B vent fireplaces are one of the more misunderstood gas fireplaces in the market. They look similar to traditional wood fireplace in their design though, their venting & burner systems do not allow for wood burning. B vent fireplaces have an open firebox, typically a U-shaped burner and can be fueled by natural or propane gas.
While it might seem strange, a B vent fireplace, similar to a wood burning fireplace, is not designed to primarily be used as a source of heat. Its main function is décor and aesthetics. This is due in part to the open front firebox that has very low efficiency and releases most of the heat through the chimney.
Keystone B Vent Louvered Gas Fireplace
So, the main thing a B vent fireplace has going for it is the similarity to the look of a real wood burning fireplace. Many people want to enjoy sitting beside roaring flames while avoiding the hassle of cutting, stacking, and burning real wood. If that is the case for you, continue reading. A B vent gas fireplace may be right for you.
Types Of B Vent Fireplaces
While the appearance of a real wood fireplace may draw you towards a B vent model, you need to be aware that their style options are much more limited than an electric or direct vent fireplace. B vent fireplaces are typically square in design and do not come in linear or see-through styles like other gas fireplaces. They typically do not offer customizable location options like a peninsula, island or corner installation either.
Peninsula and Linear Fireplaces
While B vents may not have all the varieties of other indoor fireplaces, you can get them anywhere between 32 to 42 inches wide. And... wait for it... there are even a few models with smaller or larger openings. So, by George, there is hope for the B vent after all.
Empire is a long-standing manufacturer of B vent fireplaces. No one sells a more quality version of this product, which is why so many of their B vent fireplaces are best sellers on our site. So, if after all this talk of limited styling options, you decide you still may want a propane or natural gas fireplace, Empire has you covered.
Homes B Vents Are Best And Worst For
Now that we covered the styling and location options, we also need to discuss what types of homes B vent is best and least suited for. So, let's start with the places it is best for first.
If you live in a warmer climate and still want to enjoy the look of a traditional fireplace, B vent may be a great option for you. The inefficiency of a B vent fireplace turns into a strength when you install it in an area with higher temperatures. It allows people who normally wouldn't get to enjoy a fireplace, the opportunity to do so without getting overheated. Many people who live in tropical areas, install B vents for decoration versus actual heating abilities.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are people who live in colder climates or in homes that are heavily insulated for energy efficiency. If you have ever had a traditional wood fireplace, you will know it only heats the immediate area around it through radiant heat. Most of the heat is lost up the vent.
A B vent fireplace operates nearly the same and unfortunately isn't good for heating homes that need a fireplace for supplemental heat. Also, if your home is heavily insulated, that can work against the design of a B vent fireplace.
double pane glass
Gas fireplaces with a B vent system draw air from inside the home for combustion. When a home is heavily insulated, it reduces the spaces between windows and doors for outside air to sneak in and help oxygenate the fireplace.
When that happens, if the fire is burning and doesn't have enough oxygen to continue, it will pull air backward through the vent to try to even itself out. Pulling air back down the vent will also pull flue gases back into your home. So, having a wood burning fireplace or B vent fireplace is not a good option for heavily insulated homes.
When installing a B vent fireplace, they can be built into a wall with conventional framing lumber, similar to how a vent-free or direct vent fireplace will be framed. Because they have a smaller diameter vent pipe, you have flexibility in the installation that will help you maneuver around other lumber in the building framework.
Also, offsets or elbows can help redirect vent pipe to work around obstructions in the path of your venting system. Thankfully, B vent pipe is pretty low cost. Since you can not vent it horizontally, you will end up using more pipe than you would with a direct vent system. So, the lower-cost pipe does help out in the long run.
framing a fireplace
For some homes, you may have to route the vent pipe along the exterior of the home and cover it in a decorative chimney chase. Routing vent pipe can be one of the most complicated parts of installing a fireplace. Sometimes it can become a jig saw of elbows and tees, though an experienced technician will know how to handle each individual case.
The two things that are the same across the board are gas lines and electrical installation. These stay consistent for B vent, vent free and direct vent fireplaces. Installing gas lines is a bit technical and can be complicated if you don't understand what pipes and fixtures to attach to make the line connect how you need it to.
This is not a part of the installation we recommend you try to do yourself. Even if you are an experienced DIY'er, messing up the gas line can have dangerous consequences, so you should always leave that to a professional.
Talking about accessories is one of the more fun topics when discussing B vent fireplaces. While their shape and location may be limited, there is a variety of ways to customize the appliance and make it your own.
standing pilot ignition system
Most B vents come with a traditional U-shaped burner to fit within the square firebox. You can choose from an IPI (or intermittent) pilot system and standing pilot ( or millivolt) pilot system. The choice depends largely on whether you want/need your pilot light to continuously stay on.
