Many people wonder if vent-free log fireplaces produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. They appreciate the benefits of the vent-free appliances, but want to be assured that vent-free log fireplaces do not pose risks to their health.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It’s important for people to understand the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning in general and how to take precautions that ensure safety in their homes. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control, US Government) warns that each year more than 2,500 Americans will die from exposure to unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. It is also estimated that each year around 40,000 people will need to see a doctor due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This problem is real and can be life threatening.

Have vent-free gas fireplaces been associated with carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States or in other countries?

It is reassuring to know that in the Unites States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), reports they are unaware of any documented case of fatal carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from exposure to an ODA-equipped vent-free gas heating fireplace or product. In the US, it is mandated that all vent-free appliances come with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODA). This system is a critical safety feature and will automatically shut down the gas input if it senses even a slight drop in oxygen.

Since 1980, more than 17 million vent-free appliances have been sold in the US. And, in both Japan and the United Kingdom, where vent-free gas fireplaces are very popular, they have an equally impressive safety record.

Also, the American Gas Association Research (AGAR Labs) has extensively researched the safety levels of emissions and air pollution from vent-free gas fireplaces. They have concluded that these appliances perform well within recognized national safety guidelines for indoor air quality.

Research on Carbon Monoxide and Vent Free Log Fireplaces: Carbon Monoxide Emissions, Denver Study – Gary Whitmyre, D.A.B.T, risksciences, LLC, Arlington, Virginia

This study measured levels of carbon monoxide from vent-free fireplaces in condominiums in the Denver, Colorado region. This study found carbon monoxide levels were typically less that 2ppm, but never exceeded 3 pp — well within safety requirements. This Denver study includes additional evidence that the use of vent-free fireplaces does not result in significant exposure to carbon monoxide.

It is important your living space has a carbon monoxide or CO detector. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas. It usually goes undetected until the symptoms of exposure become dangerous or life-threatening. While vent-free gas appliances have been proven safe if properly installed and are ODA-equipped, common sources of CO in the home include: open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage. Therefore, installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home is important and highly recommended.

Follow the directions on the carbon monoxide detector package and change the battery as recommended. It is a practical, easy and inexpensive way to be sure the levels of CO in your home do not exceed safety levels. Current technology allows these detectors to sound an alarm before dangerous levels of CO accumulate in your home.