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What is a Direct Vent Fireplace?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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While a traditional fireplace provides an open burning chamber that vents through a chimney, a direct vent fireplace does not require a chimney and can vent horizontally out a sidewall or vertically to the roof. It also has a completely enclosed chamber that is highly efficient, drawing in air for combustion from the outside and expelling gasses to the outside as well. The front glass enclosure is porous, allowing radiant heat to pass into the room. This type of fireplace heats a room without robbing it of oxygen or of the heated air it is providing, while also keeping it free of fumes and combustible materials such as embers or ash.

A direct vent fireplace can be a wonderful choice for rooms in which a traditional fireplace is not practical or possible. Aside from providing clean warmth and the cheery glow of real fire, it saves space by allowing furniture to be positioned directly to either side with "zero clearance." This simply means that while heat is radiated out the front glass, the sides are safe for combustibles to butt up against the firebox. The fireplace can also be optionally inset into a wall.

The venting system of a direct vent fireplace consists of a double-walled pipe, or pipe-within-a-pipe. The inner pipe provides venting to the outside, while the outer pipe carries outside air into the fireplace. As the outside air is sucked into the venting system, it's heated by the hot central venting pipe, improving efficiency. Though this type of fireplace does not require electricity, it does require a propane or natural gas pipeline for fuel and burns logs specifically made for direct vent models.

A direct vent fireplace can come in many configurations with various kits and trim. Some kits are designed to look like a traditional fireplace, complete with mantle, while others are more modern. Many carry the certification of wall gas furnaces, and their flexibility makes them extremely popular. Prices vary depending on manufacturer, installation needs and model, but in general they are far less expensive than installing a traditional fireplace, while providing many advantages.

If you've always wanted a fireplace but didn't think it was possible — or considered the traditional fireplace too messy — you might consider a direct vent model. It could be just what your home needs for those crisp winter nights.

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Discussion Comments
By anon929870 — On Feb 03, 2014

We just had a direct vent gas fireplace installed with the same draft problem. Most of the cold air was coming in from the double walled pipe. Where the pipe meets the fireplace, the cold air sleeve was just dumping cold air right into the area surrounding the fireplace. We used the high temp caulk to seal it but I'm not sure it was a good idea. I solved the problem, but it seems as if we are messing with the design. Is the open area around the outside of the fireplace supposed to fill with cold outside air?

By ladybug457 — On Jan 28, 2014

My neighbours and I have the same issue with a cold draft from a Heat n Glo Cosmo fireplace. The builder has installed a switch to control the pilot light so that it can be left on to heat the fireplace. This really does nothing. If it is windy outside and -20, it is a very cold draft so we keep the opening covered when not in use. They say the wall is properly insulated. I'm not sure where to go from here. Help!

By draftfix — On Mar 27, 2013

When you have a fire, the vents over and under the firebox are there to circulate the warm air. When you have no fire, the warm air of your room starts the circulation of cold air. Magnetic fireplace vent covers from Draft Decor will stop this circulation when you have no fire.

By anon327180 — On Mar 26, 2013

I have to laugh when I here people say it's normal to have a draft and to just seal the holes where the gas line and wire come in. I have the same problem and have the company that built my house trying to fix it.

The fireplace is supposed to be inside an enclosed area (drywall, vapor barrier, insulation) so that the back of it is not exposed to outside air but is considered to be inside the vapor barrier of the house. It's not an insulated fireplace, so why do they think it should be exposed to cold air from outside? I'll update when they find out where the air is coming from.

By anon310289 — On Dec 21, 2012

I had the same problem of a cold draft. I lifted the screen off of the front and found that the two bottom latches had come unsecured that hold the glass in place on the bottom. I secured these and it has made a huge difference!

By draftfix — On Jan 21, 2012

Our development is huge and we all have this same draft problem. Luckily our neighbor told us about Draft Decor. We found the magnetic vent covers online and ordered them. They work great to stop the cold air, and hot air in the summer.

By anon241849 — On Jan 20, 2012

I have a direct vent, after several go's with the same problem of cold air I found the solution. Check for any knock out holes, screw holes, or imperfections in the outer metal frame (I had a few pieces of the frame where the metal was not secure enough to ensure a tight seal.

I had to use fire caulk rated to the correct temp to fix that. Special consideration should be used in choosing the right type of caulk, standard caulk is not acceptable (you need something with very high heat resistance). The vent covers are not necessary if you spend some time looking for spots where the cold air is getting in.

Every unit is different and you must check over the entire inside of the fireplace. Rock wool can be used in certain areas.

By anon235332 — On Dec 16, 2011

Why is there cold air blowing from the bottom vent when the unit is running?

By anon213025 — On Sep 09, 2011

Same problem with the cold draft. Here's my plan. I have a "grand 50" so I have a large (vertical) chase (doesn't exit out the side of the house). I'm going to take the cap off and climb down to the fireplace and use firecaulk to insulate all around the flange that faces the room then go up about 8 feet in the chase and build a draft stop and insulate it. I'll probably insulate the chase better as well. This will stop the cold air from falling down the chase and the firecaulk will prevent any air infiltration. the extra insulation of the chase walls should keep the area behind/above the fireplace as warm as the room.

By anon154923 — On Feb 22, 2011

Same deal as those above. I paid 5K for "85 percent energy efficient" unit to replace my 20 percent efficient wood burning fireplace. Did I make a huge mistake? I have blankets stuffed around the face when not in use. Pathetic!

