Vented fireplace are just that, vented. This means they are completely sealed, and the emissions from the fire go directly to the outside world.
With that said, the emissions from gas fireplaces are small amounts of Carbon Dioxide and Water Vapor - nothing too harmful. We recommend that you don’t concentrate on this factor too much unless you have respiratory issues, which can be aggravated by the trace emissions from a vent-free fireplace.
Vent-free fireplaces put out a lot more heat. Makes sense, right? Vented fireplaces lose a lot of heat since they are piped directly to an exterior wall or roof. The flames from vent-free fireplaces are open to the room, so you really feel that cozy warmth on chilly nights.
Vented fireplaces are generally around 70-85% efficient (heat that remains inside the home), while vent-free fireplaces are up to 99% efficient. Unless you want a fireplace that puts out a little less heat, vent-free wins this one.
- Ease of Installation
Ease of Installation is something we talk about frequently, because let’s face it, if you’re not remodelling your home, you probably don’t want to be cutting holes in the walls and piping your fireplace to an exterior wall or roof.
Vent-free fireplaces are much easier to install. If it’s a gas varietal, you will need to hook it up to a gas pipe (we recommend getting an experienced contractor to help you with this!). With that said, if you opt for an vent-free Bio-ethanol fireplace, the fuel is housed and refilled inside the fireplace itself, so there’s no need to hook up the gas or the venting. If it sounds like we love Ethanol fireplaces, that’s because we do. A lot.
- Price Tag
Our final point is about budgets - a vented fireplace will generally run around 50% more than an equivalent vent-free fireplace. This is mostly due to the cost of the venting required, and the installation of that venting which generally has to be carried out by a contractor or professional (unless you’re a DIY deity, in which case we’re jealous).
In a lot of cases, vent-free fireplaces have completely open flames without barriers. This can be dangerous for pets and children, especially if it’s a freestanding unit or it’s positioned close to the floor (less problematic if you’re looking at a wall-mounted unit that will be installed out of reach).
If this is something you’re worried about, opt for a vented fireplace, or a vent-free fireplace with some kind of glass barrier such as The Ignis "Maximum" or "Magnum". This second option will give you all the ambiance and warmth of an open fire, without the danger of open flames.
My conclusion: Vent-free fireplaces are great if you're looking for something with a lot of heat output or you're looking to keep installation costs down. Go with Vented fireplaces if your budget is a little higher and you want to be able to control the heat output and reduce emissions into your home.