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HELP CENTER AN INTRODUCTION TO GAS APPLIANCES
Never owned a gas fireplace, gas logs or a gas heater? Ever asked any of the following?
  • Vented or Vent-free? What's the difference, and which do I want?
  • What sort of control do I want over my gas appliance?
  • How do I supplement my existing home heating system?
  • Do I build a wood fireplace or go with a gas fireplace in my new home?
  • Are you unable, or tired of buying, cutting or hauling wood, and/or stoking and cleaning up a wood fireplace or stove?
  • Do you have a warehouse, shed, barn or home addition that needs to have heating or at least enough heat to cut the chill?
  • Do you want the convenience and ambience of a fireplace without the hassle of wood and ashes?
If you think you want to purchase a gas appliance (logs, fireplace, stove, or heater) but don't know what is best for you, here are some questions that you may want to consider:

1) VENTED vs. VENT-FREE

Vented Gas Logs best mimic real wood fires. They require a flue or venting pipe (hence the term the "vented") and produce a brilliant fire that offers a permanent, ashless experience. You can install these in an existing brick or stone fireplace, or install them in a pre-fabricated or "factory-built" firebox suitable for use with vented gas logs.

PLUSES: Brilliant, life-like flame. Great, pleasing wood fire look. Like wood, it provides radiant heat to a given room. You can feel this type of heat with your hand.

MINUSES:
Must be installed in a masonry fireplace or pre-fabricated firebox. Will "draw" heated air out of the room/space/house, in much the same way a wood fire does. Because it only provides radiant energy heat, it will not heat the room air where the fireplace is located. Heated air gains are the result of pulling warm air from the rest of the home with the "draw" for the fireplace.

Vent-free (aka Unvented) Gas Logs offer the look and feel of fire, along with a good to large amount of heat for the room or space they are located in, and do not require the venting of a fireplace flue or vent-pipe. Because they must burn their gas supply completely, the flame of a vent-free log is typically not as active, large or brilliant. They are designed, engineered, tested and certified to literally burn all of the gas they consume. (The vent free standard is in excess of 99% efficiency to ensure a safe and clean burn.) After the initial "burn-in" or break in period the logs should offer a clean, reliable heat supply as long as you perform periodic maintenance. All vent free products are equipped with oxygen depletion sensors. This true for any vent free appliance, regardless of manufacturer or price range and should not be considered a selling point or bonus feature. Some vent-free gas logs are "dual-listed" meaning they can operate with an open or closed fireplace flue or vent. However, for the maximum amount of effective heat, you would want to have the vent closed. This is your choice.

PLUSES: Incredible supplemental heat source with a lovely flame. Adds a somewhat measurable amount of humidity to the room or home, but less than a typical humidifier. When used properly, this results in a much more comfortable environment as most homes are in dire need of humidity in the winter time.

MINUSES: Does not have the brilliant, life-like flame of a vented log or wood fire. Adds a somewhat measurable amount of humidity to the home. When used improperly, this can cause condensation on windows in the winter time.




2) IS THERE A DANGER OF CONDENSATION AND CARBON MONOXIDE WITH VENT-FREE APPLIANCES?

Improper use of a gas appliance usually involves one of two misuses:
  • not sufficiently venting the room or area by cracking a window or keeping a door open to a wider area
  • running the appliance continuously
If you misuse a vent-free gas appliance you can develop a situation that certain people who complain about vent-free heaters themselves cause: condensation.

A vent-free gas appliance must breathe. They need a fresh oxygen supply, and this is best accomplished by cracking a window, even in winter. The ventilation of the room and proper function of the heater or logs more than compensates for the letting in of outside air, even in the winter, and will not affect the ambient heat of the room.

Carbon monoxide in any measureable amount not generated by a vent-free gas appliance. Carbon monoxide can occur, though, if the room or space where a vent-free appliance is running ISN'T being ventilated properly. Carbon dioxide can accumulate over a long period of time in an unventilated space, and then the flame of the vent-free appliance begins to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. This should NEVER occur if a vent-free appliance is installed and used properly.




3) NATURAL GAS VS. PROPANE

Most people are going to know which gas to use. However, for those that do not have either gas, here is the choice.

Natural Gas is more commonly found in new construction and in more developed areas. If you already have natural gas running to your home or building, it is probably more cost effective to have a gas line professional run a line to your fireplace or room where the gas fireplace, logs, stove or heater will be used. Natural gas yields about 1000 BTUs per cubic foot.

LP ( also called propane) is effective for those that do not have ready access to natural gas, in rural localities, if there is a desire for the appliance to be semi-portable, or if some sort of central propane supply tank is available. Propane tanks should always be stored outdoors in a way to avoid extremely high temperatures. Propane is sold by the pound (or gallon) and delivers 21,560 BTUs per pound (or 91,500 BTUs per gallon.) It yields about 2,500 BTUs per cubic foot (vaporized).

