple deep breaths of fresh air.
We understand you're defensive about your vent-free gas logs, but man, you seem WAY too angry about it. And more than just a little misinformed. For the record, here are a few of the facts you've got wrong:
1) This is an internet website. Our customers are all over the world. We don't install the products we sell here, and, except for a few products that offer proprietary venting kits, we don't even offer venting for sale. In other words, we don't profit from the fact that the gas products sold here at The Chimney Sweep Online are vented.
2) We didn't build our business based upon our stand against vent-frees: our business has "survived" far longer than vent-frees have been available. Truth be told, we'd probably make a lot more money if we did sell vent-frees. We just don't think we'd sleep as well.
3) There are plenty of others with concerns about vent-frees who aren't trying to "get your money." If you read the letters on this page and follow the links at the bottom, you'll find a sizable list, including:
Indoor Air Quality Scientists
Consumer Reports Magazine
The American Lung Association
The Center for Disease Control
The Environmental Protection Agency
The Mayo Clinic
The 67 vent-free owners who wrote the complaint letters above
4) Nowhere on this website do we say that "alot" of states have outlawed vent-frees: we mention the same three states you do (as well as all nine Canadian Provinces). Anyway, we don't even try to make the argument that vent-frees are a bad idea because they're illegal in some places. Cigarette smoking is legal in all 50 states. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.
5) The reason vent-frees aren't allowed in California is not that Californians "don't need the heat."
6) Vented gas systems don't "push all the heat outdoors." Millions of families heat their houses with them.
7) We don't know where you got the impression that we're in favor of unvented cookstoves. We're not. In fact, all the gas ranges we sell have built-in exhaust hoods. And since you dragged the government into your argument, you should know that several states have already passed legislation requiring outside-venting exhaust hoods for all new gas range installations. We expect that trend to go national, and we're behind it 100%.
8) Copper plumbing IS better than PVC plumbing for most applications, and costs less in the long run.
9) "Dallors" is spelled Dollars.
#70: Suffering from the "Fireplace Flu"
Date: Friday, June 1, 2006
What a wonderful site. I've been wondering if we're the only family having this problem with their ventless fireplace.
We purchased a "propane log" ventless fireplace from Lowes about 3 years ago. We loved the money we saved in fuel bills with our ventless fireplace but my husband especially had developed flu symptoms during the winter while we used the fireplace. I too had been bothered by all the soot that was being dispersed around the house but blew it off, thinking maybe I was becoming allergic to our cats. It took way too long for me to realize that I always felt good while I was at work but as soon as I got home the symptoms started. Headache, burning eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose, basically all the symptoms that would lead one to believe they had the flu.
I told my husband it wasn't natural to feel this bad all the time, and couldn't figure out why were we having all the flu symptoms, especially after we had flu shots. We had had no problems with colds and the flu since we started getting flu shots, until after we installed the ventless fireplace: now we were experiencing these symptoms all the time. My husband especially was going to the doctor quite frequently for relief from his symptoms. Now that it's warm and we aren't using the fireplace we're much healthier.
Wall above fireplace with pictures removed
Obviously, this isn't a SOOT detector
A year and a half ago I repainted our walls, thinking they were just dull from kids and not being painted for awhile. I'm sending pictures to show what damage was done by all the soot put off by our ventless fireplace so that others can see the damage done. You really don't realize it until its too late. My husband tried to talk to someone at Lowe's where we purchased the propane log and fireplace insert, but the person on the other end of the line only got frustrated (as did my husband) and the call was ended.
It's time for my yearly checkup and I'm going to mention our health problems to my doctor to see what he thinks, especially since I have developed chest pain and shortness of breath. I've never smoked, so problems with my lungs would be something I thought I would never have to worry about. I pray there's no damage done that can't be fixed by breathing clean fresh air!!
I hope many people read your site before they make the decision to go with a vent-free fireplace.
