Should there be a draft coming out of my gas fireplace?

Lamune Posted By Lamune, Jun 9, 2009 at 3:37 AM

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  1. Lamune

    New Member

    Jun 9, 2009
    I bought my current home back in October- one of those abandoned "fix-er-upper..." places... bank repo... dirt cheap type deals. (I just keep telling myself it's gonna' be worth it in a few years when I'm done rebuilding.)
    That first winter was terrible, though. All the windows need replaced, terrible efficiency... it was a couple of cold and miserable months. And this gas fireplace didn't help. (This is my first gas fireplace, so I had no idea what to expect. We've had either an open hearth or woodburning stove since I was a kid.)


    The existing fireplace is a Heatilator... natural gas... no idea on the age, and I don't see a plate anywhere unless it's hidden somewhere inside. It isn't original to the house, but I've got no idea when it was stuck in there, but couldn't be earlier than the 70s. (House was built in '69.)

    Calling it "drafty" is being nice. It's like thing was letting outside air just blow into the house. (As best I can tell, the vent to the roof is just a straight pipe out. Cold air just floods in. If there are any sort of dampers in this thing I haven't found them.)
    I ended up stuffing the one vent with fiberglass, duct-taping over that to seal it, then putting a sheet of that shrink-wrap plastic for windows over the whole fireplace and sealing it shut just to kill the breeze.

    So we fast-forward to this week. I'm poking around in the wall to see what my options are for running conduit in through the fake chimney-breast for routing wires to a wall-mounted LCD. After poking a few holes in the drywall to take a look around I see a damn mess back there, and end up taking one wall off to give me unobstructed access to the inside.


    You can kinda' see it in this photo, but whoever routed the pipe up through the roof apparently decided it would be a good idea to remove the drywall on the outside wall. And there is no insulation anywhere to be seen. (I think back to a $400 gas bill just to have the furnace keep the house at a balmy 60 degrees and want to weep a bit.)

    I also noticed this:


    The second vent to the side of the house is all crushed and mangled. That can't be right... ~_~

    So now I'm looking into my options. I like the idea of a fireplace in this room... even if it is a dated design. I can always dress it up. Something is definitely wrong, though, and the fireplace is a heating nightmare in its current state.

    Is there something that can be done to fix the vents to keep this thing from becoming a wind-tunnel again this next winter? I'd also seriously considered sealing the whole mess off and switching over to ventless. I spoke with a local fireplace store, and they explained that if the existing box is OK I basically just throw in the ventless logs / burner assembly thing and I'm good to go, which is a tempting solution. (I've noticed a lot of folks seem to have a hate for the things, but I'm also not going to be using it much for heat- that's what a woodburning stove in the back is for. And when I have wood to burn, it does do a great job. )

    I figure maybe a few dozen fires a season, more as an accent than heat, though a touch of warmth wouldn't hurt. I'm hoping I don't have to tear this whole mess out and start over. ;_;

    Any ideas or advice on how to proceed?

    Thank you,

  2. DAKSY

    Patriot Guard Rider Moderator
    Staff Member

    Dec 2, 2008
    Averill Park, NY, on Burden Lake II...
    As much as you don't wanna hear it, your best bet is to tear the old box & venting out,
    insulate the bejeezus out of the chase, sheetrock it & if you wanna burn gas, install a new efficient dv unit.
    You could always install an efficient wood burner, if you wanna burn wood & take advantage of the 30% tax incentive.
    If you check out the HnG Northstar, you might even be able to reuse the vent that you have...looks like it might be SL300 series...
    Just my $.02...
  3. jtp10181

    Minister of Fire

    Feb 26, 2007
    Madison, WI
    What it looks like you have is a wood fireplace with a gas log in it. Here is your options

    1) Keep existing setup. Get into the wall behind the unit and attempt to seal up and insulate all walls and make a insulated draft stop with an attic shield, properly fire-stopped. (running unit will still waste gas)

    2) Option 1, but remove the gas log and burn wood (will not produce a net heat gain to the house). Need to get flue inspected first.

    3) Rip everything out that you have now, insulate and seal (drywall) all walls. Make fully insulated draft stop at ceiling height. Install new efficient gas direct vent fireplace, vented out the back of the chase. Put new blank chase top on the top of the chase to seal up the hole.

    4) Option 3 but, switch to an effcient wood fireplace; built in or stove. Possibly can re-use vent if SL300 series and you get a Northstar wood unit.

    There are a few posts where I go into more detail about insulating the walls and such.
  4. Wood Heat Stoves

    Wood Heat Stoves
    Minister of Fire

    Jun 12, 2009
    Nevada City, California
    so the ducts coming fro the side is for outside air, correct?
    check with the gas log maker, but i don't know of any requiring outside air.... seal the aluminum "dryer" vent.

    dampers are removed or locked open for most installs like this, or i'd recomend just closing the damper when not in use (un safe, not code to close draft off for gas logs incase someone forgets to open it and the gas logs are now vented into room.)

    copperfield offers some nice top sealing dampers....

    can you read the rating on the chimney pipe? if it is class A consider an insert and liner(wood, gas or pellet),

    if this is a gas fireplace, tear it out, you'll be happy you did. cheap builder box
  5. jtp10181

    Minister of Fire

    Feb 26, 2007
    Madison, WI
    Preused has no idea what he's talking about....

    You can;t just take a vented log set and close the vent and presto its a vent free logset.

    NO heatilator wood unit can have a ventfree gas log installed in it.

    Do not plug the outside air kits, they may be required for the unit. If its known they are "optional" then they could be plugged.
  6. Metal

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 18, 2005
    That is seriously scary advice you are giving pook (or whatever you are calling yourself this week). jtp is 100% correct.
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