The Truth About Vent Free Gas Heaters
Millions of people worldwide are enjoying the benefits of heating their living spaces with vent-free gas heaters, logs, fireplaces, and stoves.
Why choose vent free?
Vent free (unvented) heaters are 99% energy efficient! That’s because all of the usable heat energy goes into the space. No heat is wasted through a flue to the outside air. Therefore, they cost just pennies an hour to operate and can save consumers a bundle in heating costs during the cold months.
Furthermore, vent free heaters supply supplemental heat where you need it, when you need it, allowing for lower central heating demands in areas such as family rooms, dens, kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms. They are ideal for hard-to-heat areas such as basements, room additions, sun porches or utility rooms.
Are vent free heaters safe? What about indoor air quality (IAQ)?
Here’s a little chemistry 101. We know that perfect combustion of fuel (natural or propane gas) produces carbon dioxide and water. Properly installed and maintained vent free heaters fall into that category of nearly perfect, complete combustion. As long as there is adequate ventilation to the space, these products of combustion are considered natural and non-toxic. We deal with these elements to some degree every day.
What if oxygen levels are too low or carbon dioxide levels are too high?
That can produce toxic levels of carbon monoxide (CO), which could affect a person’s health. The good news is that an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) built into all vent free appliances designed for dwelling spaces of the home guarantees that the oxygen levels never drop below 18 percent. Therefore, even if someone fails to follow proper ventilation guidelines, it is unlikely that lethal levels of CO could ever occur.
From a combustion safety viewpoint, properly sized and maintained vent free heaters are excellent for most spaces. However, consumers need to know that the combustion process produces water. A 20,000 BTU vent free heater will produce about ¼ gallon of water into a living area each hour.
Is water vapor a pollutant?
Not in moderate amounts. Too much, however, could increase a person’s susceptibility to upper respiratory disorders. On the other hand, so can air that is too dry, especially during the winter months where relative humidity indoors can be quite low. Note that many people feel that the extra humidity actually makes them feel healthier and alleviates the need to add some type of humidifier. A vent free heater can provide that extra needed humidity.
If you notice excessive condensation on windows and other cold surfaces, or in wall cavities, that is a good indicator that you don’t have enough fresh air to offset the water vapor being emitted into your space. This can occur in a home environment even without a vent free appliance operating. There are other producers of humidity inside the average house such as washing machines, dryers, bathrooms kitchens and people.
Ventilation into every home is important. As the old adage states "the solution to pollution is dilution". Infiltration of outside air is good. Some newer homes are so tight that mechanical ventilation must be added to sufficiently keep concentrations of combustion products and other contaminants at low levels.
The truth is, vent free heaters are, in and of themselves, extremely safe, economical to operate and, when properly sized and maintained, are proven to meet today’s rigorous standards for air quality. And as long as consumers demand energy-saving products, the future of vent-free appliances looks very bright indeed.
A qualified vent free appliance dealer will ask all the right questions to help you determine the appropriate amount of BTU’s needed to heat your space and give helpful guidelines for ensuring safe, trouble-free operation.
Scott Workman owns and operates Infra-Red Products Supply, Inc. of Draper, Utah. In business since 1986, Infra-Red Products has become recognized as one of the foremost leaders in energy saving heating system design and sales for residential, commercial and industrial consumers.