NOTE: We often have people ask about converting a unit from one gas to another. The hoses, lines, control valves, and orifices on burners for each gas are quite different in size. Many grill manufacturers, and other gas appliance manufacturers, offer conversion kits for some items. However, vent free appliances cannot be converted. Propane is roughly 3.5 times heavier than natural gas therefore its regulators, gas jet orifices and even its control valves are often different versus and the same piece of equipment using natural gas.

NEVER ATTEMPT TO ATTACH A PROPANE GAS SOURCE TO ANY NATURAL GAS APPLIANCE. THIS WILL RESULT IN FLAMES 2-4 TIMES HIGHER THAN IS CORRECT AND COULD BE A VERY DANGEROUS, LIFE-THREATENING FIRE HAZARD
.

Attaching natural gas to a propane appliance is of little good. The pilot light probably won't even light.



4) GAS CONTROL TYPES: manual, millivolt, thermostat, variable

Manual Control is just that; manual. You turn the burners on, and can adjust the flame height by a control knob on the gas appliance. This adjusting ability is usually very desirable in a vented log, because the action of a vented log is wider and has more of a range of flame height to adjust. On a vent free appliance, you manually adjust the flame height in order to control temperature in the room. Manual control appliances are not capable of using a remote control or wall thermostat and cannot be retro-fitted.

PLUSES: Least expensive. Adjustable flame.

MINUSES: Cannot use remote control or wall thermostat. Cannot be modified to be made millivolt (or remote-ready).

Millivolt Control has a control valve that allows for the use of a remote control, a wired or wireless wall thermostat or a simple on/off switch. Because they offer this level of functionality, they are more expensive. Use of a wall-mounted or hand held thermostat cycles the gas on and off, in order to maintain temperature. Very popular control for logs. Not too expensive, good accessories available. Flame height is adjusted by turning a knob on the gas appliance only. Can also be used manually. Millivolt (or remote-ready) offers the most overall flexibility as more different types of remote units and switches are available than for any other gas system.

PLUSES: Can use a variety or remote-type control systems or can be used manually. Most number of different control systems available.

MINUSES: Cannot adjust flame height via a hand held remote or wall switch. Slightly more expensive than manual control.

Thermostatic Control Units offer automatic temperature control. They utilize a modulating hydraulic gas valve to maintain room temperature via a heat sensing capillary. Operation is quite easy. Simply light the pilot, turn the flame up to HIGH until the room is comfortable, then turn slowly turn the knob towards LO until the the flame cuts off. The control is now set and the valve will "modulate" the flame on and off to maintain the temperature you chose. Very simple to use. However, you cannot adjust flame height with this system. To override the system, you must turn the knob fully on HIGH and leave it there.

Thermostatic controlled heaters and fireplaces allow temperature setting on the unit, and the fireplace or heater will cycle on and offer to maintain temperature in a room. This can be also be achieved with a millivolt system with some type of thermostat remote.


PLUSES: Allows modulating control over temperature in the room. Extremely easy to use.

MINUSES: Slightly more expensive than manual control. Capillary sensor is usually visible in the room. Does not allow for manual control with adjustable flame height.

Variable, aka Hi/Lo control offers flame height control by remote only. You systematically depress and release the "on/hi" switch on a hand held remote (or remote receiver box) until the flame reaches the desired height. If you want to turn the log set off, you depress and release the "off/lo" switch until the flame turns off. You cannot easily control the log set manually, but it can be done. It does, however, allow flame height control via remote.


PLUSES: Flame height control by remote control.

MINUSES: More expensive than millivolt control. You must keep fresh batteries available for the remote since all control is powered by battery. Fewer control options than with millivolt.

DIXIE RECOMMENDATION: Our most popular control type is millivolt (also called remote-ready) control. We offer a wide variety of remote controls and recommend contacting one of our sales professionals should you have any questions regarding what system is best for your application.



5) BTUs - What do they mean to you, and how many BTUs does your gas appliance need?

The rule of thumb is this. Given a room with adequate insulation and typical ceilings (8 feet +/- 1 foot), each 10,000 Btu's of heat output from an efficient gas appliance will heat approximately 350 sq. ft. If the area to be heated has pitched or vaulted ceilings, poor insulation, or drastic air movement then the heating ability will be reduced. (Vented gas logs are not to be considered in this calculation as they are designed for appearance only.)

If your intention is to just take the chill off, then you may not need as much output as needed for a normal living space. Contact us with your needs, and we can make recommendations.




6) EFFICIENCY - how efficient are the difference types of gas appliances?

There are four types of gas appliances: vent-free logs and heaters, direct vent heaters or furnaces, b-vent heaters or furnaces, and vented logs and fireplaces.

Vent-free gas appliances offer 99% or greater efficiency. This means that there is near perfect combustion of gas resulting in 99-99.99% heat, with the other .01-1.00% of the combustion being carbon dioxide and water. The most efficient vent-free appliance is a wall heater. The second most efficient appliance is a vent-free gas log, which is also referred to as a vent-free gas log heater. The difference in overall between the two is that virtually none of a wall heater's heat is absorbed by the heater itself, whereas a vent-free log set is going to have some of its heat absorbed by the walls of a fireplace or firebox, the ceramic or cement logs themselves, and the area around a fireplace or firebox.