Its suggested that people in colder areas have a standing pilot so the burner system stays warm and doesn't experience a cold start issue when temps are low. If you don't use the fireplace often and have chosen it more for aesthetics, you could choose an IPI system that turns the pilot light off after every use.
Pro Flame Remote
Another fun option to consider is a remote start. Many gas fireplaces come with "remote ready" capabilities that allow you to turn the fireplace off and on with the click of a button. In addition to the customizable ignition system, you can pick from several types of decorative liners that go along the walls of the firebox.
Some are made to look like aged brick and complete the traditional wood fireplace aesthetic. Others are made in white, tan or grey herringbone patterns and can lean a bit more modern in appearance. Either way, you have plenty of accessories that can elevate the look of your fireplace and ensure you enjoy it for years to come.
Care & Maintenance
Some gas fireplaces are easier to care for than others. Since B vent fireplaces have an open front, dust and gunk from the room can enter into the pilot assembly and burner system. Yearly maintenance of the appliance is recommended. You will need to remove the gas log set, grates and any faux embers that were added for effect. Once everything has been removed, blow out the burner pan and pilot tube with compressed air.
cleaning a gas fireplace
B vent systems are equipped with high-temperature limit switches that shut down the unit if there is a blockage in the vent pipe. So, you won't need to do regular checkups to prevent that. Just look over the termination or chimney cap to make sure it is in good condition and that will be enough.
B vent fireplaces are large enough that they will be shipped via freight carrier and arrive on a pallet. When shipped by freight the carrier will arrange a delivery date and time with you when they receive your contact information. Be aware that these appliances are very heavy and will need two people to move them from the drop-off point to your house.
The driver is not responsible for and will not be a part of relocating the item to where it will stay in your home. When your fireplace arrives, no matter what the driver says, take time to unwrap and inspect the condition of the item before you sign the delivery receipt and allow him to leave.
If there is noticeable damage, you can take pictures for your records, make notes on the delivery receipt, then refuse the shipment and sign.
If you do not take the time to look for damages before the driver leaves and you sign the delivery receipt without noting its poor condition, you will have a very hard time winning a warranty claim against the carrier. It is your job to make sure the freight is received in the proper condition or refused immediately.
If you have any questions about the delivery, installation or buying process, please don't hesitate to call us at 800.203.1642. We have NFI certified technicians waiting to talk to you and guide you every step of the way.
What is the difference between direct vent and B-vent fireplaces?
While similar in basic design principles, there are several differences between these two appliances. A B-vent appliance uses what is known as type B gas vent. This is a single tube that vents exhaust gases to the atmosphere and is always run vertically through the roof of a home. In order for the unit to operate, combustion air is drawn through the open front of the unit. In this sense, a B-vent appliance is much like a traditional wood burning fireplace. The two types also share the common design aspect of being relatively inefficient and they are primarily intended for ambiance. One advantage to a B-vent appliance however is that they are generally cheaper than direct vent units. Direct vent appliances use a sealed pane of glass to cover the fireplace opening, relying on a co-axial rigid vent pipe to both vent exhaust gases and draw combustion air for the burner assembly. They are more efficient than any other type of vented gas fireplace and as such, they can serve as an excellent supplemental heat source. Venting these units is relatively easy, as the vent systems can be routed both vertically and horizontally. One common drawback to direct vent models is the reflection of the glass, which can be a visual detractor. However, almost all customers grow accustomed to the look and no longer notice it.
If you want to hook up a propane stove to an existing chimney pipe in the basement of a house can you use a direct vent propane heater without running a special vent pipe through the unlined chimney? Or do you need a B-vent propane heater?
Though supporting the pipe may prove difficult, either direct vent pipe or B-vent pipe may be routed through an empty chimney chase with no clay flue liner as long as all required clearances are respected. However, if you wish to make a connection to an existing metal Class A chimney pipe, an approved chimney to direct vent conversion kit would be required. Duravent, for example, makes three different kits to accommodate connecting to a wide range of models of Class A pipe (46DVA-KCA, 46DVA-KCB, and 46DVA-KCC).
we are looking for a b-vent fireplace insert....but we don't want gas logs...instead we want one that has the crushed glass in the bottom and flames come up thru the crushed glass...do you offer a unit like this?
B-vent fireplaces have largely waned in popularity as they do not provide any efficient or measurable heat, so the options will be limited and there is no model offered that will be configured with glass. You will have many more options when searching for a direct vent or ventless system configured with a fire glass burner.