Thanks for listening,
#71: Author of letter #67 revisits
Date: Saturday, June 2, 2006
I had to laugh a bit at Dominico's irate and irresponsible comments about you and the site (see Letter #69 above). Obviously, he wasn't really reading the letters from all of us!
If he had left an email address, I'd have invited him to go with me to the doctor to learn about the medication I'm on now to handle my lung problems and to accompany me to the lung specialist's office on the 23rd of this month.
I can only wish him the best and that he doesn't end up with bad lung problems from his own unvented heater.
#72: Another guest appearance from our old friends Headache, Nausea and Sooting
Date: Monday, June 19, 2006
My husband and I have a new-construction home (3 years old) and did not realize that the builder was installing a vent-free gas fireplace. We have some minor sooting issues (probably also related to candles) and I have felt nauseated and had headaches at times when the fireplace was on.
We would like to replace the fireplace with a vented model. We like using the fireplace because the vaulted ceilings, combined with a large number of windows, cause the room to be cooler than is comfortable for us. The area for the fireplace is at the corner of the home (vaulted ceiling extending to roof) and above the fireplace is an opening to hold our television. It would seem our only option is to have a side vent versus a chimney style vent. Is that correct? Also how labor intensive/expensive is something like this to do? Is there any benefit to getting a "sealed" gas fireplace - the kind with the glass in the front versus the "standard" vented model? We do have pictures of the fireplace area before the drywall was installed - is there anything I should look for?
Because of your television, a direct vent installation out the sidewall will likely be your only option (this leaves the area above the fireplace clear). Direct vent fireplaces are the ones with sealed fronts, and are the most efficient type of vented fireplace. All of our gas fireplaces are direct vent: if you need to vent straight out without any vertical rise, check out the Mendota DXV-35. You'll need the rear/corner vent kit, shown in the options section, to complete the installation. To check for fit, click the INSTALLATION SPECS button in the Specifications box about 1/3 of the way down the page.
#73: Air filter completely permeated with soot
Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Just like so many above, I have an awful story to share about my first (and last) experience with an unvented fireplace. I bought a new home in August of 2005. It featured a vent-free propane fireplace in the living room. The builder told me the unvented fireplace was an ideal way to supplement my heat-pump during the coldest months of winter.
It seemed like a wonderful idea at first, but after just one winter, the walls and ceilings of my entire home are stained with soot. The studs, spackled joints, and the drywall nails are highlighted with gray stains. White kitchen appliances had to be scrubbed, and even the carpets are stained in the corners and around the edges of the walls.
The reality of the situation really struck me when I changed the filter on my CPAP machine (constant positive air-pressure machine: a medical device used to assist my breathing and prevent sleep apnea at night). The normally bright white filter typically collects a thin coating of gray dust over the course of a few months. But this time, it was absolutely black: completely permeated with soot…and it was located in my bedroom at the furthest opposite end of my house from where the fireplace is.
I’m just sick about the whole thing, but a little comforted to learn that “I’m not the only one” to deal with this. With the help of what I’ve read on your site, I’ll be looking into insurance, and maybe even legal remedies. And I’ll definitely be replacing my unvented fireplace with a cleaner, healthier heat source before winter of 2006.
#74: To vent, or not to vent?
Date: Tuesday, August 8, 2006
I am so fortunate to have found your site before I listened to the plumber and purchased vent free logs. I had called him in to give me an estimate for a vented unit!
It is criminal that peoples' health is being destroyed because our laws do not protect them from the capitalistic pursuits of the corporate class!
Thank you for the life-saving heads-up!
#75: Greasy film on windows (and in lungs?)
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2006
Thank God & greyhound for your web site! Every dealer I have been to says go with ventless...the only other thing I had heard in the negative; my Dad ended up with a greasy film on all 32 of the windows in his solarium. And it doesn't come off easily. Often wondered what ended up in his lungs.
Here's my problem. I would like a propane fireplace on an interior wall. I'd rather not vent upward, that would mean building a false wall for the pipe work. (There's a bathroom on the other side of that living room wall.) My house however, is built on 4' pilings and is completely open underneath with the exception of the underpinning that conceals the pipes and electrical goodies. Is it possible to "down-vent"? I never hear it refered to. If so, I'm assuming some kind of electrical device is needed to draw the air in and the bad stuff down and out.
