Many sportsmen and recreationists turn to the so called “vent-free” gas heaters to keep warm in the fall and winter. However, depending on where and how you plan to use your heater, there may be better options available.
Some higher-output indoor gas heaters require an exhaust vent for safe operation. These vents help to exhaust the potentially dangerous gases either outside of the home or up into the attic (where the gases then exhaust through the attic cap). This is great from a safety standpoint, but not great for efficiency. The vents also allow heat to escape from your space, which obviously can lead to pretty dismal heating efficiency.
Because of their special design, vent-free or ventless gas heaters don’t require a separate venting or exhaust system. There are some obvious advantages to this, as you might expect. Their overall efficiency is much higher, as warm air won’t be escaping through a venting system. It also makes this style of heater easier to install and maintain, as there is no duct work or venting to install.
While some ventless gas heaters require an electrical supply for ignition, you can also find models (such as the Mr. Heater Buddy Wall Mount Gas Heater) that can operate without a wall outlet. This can be particularly handy for ice houses, lodges, cabins, wall mount heaters for deer stands, and other spots where electricity isn’t available. However, for heating larger outdoor spaces, you’ll probably want to look into a more powerful solution, such as a gas patio heater.
While they may sound like a perfect option for a lot of heating problems, there are a few concerns that keep us from recommending them for most uses. While the thought of operating a heater without worrying about venting sounds great, most vent-free heaters still recommend opening a window in the room. In the middle of the winter, there goes your heating efficiency right out the window!
The truth is, these heaters still produce dangerous gases. They are in smaller percentages than typical propane heaters, but research shows that even small quantities of carbon monoxide over extended periods can lead to health problems. To use them safely some amount of venting is still required, which seems to defeat their purpose!
Most modern gas heaters will feature an automatic shut-off sensor that detects low oxygen levels. This certainly helps to ease our concerns, but we would recommend taking it a step further. Use a reliable carbon monoxide detector nearby running gas or propane heaters, and be sure to follow all manufacturer’s safety recommendations.
For well-ventilated areas where nearly any heating is welcome (think of a drafty cabin, a tree stand, a partially-enclosed porch) a vent-free gas heaters can be a fine heating option. However, don’t be fooled by their promise of vent-free gas heating. There are still safety concerns that you should be aware of.
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