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Direct vent gas fireplace
Jan 27, 2006

Question: We love the idea of a fireplace because it makes a room look so cozy. But, the thought of always having to cut wood and hauling it in is a lot of work. So, we were thinking of installing a gas fireplace. Do you have any information on gas fireplaces and what about the energy efficiency ?

Answer: The most efficient and cleanest burning of all fireplaces are natural gas fireplaces — not to imply that wood-burning fireplaces are not energy efficient — and there are a number of them to choose from.

When gas fireplaces first appeared on the market they looked artificial, with cumbersome “logs” that looked like chunks of concrete with a fire under them. As a result, they were not a first choice for a homeowner who liked the natural look and feel of a “real” wood-burning fireplace.

However, gas-burning fireplaces have come a long way since their first introduction to the marketplace. Now, it is difficult to tell the difference between a “real” wood fireplace and a natural gas fireplace. In fact, the convenience, efficiency and environmental friendliness of a gas fireplace is beyond compare.

Introduced 1987

 With the introduction of the first “direct vent” gas fireplace in 1987, the problem of trying to find a place in the home where a fireplace could be installed to accommodate a vertical chimney — without major renovations to the existing structure of the home — was eliminated. This gas fireplace vented combustion gases out the back of the unit, eliminating the need for a chimney, making installations easier and a lot less expensive.

Since the combustion chamber is sealed, no air from a room is used for combustion. Combustion air is drawn from outside. The outside air is passed through the combustion chamber and then vented outside through the wall. This adds to the efficiency of the fireplace, making this particular brand of fireplace up to 70-per-cent efficient. In comparison, old wood-burning, open-faced fireplaces use inside room air for combustion. 

Remember that you have paid to heat the room air entering a wood-burning fireplace which then goes up the chimney.

The sealed combustion chamber of the gas fireplace gives you the look of a real wood fireplace but does away with the inconvenience, mess and expense of a wood-burning fireplace.

Many types

There are more than a dozen and a half different types of direct- and top-vented gas fireplaces: the traditional large fireplace recessed into the wall or corner installation, as well as compact models that can be installed in small rooms like bathrooms and sitting rooms, or in condos and apartments.

Besides standard models and corner models there are two- and three-sided models. A three-sided model can be used as a room divider or even under a bar. 

Gas fireplaces are also available with a millivolt ignition system. That means the gas fireplace will still work during a power failure — a bonus because it can get dangerously cold in your home during the winter without heat. On the other hand, a gas or oil furnace will not function in the event of a power failure.  

An energy-efficient gas fireplace with millivolt ignition can produce over 40,000 BTUs to heat your home. In a large home, you may not be comfortable but it will keep you from freezing.

Gas fireplaces are available with options, such as up to six natural looking fire logs and glowing embers. Some have a remote control to turn the fireplace on and off and reduce or increase the intensity of the fire. 

Check with local gas fireplace dealers and home centres for additional information.