Outdoor fireplaces are a spectacular way to complete a finished look for any patio or backyard living space. One common question homeowners have is whether or not an outdoor fireplace requires a vent. Do outdoor fireplaces need a venting system?
Most outdoor fireplaces need a vent to work properly. Many freestanding fireplaces use gas or wood as a fuel source, so a chimney or flue is typically necessary to release smoke and byproducts. However, not all outdoor fireplaces must have a vent; some modern firesides feature ventless designs.
Whether you’re shopping around for an outdoor fireplace or are just dipping your toes in and doing some quick research, read on to learn why most outdoor fireplaces need a vent, what kind of venting methods there are, and how they work. This way, you can put down your device feeling confident in your decision to buy (or not buy) an outdoor fireplace.
Do Outdoor Fireplaces Need A Vent?
Most outdoor fireplaces need a vent to work correctly and keep people sitting around them safe from inhaling too much smoke and byproducts. The exception here is with an outdoor ethanol fireplace which requires no venting.
In chimeneas – a type of outdoor fireplace typically made from terracotta or metal with a wide opening on one side – the smoke is vented through the vertical chimney as heat directs outward through the window. Not only does this bulb-shaped design help the fireplace heat up faster, but it also helps take unwanted smoke out and away from an outdoor space.
Many people choose outdoor chiminea fireplaces because they are less likely to have sparks and embers go flying, thus making it safer. Especially if you have children, that’s something worth thinking about!
Other outdoor fireplace options usually require a vent, too, by way of direct vent technology. With direct vent technology, indoor air is protected with a sealed combustion system that draws outside air from the fire. It expels the combustion exhaust and unwanted byproducts outside of the house. A vented system essentially pulls in oxygen and releases gases into a more open space in the air, so it doesn’t linger around you or your guests.
On the other hand, ethanol fireplaces do not need a vent to work efficiently or protect you from smoke and undesirable byproducts like carbon monoxide. Even though ethanol (an eco-friendly and renewable biofuel derived most commonly from corn) produces real flames, they cause less heat than conventional wood-burning outdoor fireplaces.
If you’re concerned about venting, inhaling smoke, or live in a climate that’s full of heat, we recommend choosing an outdoor ethanol fireplace.
Does An Outdoor Gas Fireplace Need A Vent?
Most gas-powered furnaces must be vented appropriately and have a gas line. Ventless fireplaces do not need to be vented since they burn up combustion byproducts.
Direct vent gas fireplaces are vented directly from the outside of a home. They take air from outside through the outer chamber of a vent pipe as the inner chamber exhausts fumes.
In addition to a high-temperature glass panel and protective screen, a chimney vent is necessary to stop flames and combustion byproducts from a gas fireplace from entering the air inside a home.
Natural vent gas fireplaces should be vented using an existing masonry chimney or a factory-made metal chimney to exhaust harmful fumes. The air in a room naturally exhausts combustion byproducts outside via a single pipe in the chimney or through a flexible liner.
Side note: both chimney types should use a flue liner to protect against corrosive substances from the inside too. If you see bricks and mortar, your chimney is unlined.
Ethanol-powered gas fireplaces do not need to be vented since they’re designed to safely burn up and disperse byproducts into the room. These vent-free fireplaces use catalytic converter technology that cleans the air as it exits the combustion chamber.
Does An Outdoor Wood-Burning Fireplace Need A Vent?
Wood-burning fireplaces need a vent as they create a lot of smoke, even with a smoke shelf built into the design. This smoke needs to be directed somewhere, thus a vent is required.
A smoke shelf helps prevent any downdrafts from directing smoke and unwanted toxins into your home. Located between the smoke chamber and firebox, a smoke shelf also catches debris and rainwater that drops into the chimney.
Does An Outdoor Fireplace Insert Need A Vent?
A fireplace insert usually doesn’t need to be vented, and they are an excellent alternative to costly kits.
Fireplace inserts can be installed within a wall, wood-framed structure, or masonry cavity to complete any outdoor space.
There are different types of fireplace inserts, including electric, gas, and wood. Electric fireplace inserts are the most simple of the three types, and because there is no combustion involved, electric fireplace inserts don’t need to be vented.
If you live in a space with a non-functioning fireplace or don’t have access to natural gas or wood (or you don’t want to use those fuel types), then an electric fireplace insert can give you a taste of what a real fireplace would look and feel like. Place it into the fireplace opening and plug the cord into an outlet. Now you’ve got a little fireplace without the need for a vent!
What Venting Methods Are Used For Outdoor Fireplaces?
There are two main methods to vent a gas fireplace: direct vent and ventless, or vent free. A direct vented system draws in oxygen and releases gases to the outside air through an opening such as a chimney or wide hole on the side of a chiminea. Invented in the 1980s, direct venting systems are the most commonly used venting system for fireplaces today.
On the other hand, ventless fireplaces use a high burn temperature to expel the combustion byproducts from the air instead of using a physical vent or gas line as in the direct venting method. Because the harmful toxins have been taken out, no venting is needed.
Natural venting, also known as B-vent, is a less commonly used venting system that is not sealed. Instead, it pulls air into the combustion chamber and pushes the exhaust through a roof with a pipe.
No matter which type of vented outdoor fireplace you go with, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing your new outdoor fireplace.