Only one dealer I spoke with ever heard of a fireplace made this way and he didn't know a lot about it. Said it would be as much to buy the fireplace as it would be to build that false wall and install a regular one. Cost is a factor, but safety and ease of installation would win out.
Once again, thanks so much for your knowledge and availabilty. Even the "usepropane" site didn't have much to offer.
Thanks for the inquiry, and for the kind words about our website! Unfortunately, we don't know of any gas fireplaces that can vent downward. It shouldn't be a big expense to "chase in" the vertical vent pipe, though. This wouldn't necessarily require a false wall, or even a chase as wide as the fireplace: just an enclosure large enough to hide the pipe while providing the required 1" clearance all around. Many traditional masonry fireplaces have been installed this way, with the chimney "bumped out" into the room, so it would lend a look of authenticity to your installation. Your venting enclosure could be framed with standard 2x4's, then sheetrocked and painted to match the walls in the room, or finished with brick, brickette, stone or tile to match the fireplace facia.
#76: Another Hearth Product retailer drops vent-frees
Date: Monday, September 25, 2006
It is great to come to your site and read all of the customer feedback!!! I have worked for a retailer in the hearth product industry in Maryland for about five years now. Before working here I had no idea how much was involved in fireplaces, between getting the right look to getting the right amount of heat there are just so many options.
My boss decided to discontinue selling vent free appliances about two years ago. My thoughts were mixed. I had read many things about the adverse affects of vent free, but it wasn’t until I read the negative testimonies of so many consumers that I became thoroughly convinced that vent-frees are not products I would want to sell.
Thank you for your web site and thank you to the consumers for their statements as well.
Sales at FiresideStone
#77: Has "gotten sick" from vent-free gas logs: do they have to remain vent-free?
Date: Sunday, October 1, 2006
Q: I have a vent free gas log set installed in an existing wood burning fireplace with a chimney. Will opening the flue all the way eliminate the health risks associated with vent free products? I have gotten sick and will not run it again unless there is a safe way. I am not worried about heat loss either.
Some vent-free gas log sets are in a metal enclosure that blocks the flow up the fireplace chimney. If yours is one of those, opening the damper won't do you much good. If your gas logs are open at the top, however, and there's a clear path through the fireplace damper, it would be a great idea to open that damper every time you burn the logs.
#78: Brown walls from occasional vent-free use: a call for a class action lawsuit
Date: Thursday, October 5, 2006
In the end of 2000 I purchased a vent free gas logset mainly for power outages. We have bad ice storms and power outages lasting sometimes 5 to 7 days. We had an outage for 5 days, and we used the gas logs 24 hours per day, as they were our only back-up heat source. All the ceilings in the rooms that were opened are destroyed. When I wipe the walls the towel is brown. I am positive the gas logs did it, because the closer you get to them the damage is worse. Right over the mantle that the logs are in the ceiling is almost brown. This home was completely remodeled in 2000 and now over half of it has to be redone.
Has anyone on this site gotten any satisfaction from the manufacturers of these products? When I called them, they asked me what did I want them to do and in the same breath told me there was nothing they could do about it. So the gas logs are now boxed up. The cost was over $1000.00 for a product that was destroying my home. Not to mention the repair bills I will have. Seems like someone would have started some class action lawsuits.
To read about how much CO2 a vent-free fireplace exhausts into the breathing space, click here.
To read about a recent study of the effects of long-term exposure to CO gases, click here.
To read about respiratory irritation from vent-free exhaust in the breathing space, click here.
To read a posting about vent-free gas appliances from an indoor air quality scientist, click here.
To read exerpts from a recent Consumer Reports article about vent-free fireplaces, click here.
To read a letter from a vent-free dealer in defense of his products, click here.
To read our opinion about vent-free gas appliances, click here.
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