The smokeless and vent less fireplaces that are without a flue gas chute or the chimney are available in the US market since 1980. They are powered by alcohol, electricity, natural gas and gel and LPG. The smokeless fireplaces are economical to buy, easy to install and simple to operate. The only thing that one will miss using them is that they do not give the crackling sound of burning wood that you like so much in winter. So, they are only close to the real thing but not the real thing as such. Some even call them unsafe.
The smokeless fireplaces available today are designed and sold as per the strict federal standards of design and safety. These are made for safe operation at home. They do represent an economically viable, low cost option to the conventional wood burning fireplaces at home.
What does “smokeless” mean?
The smokeless actually mean that like the wood burning fireplaces these devices do not emit flue gases, so no chimney or chute is required to be installed. They actually use the air in the room, and the exhaust level is very low. There are some counter arguments about the possible negative effects of smokeless fireplaces as these devices use room air and release exhaust inside the room only. To counter these doubts, these devices are made to high standards of design and safety and are provided helpful attachments to monitor the air quality in the room where they are working.
The National Fire Protection Association’s 2002 standards are the basic guidelines to be followed while designing and manufacturing smokeless fireplaces. As these devices operate inside closed rooms, hence it is mandatory to provide carbon monoxide monitors and oxygen detection devices in such fireplaces. The design is such that, in case, the oxygen level in the room falls below 18% or the carbon monoxide level goes above 25 ppm the device is shut off by the sensor operated relay.
There are still doubts about the accuracy and reliability of these devices being compatible in detecting and controlling the oxygen and carbon monoxide levels and thus in some states like California these are totally banned.
With the above challenges, the smokeless fireplaces, especially the electric ones are getting popular by the day, especially in cities where there are severe space constraints and not possible to install the conventional wood burning fireplaces.
If you have plans to install a fireplace in your home, the following points need to be considered while buying the smokeless fireplace:
- Choose the right type of Fireplace
A smokeless fireplace does not have a flue gas chute, like the one required for conventional one, so that can easily be installed at any place in the house as there is no smoke to exhaust.
The gas fired units can be installed at any place where the propane line can be easily connected. To light the pilot fire, either there is an electrically operated system or an automatic ignition that does not need electricity to give initial spark. This feature comes to use, when there is no light.
The other varieties of smokeless fireplaces are fired by gel. These are even more versatile than the gas fired. They are self-contained and do not need a gas line to be installed. They also do not need a system to park the gas. All that is needed is to open the gel cans, light the fire in them and then put in the fireplace to burn. The units are portable and can be placed easily at any corner in the house.
The 3rd common type of smokeless fireplace is electrically operated. These basically contained electrically operated coil, that radiate heat which is then carried by the cold air blown over the coil. This hot air is then circulated in the room. These heaters are very convenient to install, cheap and operating cost is very low. They can also heat up a room very fast.
- The Installation and Maintenance part
The electric and gel fired fireplaces can be installed by the users, but it is still preferred to get the thing done by a professional. The gas fired varieties are a little more complicated, and need assistance from a proper plumbing contractor to do the gas pipeline work safely.
Though the gas and gel fired fireplaces do come with carbon monoxide monitors, but it is still better installing another secondary carbon monoxide monitor thereby having the additional tier of safety.
Get these monitors periodically checked for proper operation by a professional.
The gas fired fireplace come with factory finished enclosures or mantle. They normally cost anywhere between $2000 to $6000 complete with installation. Before installation, please check with the local authorities, if you need to have a building permit to install such fireplace at home.
The gel fired varieties cost around $300 to $700. They also do not need a professional installation and buyer can himself assemble and install such smokeless fireplace in their home. The gel cans come in 13 ounce canister. One last for 205 hours and costs about $3 a piece. Normally they are available in cases of 24 units.
The electric fired varieties are also factory finished and standalone devices with no need of professional installation. You have to take them out from the box, connect the cord to electricity supply and there you go. These units cost around $1000 and above depending on the size and design. Some designs have the lighting effect to look them close to the real fire, but still they a bit far from the real thing.
To chose a fireplace with the correct size, is very important to get the best user experience. Normally a big room shall need a fireplace with designed capacity of 25000 BTU or higher heat release capacity. The advisable units for smaller rooms can be the varieties ranging from 5000 BTU onwards.
See to it that the unit has a wall mounted thermostat to control the heat release so that neither the room gets too hot nor too cold.
In cities, where space is a constraint and the rules also do not allow installation of real wood fired fireplace, so to have the smokeless varieties make you experience almost the real thing, that too at a fraction of installation and user cost. You also get a wide variety and types, style ad models to choose from. When you buy one, you also contribute to cause of saving mother nature as these devices do not use wood, material that you get by cutting trees.