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What Is A Direct Vent Fireplace?

By Lawrence Macmillan August 15, 2021

If you are looking for an attractive and efficient fireplace to put into your home, you may have considered a gas fireplace. What is a direct vent fireplace though, and how does it differ from other types of fireplace that you can have installed? 

A majority of factory-built, or ‘manufactured’ fireplaces that are made today, are designed as ‘direct-vent’ systems. These are energy efficient venting systems that have actually replaced a majority of the more outdated designs.

They are now the primary style of fireplace that is installed in any home that has been built in the last 20-30 years. Sure they do not quite replace the old traditional log burning fireplaces, if you like those then these are not the same.

However, if you are looking for ease, efficiency, and a modern fireplace aesthetic then these work very well. They are a great option for people who are wanting to remodel, or who just want to add in a simple and cozy fireplace to their room. 

Today, we have gathered all the information on direct-vent fireplaces, so that you can decide if this type of fireplace will be the perfect addition to your home. 

The Basics

Gas fireplaces are pretty efficient heating appliances, and they bring many advantages to those who own them. However, there are multiple different types of gas fireplaces and some of these will do a better, or more efficient job than others will. 

One of the many reasons that a traditional gas fireplace is not quite as good for heating as these direct-vent models is that they will use indoor air to initiate combustion. The warm air inside the house is drawn into the flames and then sent up into the flue. 

-A flue is a part of the chimney system. It is a vertical exhaust pipe that channels any contaminants up and out of your home.

Any conditioned air from inside your home that escapes into the firebox and goes up the flue means that you lose more warm inside air, which was actually created by the very thing that is now taking it away. This is not a very efficient method for heating up your home. Hence, why these types of fireplaces are not favored so much anymore. 

Standard gas fire units will also have a back drafting issue. When a kitchen exhaust fan causes air to be pulled out of the home, this will create a depressurized environment that can suck air full of dangerous gasses right into the house. This is another reason that standard units are not so sought after in comparison to direct-vent units. 

How does direct vent differ?

How does direct vent differ

There are several primary differences between those  traditional gas fireplaces we mentioned, and the much loved direct vent fireplace. These differences are primarily in the efficiency, safety, and the versatility of these units. 

Direct vent fireplaces will work by employing outside air, instead of inside air like traditional gas fireplaces, and use this for combustion. They get this air from a double vent pipe’s outer chamber, the inside chamber is used to then send the harmful exhaust fumes outside the home. It is a bit like a loop of air is created. 

  • These units are efficient, able to turn most of the burning fuel into actual heat to heat up your home. Glass doors will also create a tight seal that will provide even more efficiency. 
  • There is no need for a flue with direct-vent fireplaces. They can simply have a vent pipe that will run through a nearby wall with a fire-caulked flange as an additional safety measure. It is also super easy to turn the flame off if there is an emergency. 
  • Thanks to the technology used to make them, you can place these fireplaces pretty much anywhere you desire. You can get different sizes and styles, and you can put them in any room you wish. 

How do they work?

Direct-vent fireplaces work really easily, and understanding how they work is far from rocket science. These are fully contained units that draw in fresh air and expel the byproducts of combustion outside.

There are two primary types of direct-vent fireplace; coaxial and colinear. 

Coaxial is made up from a pipe inside a pipe, the outside portion of the pipe is much like an intake, and the inner type works as an exhaust for the fumes. 

Colinear, has two pipes that in line with each other, one serves as a dedicated intake, and the other serves as a dedicated exhaust. 

It is really simple and is not complex at all. The air comes down the intake to assist combustion, then the contaminants leave through the exhaust, meanwhile the fire produces heat to warm your home. 

Efficiency

These vents are efficient for your energy savings, as you will lose no warm air from your home. If you had a traditional fireplace, then you would find that the warm air created by the fire would circulate your home, however, as it does, some of it would get sucked up the flue and pushed out of your home. Making the whole heating process weaker, and somewhat invalid. 

Having a direct-vent fireplace, this is not an issue, so all the heat that is produced stays exactly where it is supposed to, and there is no worry that any of it is getting sucked up by a flue. 

Cost to run

If you are looking at getting a direct-vent fireplace to replace the costly heating bills of your internal heating system, then you will want to know if these are not only energy efficient but cost-efficient too. 

In 2019 the US government estimated that the general cost per therm of natural gas is around $1.06, meaning natural gas will cost around $0.20 to $0.35 per hour.

If using propane, this is measured by the gallon and will cost around $2.00 per gallon, or $0.40 to $0.83 per hour of use. Natural gas is definitely an affordable option and is generally the preference. Nonetheless, direct-vent fireplaces are overall the best option. 


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