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“Experience installing a gas fireplace? Seeking recommendations, tips, dos/donts”

by Prince Of Petworth January 10, 2017 at 1:30 pm 19 Comments

fireplace
Photo by PoPville flickr user Erin

“We want install a small, ventless gas fireplace (32 – 36″) in our row house and wondering if anyone has experience to share or vendors to recommend. We have no existing fire place and want to place it on on our front wall between two front windows. We have read the new ventless fireplaces are much safer than they used to be and give better heat (plus no ugly vent in the front of our house). We went to Bromwells and Cyrus Air in VA today. Bromwell quoted as around $2200 just for the firebox — need to set up a home visit before they will quote on installation. Cyrus Air was very knowledgable and helpful but the quotes was really high +$8K, but that would include installation, permits, dry wall, mantel and all finishing. Is that reasonable? Anyone have experience buying their box online and then having a different company install it? Appreciate any and all advice!”

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  • DCresident99

    I would suggest making sure you are ok with the smell that a ventless fireplace gives off. I remodeled my house and the option was a ventless fireplace or no fireplace, and we chose the latter of giving it some thought. Ventless fireplaces have this odor that I just couldn’t get used to.

  • ChillyDC

    We used Cyprus Air to handle the installation of our ventless fireplace, and have had a great experience. I don’t have the issue with the smell noted by DCresident99, but it may be because our house has “historic” windows and is fairly drafty, so there’s always fresh air coming in. Cyprus handled all of the permitting (which would have been painful), and everyone was very professional. It required a few trips on their part: assessing feasibility, doing the install of the gas line, arranging for the first DC inspection, completing the install of the fireplace itself, and arranging for the final DC inspection (which involved the inspector knocking on the door and asking if the fireplace worked).

    TLDR: it was uncomplicated and we use the fireplace every winter evening, pretty much.

    • DCresident99

      I should also mention that I had a direct vent installed in my previous house about 5 years ago via Michael and Son. The total cost was $5k all in. That included all the parts for running the vent up an existing wood burning fireplace chimney. They did a great job, and handled all the permits, etc.

    • AA

      Can I ask how much this cost?

      • AA

        This is for “chilly”

        • ChillyDC

          I had it installed during one of their sales (they seem to have them all the time) and it was right around $5k

    • Michael Pierce

      Yeah, if you’re planning on using it for much more than decoration, it’s worth looking into a vented unit. The ventless models are apparently illegal in CA, MA, several other states and Canada, so you might want to take that into consideration. The thing is still going to produce carbon monoxide, there’s no getting around science.

  • Bloomy

    Our vent goes up through a closet and out our roof – out the front would be a deal breaker for me.

  • AnonV2

    Yes, it might be that expensive. A *good* unit itself will be a couple of thousand, and if you add in building the mantel/surround, gas line, permitting, installation etc. it could easily be $5-6000+++. When we had ours installed we didn’t like the sales and service contract pressure from the big box showrooms. We used Gas Galore up in Takoma, service was more personalized (they came to the house for the initial consultation), less pushy and we didn’t see any significant price difference.
    .
    Don’t write off a direct vent unit until you’ve had someone look at your options. The vent doesn’t have to be exactly on the wall where the fireplace is sitting, you could route it somewhere more inconspicuous. The ventless ones have come a long way, but no getting around that you are sending combustion byproducts directly into your living space ….

  • Truxtoner

    With ventless, are there issues with how long you can keep it on (and not die)? I had one in an old apartment and was typically afraid to use it for more than an hour or so because of the smell and worrying I was going to die.

    • DCresident99

      My understanding is that the odor is not a symptom of a dangerous gas.

    • Truxton Thomas

      We have one that came with the house, and we’ve been told not to run it for more than an hour or two. The good news is that, despite getting it repaired, it doesn’t work anyway—safety first.

  • Dollars and cents

    We installed one in a row house and our quote from Cyrus was twice as high as we ended up paying. We had a preexisting chimney and had a plumber install the gas line and system we bought online. Everything works great for half the price.

  • Rachael M.

    I used Michael Celley with NOVA Green Energy twice now – once to fix my existing gas fireplace, another to do a clean up and install a remote switch. He’s awesome, very reasonably priced/honest, very knowledgeable and full of information about good care and prevention.

    I would get someone to install this – not the best sort of DIY.

    I generally don’t run my fireplace for more than two hours, and technically, you should have a window cracked. I just have carbon monoxide detectors everywhere. It really produces enough heat that an hour is plenty. I don’t notice an odor – if you do have an odor being thrown off, or your smoke alarm goes nuts, it’s usually a sign your logs aren’t arranged correctly and therefore burning when they shouldn’t or you have dust that’s getting burned off and you need a cleaning.

  • Tim

    My general comment for all contractor related questions is…

    Look for contractors in Baltimore. Because the local construction market is saturated, contractors of all ilks get to charge you whatever they choose because frankly, they don’t need your work. My father was a contractor in NY state and I say this not to demean, simply as a statement of fact as these things are cyclical.

    Baltimore is another story. That 40 mile gap makes all the difference in the world, and Baltimore has not had the 8 year long construction boom DC has and their contractor base is generally “hungrier”.

    I won’t list them here but when I gutted my row home, I interviewed 3 contractors from Baltimore, all more than willing to do the work, all equally qualified and all anywhere from 15-25% less in cost even including the extra mileage.

    This pertains to GC’s, electricians, plumbers etc.

    • Brandon

      How did you find B-more contractors? Just Yelped?

  • Tsar of Truxton

    Another option to consider might be bioethanol.

  • Anon X

    I think there are significant health concerns with ventless fireplaces. Unlike things like diet soda or corn syrup where the health hazards are reasonably unsupported on something that is extremely common – ventless fireplaces are relatively uncommon, with little science supporting the notion that there’s nothing to worry about – while on many things I dont err on the side of caution – on luxury items, I think its prudent to be vigilant. A frequent unpleasant odor can in fact indicate a health hazard, especially with frequent use in pretty closed areas (a 2000-3000sf air tight house). Frequent exposure to the byproducts of combustion is just worrisome to me – especially elevated (but not deadly) levels of CO are particularly problematic.

    Just a thought. It might be worth the extra few thousand to find a vented/ventilated solution.

    • Dane

      As has been mentioned by others, ventless fireplaces can be very unsafe and even deadly. I work in a program that performs retrofits to homes. As an organization, we have determined that the risk of these appliances is severe enough that we will not retrofit a home that does not agree to have them removed. There is a lot of literature pushed out by the manufacturers of these devices that clouds the actual risks involved. Modern direct vent fireplaces or stoves only require a small vent through the roof or out the wall and remove almost all of the risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning- there is little good reason not to go with a direct vent unit. For unbiased information on these look at the websites run by building performance experts, not manufacturers. A couple of good ones: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/building-science/ventless-gas-fireplace-doesn-t-belong-your-home
      http://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/57208/A-Ventless-Gas-Fireplace-Is-a-Liability

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