Bah Humbug to Ventless Fireplaces

Dec 29, 2010

While opening up Christmas cards from various friends and companies, I came across the pictured holiday card. I’m sure when most people saw the card, their hearts were filled with good holiday cheer. They were certainly touched to find out that a 7th grader submitted this idillic Christmas scene to a local art contest.

What does the Indoor Air Nerd think? Bah! Humbug! Did you notice that fire place doesn’t have chimney? That means all the combustion products will enter directly into the home. These include:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Moisture
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Particulate and soot
  • PAHs

Why aren’t there any people in the picture?  They’re all in bed, too sick to open the presents under the tree!

Unfortunately, this situation isn’t limited to children’s drawings.  Many homes have “ventless fireplaces” that aren’t much different than the picture.  Granted, they burn natural gas instead of logs, thus reducing some of the harmful by-products.  Nevertheless, all the by-products enter the home because there is no chimney for exhaust.

If you would like to learn more about the IAQ implications of unvented fireplaces, I would start with the Indoor Air Journal article “Measured concentrations of combustion gases from the use of unvented gas fireplaces” by P. W. Francisco, J. R. Gordon, and B. Rose from my alma mater, University of Illinois.

I wish you the best this holiday season.  Have a nerdy New Year!