Fireplaces are wonderful amenities to have or add to your home. And most often fireplaces have chimneys of some sort to filter the smoke and ashes from your home as the wood burns. But what if you don’t want to cut a hole in your roof or anything like that – would it still be okay to install a fireplace without a chimney?
It is not possible to have a fireplace without some sort of ventilation system. While this doesn’t have to be a chimney specifically, and while you don’t have to put in anything at the time you install your fireplace, you will eventually need to install something to allow the smoke to vent.
The gas and smoke still need a place to exit your home. Below is a guide on different options for installing a ventilation system, prices for many types of fireplaces, as well as different types of fireplaces you can put into your home.
Requirements For A Chimney
Before you begin planning to install a fireplace or ventilation system of some kind, it’s important to check the rules and regulations in your area. That way you can check to see if it’s even legal to have a fireplace in your home and if it needs a chimney or not as well. Contact your city office or a building inspector to give you the information you will need.
Make sure you are installing your fireplace at a good spot in your house: somewhere that you can easily have a ventilation system to let the smoke and fumes out. Somewhere along the edge of a house is always a preferable option as that will make it easier to find a way to get the smoke outside.
But if it’s in a more inward part of a house against a wall or something, using some sort of chimney or pipe will be needed so the fumes have a place to exit.
Installing a ventilation system for your fireplace doesn’t mean it has to be a huge chimney where you cut a gaping hole in your ceiling and build a brick or stone structure that extends three to seven feet up past your roof – although you can do that if you want to!
You will most likely have to cut a hole of some sort in your wall or ceiling to allow the smoke and gases to get through to the outdoors. But there are many alternative options to the typical brick or stone type chimney.
Alternative Options To A Chimney
Flue: A flue is basically some sort of opening, whether in a chimney or as a duct or pipe, for taking gases outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a chimney, just an opening that provides a passage for helping the smoke and gases to escape.
Vent: This is most commonly used for fireplaces that are against a wall at the edge of a house, allowing the smoke to easily exit outside straight from the back. In a house I used to live in, we had a gas fireplace and this was the ventilation system used to keep gases and smoke from entering the house.
Pipe: While this can be a type of flue, using a pipe as a ventilation system for fireplaces is actually more commonly used for wood-burning stoves.
Wood burning stoves are a wonderful alternative if you don’t want to take on the project of installing a big fireplace, as stoves are generally smaller. They still generate a great deal of heat and look rather aesthetically pleasing as well. These stoves do need some sort of pipe to vent correctly.
Since wood-burning stoves produce a lot of heat and smoke, another ideal way to filter these out would be to open windows and doors to give the air in the room proper circulation. There is more than one type of wood stove, and additional information is needed about the requirements for each when it comes to being installed in a home.
Types Of Fireplaces That are Chimney And Vent Free
Electric Fireplaces: These are becoming quite a bit more popular as people are looking for something easy to take care of and aesthetic in their homes, but still want the heat and function of a genuine fireplace. This type of fireplace isn’t actually real fire, but rather uses LED lights and an electric heater to imitate real fire.
Electric fireplaces are easy to install and not much of an issue to maintain; they are also a safe option for pets and children as the glass doesn’t heat up. The electric heater is the only thing that will get warm.
Ethanol Fireplaces: This fireplace does have real flames but is vent-free. This is done by burning clean alcohol-based fuel. The fuel is in liquid form and has to be purchased separately from the fireplace. To use this fireplace, all you have to do is pour the fuel into the burner and light it up carefully with a lighter.
It’s important to use extreme caution when lighting this type of fireplace, so use a long lighter, not a hand lighter, if possible to avoid having your hand too close to the sudden flame. Ethanol fireplaces do have real flame but they don’t have any smoke emissions for you to worry about.
Water Vapor Fireplaces: These fireplaces don’t use real fire. Rather, by using a fine water mist, a fake flame is created by the reflected light. All it needs to run is water (can be tap water if desired) and electricity. These fireplaces are also very efficient.
Ventless Fireplaces: These are probably the most popular vent-free fireplace option for residential homes. More information about them can be found just below.
This type of fireplace warranted a little more depth in explanation.
Some things to be aware of before you install this fireplace, you will probably need to consult and communicate with your city just to be sure you don’t need any extra permits or anything to put in your home. You will also probably need to get it tested to make sure it works after it’s installed.
A ventless fireplace is most commonly a type of electric or gas fireplace that doesn’t require any sort of chimney or flue for the smoke and gases. It runs on either natural gas or propane in liquid form. It’s important to have a source of fresh air available when using this fireplace, such as a door or window, to help bring more oxygen into the room after the fireplace uses some of it to produce heat.
These types of fireplaces are designed to use indoor air for combustion and also release a low level of carbon monoxide when being used, so keep that in mind when considering this option for a fireplace.
One of the perks of ventless fireplaces is that they are easier to install and easier to take care of. They also burn less gas to lower the number of emissions. Also, there is no need to add more fuel!
Hopefully, you know what carbon monoxide is, but if you don’t, it is a gas produced by burning any type of fuel (anything from wood to gasoline). It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. When too much of it is inhaled by the human body, it can prove deadly.
Up to 10 parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide, which is the standard amount in a home with a stove or fireplace, is completely normal. However, long exposure to 30 ppm or above is when carbon monoxide begins to become dangerous for any human or animal.
Many fireplaces now include carbon monoxide detectors as a precaution. These detectors can allow an automatic shut-off of the fireplace if the oxygen levels are too low or if it detects an unhealthy level of carbon monoxide. These detectors might not always be reliable though, so it would be a wise decision to have them checked every so often, or install a few of your own by the fireplace if your home does not already include them.
Carbon monoxide isn’t the only thing that can enter your home because of a fireplace. Moisture can build up in your home as well from the heat of the fire. So be sure the fireplace you choose, and its venting system, won’t cause that problem. Or else if left unattended, that moisture can accumulate and cause mold to begin to appear.
To help with both of these problems, it is recommended not to keep a fireplace burning for more than 4 to 5 hours a day.
The cost of installing a fireplace can range anywhere from $100 to $5000. Factors such as the type of fireplace, the size of it, the materials used, and the specific details of your home will probably play a part in the price. It will also depend on if your fireplace includes a vent system or if that has to be purchased separately. Below are some estimates about the price to install certain types of fireplaces.
Wood – burning fireplace: $1900 – $3300
Gas fireplace: $2300 – $4000
Electric fireplace: $100 – $2200
Masonry fireplace: $3500 – $5600 Source
So even if you don’t want a chimney to go with your fireplace, there are many other options and components to consider and choose from to make sure your fireplace functions properly.