The Summum 100 by Element4 represents the sort of creativity and technology available in modern direct vent gas fireplaces today.

Consider this common predicament: you are thinking of installing a gas fireplace, but you live in a home that has a single chimney and it already vents a central furnace.  Furthermore, you don’t want to tear up your whole house running a pipe through multiple floors and out the roof.  So what is the solution?

If you asked that question just over 30 years ago, the answer would be either move, build another chimney, or forget the fireplace altogether. Fortunately, direct vent gas fireplaces have become so advanced, and indeed so popular, that a practical solution may be right in front of you.

Direct vent gas fireplaces are unique because they can be vented through an exterior wall or through the roof. Whereas a traditional B-vent gas fireplace must vent up a chimney and draws combustion air from the building envelope, direct vent gas fireplaces pull their combustion air from the outside into a sealed firebox.  This not only leads to greater installation flexibility but also much higher efficiency rates over the life of the fireplace.  

This diagram illustrates basic direct vent fireplace technology. Outside air is pulled in for combustion and then vented out through a secondary pipe or via a pipe-in-pipe vent (as you see in the drawing above). A huge benefit of direct vent gas fireplaces is that they can be terminated through an exterior wall or through the roof.

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The Nuts and Bolts of  a Direct Vent Gas Fireplace

As ubiquitous as they’ve become, both consumers and building professionals alike still have questions about direct vent gas fireplaces.  Here are some common questions we’ve come across. 

I don’t have a chimney, how can I vent my direct vent fireplace?

  • Unlike traditional B-vent fireplaces, direct vent fireplaces do not necessitate a chimney for venting.
  • Simply run a direct vent pipe through your walls and terminate through the roof or an external wall.
  • This allows for much greater flexibility in positioning your fireplace.

Besides venting, are there any other building requirements to consider for direct vent fireplaces?

  • You will have to run a natural gas or liquid propane (LP) gas line to the fireplace location.
  • You’ll also need a standard 120v electrical outlet.  Fireplace manufacturers will specify exact requirements in their fireplace installation manuals.

Doesn’t the glass enclosure get hot?

Direct vent gas fireplaces are always enclosed in glass.  This design feature aids in their overall efficiency and guarantees that room air isn’t used in combustion.   Regulation dictates that all glass enclosed fireplaces must have a safety barrier and for years that meant bulky screens that detracted from otherwise clean designs.  Today, higher-end direct vent gas fireplaces offer a choice between a fine stainless steel mesh screen or a double glass solution known as a glass screen barrier.  Check out the comparison for yourself in this short video featuring the Lucius 140 peninsula fireplace by Element4.

I live in a warm climate and I don’t want too much heat from my fireplace. What are my options?


A lot of heat from your fireplace may be unwanted if you are in a climate that is already hot to begin with.  Most gas fireplace products have adjustable flames and heat outputs. A select few, including Element4 fireplaces, even have built-in thermostat settings.  This allows you to set the perfect room temperature and the fireplace will maintain that temperature by automatically modulating your flames.

If you’re looking for a fireplace with no heat output at all, an electric fireplace is the way to go.  Electric fireplaces produce beautiful flame effects and their heater function is completely optional.  If you’ve never considered an electric fireplace before, check out these modern electric fireplaces.

Can I place a TV, artwork, or other items above my fireplace?

We will again point to Element4 direct vent gas fireplaces as an example here.  They have put together this tool: TV Above Fireplace Installation Guide to ensure that all electronics and even combustible finishing materials can be safely installed above or around your fireplace*.  You’re certified hearth installer will take these guidelines into consideration during the installation of your fireplace.  However, it’s important to plan for this design element before installing your fireplace to ensure the safety of your electronics or art.

*Not all direct vent fireplace manufacturers allow for a TV or other electronics to be installed above their fireplaces.  Make sure to check with the manufacturer before planning a fireplace installation with a TV.

Corner Style Fireplace. 2 sided fireplace. modern gas fireplace. modern gas fires. element4

Bidore 140 by Element 4 with a custom television cabinet featuring an automatic sliding door.

In addition to the TV Above Fireplace Installation Guide above, this video will answer many of your more technical framing and finishing questions in regards to Element4 direct vent gas fireplaces.

We’re concerned with our environmental impact. Are direct vent gas fireplaces environmentally friendly?

Compared to burning oil, wood, coal or gasoline, both fuels used in direct vent gas fireplaces, natural gas and liquid propane, burn significantly cleaner and have less of an environmental impact.  Both fuel types do produce carbon dioxide and water during combustion. Liquid propane can produce carbon monoxide while burning if there’s not enough combustion air, but that’s not a problem with a direct vent model as all by-products are vented outside.

With improved efficiencies, turn down rates to reduce heat output when needed, and electronic ignitions rather than standing pilot lights, modern direct vent gas fireplaces have significantly reduced their environmental impact over the years.  However, for an even more ‘green’ choice you may consider an electric fireplace.  When paired with renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, your carbon fireplace footprint can be next to nothing.  

E40 3-sided: Electric Fireplace by European Home

Electric fireplaces have always been the most ‘green’ fireplace option but have historically gotten a bad reputation for looking ‘fake’.  In recent years, improvements in flame effects and design quality have made them a very viable option, even for the most sophisticated interior spaces.

Breakthrough for Modern Gas Fireplaces

We can thank the Shimek brothers of Apple Valley, Minnesota for the popularity of gas fireplaces in homes all across the country.  Drawing on their fascination with combustion and love of tinkering, Dan and Ron began diving into gas fireplace technology in the late 1970s. By 1987, they received the patent for the first direct vent technology.

What began as a garage innovation morphed into an industry-changing breakthrough. All of a sudden, architects and builders could design and build homes without adding costly and labor-intensive chimney features.

Today, companies like Element4 have taken the idea of a direct vent gas fireplace and completely transformed the aesthetic approach.  With clean modern lines, efficient yet robust flames and an endless selection of design styles, these modern gas fireplaces have been elevated to likes of fine art.

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Tenore 240: Direct vent gas fireplaces come in any number of shapes and sizes such as this 8′ wide see-through model by Elment4.  Installation by All Seasons Fireplace.

 

Start building the direct vent gas fireplaces of your dreams.  Talk to one of our friendly specialists.