Question

Are EcoSmart fireplaces better or worse than the dreaded ventless gas fireplaces in a tight home, in terms of combustion safety?

Asked by Chris Laumer-Giddens
Atlanta, GA

I've read that "the combustion of denatured ethanol releases water steam and carbon dioxide. The ratio of CO/CO2 passes standards for flueless gas fireplaces and the amount of carbon monoxide is negligible." I have asked several energy and combustion safety experts. So far, I've only gotten speculation and, "I've never heard of such a thing." Does anyone have any feedback about actual testing? What are your thoughts?

Answer

Danny Kelly

Answered by Danny Kelly

Charlotte, NC

Kelly McArdle Construction

December 2, 2010

I am not very familiar with this product but just read the user’s manual. I can’t imagine it is any worse than a traditional vent-free fireplace, but it may not be much better either.

A few thoughts.

You mentioned that you read “The ratio of CO/CO2 passes standards for flueless gas fireplaces and the amount of carbon monoxide is negligible." 

  • This may be true right out of the box, but any fuel-burning appliance will have carbon monoxide concerns.
  • Carbon monoxide is mainly a byproduct of incomplete combustion. So after the burners are used for a few hours, they will not burn as clean and you could have low levels of carbon monoxide.

Even though you do not need a flue, you still need ventilation or fresh air exchange, and this appliance can contribute to poor indoor air quality if the proper amount of ventilation is not calculated properly and supplied.

The need for customer awareness and customer care of this appliiance seems high – neglecting to use it properly can easily lead to some dangerous situations.

  • Customers need to understand how this type of fuel burns and be aware of a clear flame, not let any fuel remain after burning, be sure the proper fuel is used, etc.
  • The biggest concern is that it recommends cleaning the burners after 13 gallons of fuel. Using a single burner, 1.25 gallons will burn for only 25 minutes – so basically you need to clean the burners every 4 hours.
  • We have a hard time getting people to change their air filters every month – so I have a hard time believing people will maintain this properly.
  • Not sure what the fuel cost per gallon is, but at 25 minutes per gallon, I bet it can get expensive.

I will be curious how it works out for you if you get it. If you do decide to use it, I would recommend a very high-end digital carbon monoxide detector that will read low levels of CO.
 

For more information:

Read Lee Hall's Q&A "What is the greenest, best fireplace replacement?"

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