HOME 101: Are ventless gas appliances safe?

    There has been a lot of online

chatter this week among Southern

Tier home inspectors concerning

the safety of  ventless, or vent-free,

gas appliances. The conversation

was precipitated by a recent

voluntary recall of certain ventless



    The product recall was mostly

concerning the ceramic/fiber type

fake logs  that are placed in a wood

burning fireplace or a ventless

firebox enclosure. There are

however, other types of ventless

heating appliances manufactured

by different companies, such as

wall-mounted or stand alone units.

    The advertising for these units often plugs them as a quick way to heat up a room - take the chill off in a hurry.

    All vent-free appliances come with instructions on how to use them safely, and these instructions contain warnings about the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning to occupants of the building where they are used, if not operated properly. These warnings usually suggest not using the appliance for more than a certain amount of hours in an enclosed area, or making sure to have a window open. To us, the open window seems to defeat the idea of trying to heat the room.

    The interchangeable terms ‘ventless’ and ‘vent-free’ are of course misleading. These units are venting - they just happen to be venting into the house. When natural gas or propane burns, it produces combustion gases, including carbon monoxide. Usually, as with a furnace, boiler, or water heater, the combustion gas is vented to the exterior, through a chimney or out the side wall of the house.


    Some inspectors believe that all ventless units are inherently dangerous and should be outlawed and removed from homes. However, these types of units are legal and have been approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.


    It can be argued that even a gas kitchen range should never be used without a hood fan running and venting out of the house. After all, a gas range is basically doing the same thing that a ventless heater is doing, putting carbon monoxide into the home.

    And if these heaters are outlawed, should all chain saws be outlawed because they too, are dangerous? One misstep and there goes your foot! Should all trampolines be outlawed? Should all skateboards be outlawed? What about swimming pools?

    We do not recommend the use of ventless heaters. When we see one in a house, we make a point of noting it in our inspection report and advise in writing that the homeowner should read and follow any instructions and warnings that come with the unit.


    If you have a ventless appliance in your home, we suggest that you go online to check out recall issues, and any safety concerns  related to these units.


Campbell and Davies LLC    201 Dey St Suite 211 Ithaca, NY 14850   

607 216 0036    fax 607 216 0402   campbellanddavies@yahoo.com   


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