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Letters From Vent-Free Gas Fireplace Owners
Page 3 - Letters 51-75

Page 1 (Letters 1-25)     Page 2 (Letters 26 - 50)    Page 3 (Letters 51 - 75)    Page 4 (Letters 76 - 100)    Page 5 (Letters 101+)

Sweepy If you're considering a vent-free (aka ventless, unvented or room vented) gas stove or fireplace, you should first read these letters, excerpts and E-mail postings written by unhappy vent-free owners. We've corrected spelling and grammar where necessary, and edited out some of the harsher language from the original text.


#51: Sweepy Hi Dennis,

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

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.
Thanks again!
Don Hinckle


#53: Furnace Tech finds vent-frees, not oil furnace, causing sooting

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.
Fred Jordan
Oil Burner Technician


#54: Has had no problems with vent-free, but cautions against nuclear radical production

Hey there,

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

Sweepy Hi Michael,

We publish nearly every letter about vent-frees we get, and for whatever reason, yours is among only a handful we've received defending vent-free products (see #27 above to read the first one, and click the link at the bottom of this page labeled Read letters in defense of vent-free products for the rest).

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, can be much more efficient heaters 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 approaching and even exceeding 80%, 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

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

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?
Barry Cushman

Sweepy Hi Barry,

Thanks for the inquiry! Bad news: According to the manufacturer's website, your Superior can't be vented to the outside. Good news: we know of several direct vent models that would fit inside the framing for your VF6-CMP. Choose one that 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 direct vent fireplace and venting, then refinish the front. There are direct vent fireplaces that 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

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

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.
Any thoughts?

Sweepy Hi Tim,

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

Q: Do you sell add-on glowing embers for a ventless gas fireplace?
Thank you,
David Felder

Sweepy Hi David,

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

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.
Bill Robins

Sweepy Hi Bill,

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

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
Rhonda Trautman
Glasgow, Ky

Sweepy Hi Rhonda,

Sorry, we don't know of any insurance company payouts due to vent-free health or property damage, or even where we might go to look that sort of thing up. 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

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 gas 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.

Thank you,
Shimon Schwarzschild


#62: Can't get windows clean

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?
Thank you,
Tanna Carrico

Sweepy Hi Tanna,
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?

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?
Thank you,
Dave Nelson

Sweepy Hi Dave,
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!

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!
Peace ,
Paul Aron


#65: Wasn't told about any usage limits

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!
Victoria Vosburgh

Sweepy Hi Victoria,

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.
(copied from a Temco vent-free fireplace manual).


#66: Author of letter #65 again: Manufacturer speaks with forked tongue?

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?

Sweepy 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

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.

B. Nowak
[email protected]

Nowack photo 1
Fireplace, rather pretty

Nowak Photo 2
Wall above fireplace,
after 1st cleaning

Nowak Photo 3
Wall above fireplace,
after 2nd cleaning

Nowak Photo 3
Corner Left of Fireplace,
not cleaned yet


#68: Soot-covered dreams: will the culprit step up to the plate?

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!!!

Sweepy 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!"

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 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 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 can take from them! Bet with all the money 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, you won't get my money

Sweepy Hi Dominico,

Calm down.

Open a window.

Take a couple deep breaths of fresh air.

Feel better?

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 vent-free owners who sent us five pages of complaint letters

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 Massachusetts and Montana.

And New York City.

And some counties in Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Kansas, Wyoming, Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, Minnesota, Texas and New Hampshire.

And the entire countries of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Anyway, we don't even try to make the argument that vent-frees are a bad idea just 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) California didn't ban vent-frees because Californians "don't need the heat."

6) Vented gas heating 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"

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.

Tina Photo 1
Wall above fireplace with pictures removed
Tina Photo 2
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

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.

B. Nowak
[email protected]


#72: Another guest appearance from our old friends Headache, Nausea and Sooting

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?

Noel E.
Bartlett, TN

Sweepy Because of your television, a direct vent installation out the sidewall or a vertical vent installation with the pipe extending to the roof behind the televeision opening will be two options. 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.


#73: Air filter completely permeated with soot

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.

Lee Davis
Leicester, NC


#74: To vent, or not to vent?

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!

Lisa Charmont
Metuchen, NJ


#75: Greasy film on windows (and in lungs?)

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.

M'Liss Miller

SweepyThanks 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.


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Read about how much CO2 a vent-free fireplace exhausts into the breathing space

Read about a recent study of the effects of long-term exposure to CO gases

Read about respiratory irritation from vent-free exhaust in the breathing space

Read a posting about vent-free gas appliances from an indoor air quality scientist

Read what Consumer Reports Magazine has to say about vent-free products

Read letters in defense of vent-free products

Read our opinion about vent-free gas appliances

Read about a 2016 ASHRAE standard that could eliminate the entire vent-free product category in the US

Have a vent-free experience you'd like to report?  Here's a link to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.


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