Direct vent heaters or furnaces use outside air for combustion and exhaust their combustion gases outside, through a double walled direct vent pipe. Because there is exhaust gas, and thus loss of heat, direct vent heaters operate in overall efficiency from 60-82%.

B-vent heaters or furnaces have a long b-vent pipe running up and out from the heater to the roofline of the house. They use room air for combustion and vent exhaust gas to the outside. The overall heating efficiency of b-vent heaters and furnaces is from 50-75%, depending on the size of the b-vent, make, and model of unit.

Vented gas logs and fireplaces lose most of their heat to the flue, and thus are installed and use mainly for look. They provide some radiant heat to the room, but their efficiency is only from 25-50%.



7) WHAT SIZE LOG SET TO CHOOSE?

You need to know and be familiar with the four dimensions needed to properly size a gas log for a fireplace:
  • height of the opening
  • depth straight in from front to back
  • width of the front opening from sidewall to sidewall
  • width of the rear wall from sidewall to sidewall rear width
If you have a set of doors in place you will need to know:
  • the width of the opening with the glass doors fully open
  • the height of the glass door opening
  • the height of the frame from the fireplace floor to the edge of the glass door opening
Why? You do not want to "overfill" a fireplace by installing too large of a log set. Doing so may cause overheating of the control valve.

Why do we need to know the exact measurements? SIZE DOES MATTER!

Log sets aren't uniform in dimensions, so we need to know if a particular log is going to fit properly in your fireplace or firebox, with safe clearances. A general rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of three inches on EACH SIDE of the log set, or you may encounter several types of problems:

  • Difficulty installing the log set. Little room to play with placement of the burner unit or connecting the gas supply line.

  • If too large, the log set can overheat the fireplace at some point and either trip the heat sensor for the control valve shutting the log set down, or damage the valve itself.

  • Even if the direct heat does not damage the control valve or trip it, you can get too much reflected heat from the fire brick due to the lack of adequate air circulation. This can lead to prematurely aging the valves and controls.

  • The log set can suffocate due to a lack of circulation around the log set, either tripping the oxygen depletion sensor or snuffing out the pilot light altogether.



8) WHAT LOG STYLE TO CHOOSE?

This is all up to you. Are you looking for just beauty? Then go with a vented log set. If you want beauty AND heating performance, go with a vent-free log set. From there it is a simple matter of choosing the log set that appeals to your eye. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.



9) SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

First off, please contact your local public works, city/town/county planning office, gas supplier or building inspector to determine safety procedures, prohibitions, clearances, and other rules and regulations needed during a gas appliance installation.
  • Vent free gas appliances, whether they are logs, heaters, stoves, or fireplaces, are not meant to be a primary source of heat. They are meant to offer you a brilliant fire without soot or ash, and are a good, supplemental heat source. Vented stoves and heaters are designed to be primary heating sources.

  • Vent-free gas appliances, especially gas logs, need periodic cleaning according to manufacturer's guidelines in order to maintain their proper performance and efficiency.

  • Overuse of a gas appliance, or an attempt to install several fireplaces or heaters in a house or building can result in an undesirable amount of water vapor, since the byproduct of even perfect combustion is carbon dioxide and water. This is yet another reason that gas logs and the like are meant to be supplemental heat sources.

  • Vent-free logs come with a variety of safety controls, and are constructed to avoid oxygen depletion, provide automatic shutoff in case of reduced oxygen levels or too hot a fire. The room must have sufficient fresh air ventilation. It is generally recommended that vent-free appliances NOT be installed in smaller bedrooms or bathrooms and should never be left unattended. If vent-free logs are installed in a bedroom, the fireplace damper should be left open. In fact, most local safety codes prohibit the use of vent free units from being installed in bedrooms or bathrooms.

  • Gas appliances should be installed by licensed, certified HVAC contractors, plumbers or other gas professionals per the item manufacturer's specific instructions and local building codes.

  • Vent-free gas appliances need ventilation. An adequate supply of fresh air must be provided to replace the air the unit is consuming for proper combustion. This usually is accomplished by opening an average window about one inch in the room in which the unit is operating.

  • Direct vent and "B" vent heaters must be installed to the letter of the manufacturer's installation instructions in order to draw combustion air properly and to vent their exhaust gases properly.

Still have questions? Contact us by email HERE! or call us Toll Free at: 800-343-6780
 
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bbb accredited business When you’re in the market for gas and electric logs, fireboxes, garage doors, and gas grills, look no further than Dixie Products! Whether you need top-of-the-line vented or ventless Gas Logs, Gas BBQ Grills, Fireplaces and Wood Pellet/Stoves, we carry products from respected names like Regency, Monessen, Amesti, Hampton, Empire Comfort Systems, Superior, Pilgrim, Broilmaster, Napoleon, FireMagic, Wilmington, Wayne Dalton and Lift Master. We invite you into our showroom so we can help you with exactly what you want and deserve!
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Dixie Products 3342 Melrose Avenue NW, Roanoke, Virginia 24017-5900 (800) 343-6780 - (877) 342-6780 Local In Roanoke: (540) 342-6787
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