The room is ice cold when not in use and my energy bills for a 2000 square foot home have gone from $260 per month to $368 per month. Energy efficient, my foot! I bought it from Saratoga Fireplace in upstate NY and they are incompetent! Never should have gone there! Any ideas from folks in the know? -Peeved in NY

By anon145054 — On Jan 21, 2011

same problem with the outer bos closet) freezing and the cold air is coming into the house through upper, lower grill and tile around fireplace has frost on it. many problems but no real solutions?

By anon143684 — On Jan 17, 2011

I have a Heat & Glo direct vent fireplace and have the same problem mentioned by others - cold air coming into the room.

When it gets down to where the outside temperature gets in the 20s, the room temperature goes down to 64/65 degrees and frost forms on the metal edges of the fireplace screen.

I should have gone with a wood burning fireplace like I had in my other house. No way would I ever install one of these Heat & Glo fireplaces again. It is like trying to heat a room with the window open. Most worthless piece of crap I have ever seen.

By draftfix — On Dec 29, 2010

Magnetic vent covers work wonders...they stop the cold draft when your fireplace is not in use. Draft Decor is sold on online. Standard and custom sizes will work on any size fireplace to cover the metal vents. Stops drafts instantly - save on your heating bills.

By anon137792 — On Dec 29, 2010

I have a Heat N Glow direct vent gas fireplace. When it is off, I can feel cold air coming out from the bottom where controls are.

During my search for a fix in internet, I now realize I'm not alone. I'm not sure how to fix this problem but thinking about getting non-combustible insulation to cover hole where the gas line passing though and area around my sub-floor. I hope it helps to reduce cold air coming into my FR.

However, I'm not sure how to stop cold air coming out around the burner. I wonder if too many people having problems with direct vent fireplace systems, what good is it to have them?

By anon118202 — On Oct 13, 2010

My husband installed a direct vent propane fireplace.

After 15 minutes of very nice and warm use, the air in the room takes on a noticeable smell of fumes or whatever. The fireplace guy I hired to check it out says it was a great installation and that the smell is from it being new, the fire is burning the factory oil or whatever off and that's what we smell.

I say it has to be more than that if I am into my 15th use of the fireplace.

I turn it off when it gets that stinky. I don't get headaches but I seem to get drowsy. Any ideas?

By anon70974 — On Mar 16, 2010

My name is ron, and i have 25 years of selling and installing direct-vent fireplaces. There is no fix for cold air infiltration. It is a function of the design.

When your f/p is not burning, cold air comes through the metal into the house. The metal transmits the cold air. Just turn the fireplace on and the problem will go away. You have to allow time for the f/p to warm up then it will warm your room, then lower the setting on your home heating.

By anon64123 — On Feb 05, 2010

Cold air issues from the bottom of direct vent fireplace can usually be eliminated by checking underneath. (Where the controls are located) There are usually gas line knockouts (holes)on the left and right side. Plug the holes with Rokwool (insulation)or high temp caulk. This should stop the problem.

By anon58367 — On Jan 01, 2010

anon15478: did you ever figure out the draft problem? i have the same problem with the heat also it takes about an hour plus to really start noticing it. I was considering buying one of those quiet direct vent fireplace blower fans.

By anon58180 — On Dec 30, 2009

I have a direct vent fireplace. When I run it, I don't feel much heat from the fireplace. Is there a way to get more heat? I had an indirect fireplace before and it really heated the room up in no time. You can't even tell this is on.

By murphy666 — On Dec 29, 2009

I have the same problem as most people on here. I purchased a house with a direct vent fireplace and it seems when the fireplace is off i am getting a bad draft in the fireplace by the controls. I have a box on the outside of the house where it vents into but it does not help. just wondering if there is a fix?

By anon57640 — On Dec 25, 2009

how many elbows can i put on my venting pipes about three feet long through the wall?

By Garyj — On Jan 28, 2009

I have the same problem with the cold air. What can be done?

By anon25326 — On Jan 27, 2009

Contact your fireplace supplier. Most manufacturers sell a device that is frequently called a *cold air enclosure kit*. It essentially is a sheet metal box that encapsulates the B vent where it meets the top of the fireplace unit. The side of this box has a 3" or 4" flexible duct that exhausts to the exterior of the building. This duct directs the cold air that drops down between the walls of the B vent to the exterior, rather than into the area around the fireplace. This device is required on all pre-fab fireplaces installed in Canada but is not required in the US.

By DoubleO — On Dec 21, 2008

I have cold air with frost on a Heat and Glo unit. Any suggestions?

By kecmp — On Dec 09, 2008

same problems as above, cold air coming into room, not from the damper in the fireplace. Any ideas for this?

By draftyjersey — On Oct 17, 2008

I own an 8 year old home with a Heat & Glo direct vent gas fireplace. When the fireplace is not in use, there is a cold draft coming in from the grille at the bottom of the fireplace, under the fire box. What can I do about this? Stuff insulation under the fire box?

By anon15478 — On Jul 12, 2008

I have a serious draft in my fireplace feels as if I may as well have a window open in my living room. My developer is telling me this is normal, but it doesn't seem normal to have a large draft coming through. None of my neighbors have this problem. How can I battle this with them to get it repaired?

By bhillgamyer — On Jun 25, 2008

I have the same problem. What can be done about this?

By lbunner — On Dec 09, 2007

I have a direct vent gas fireplace (Montigo). When there is no fire burning I notice a significant heat loss. The room gets cold immediately around the fireplace. Is it more efficient to continually run the fireplace or to just live with the heat loss with the unit shutdown?

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