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    Turn Down the Heat: 5 Low-BTU Fireplaces That Won't Leave You Sweltering

    Do you love the idea of a fireplace, but worry that it will produce too much heat for your small space or mild climate? The average size of the American home is skyrocketing and fireplace manufacturers are keeping pace by building appliances to heat large rooms. With all the explosive growth in the housing sector, it shouldn't be forgotten that smaller homes and rooms still need heating solutions to fit the smaller square footage.

    The following list includes gas fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and electric models with one thing in common: they offer cozy flames without overpowering heat. You'll find fireplace options for everything from bedrooms and tiny homes to RVs and boats. The low heat appliances also allow homeowners to enjoy a fire in the off-season or in a warm climate. So don't let warm weather or small rooms stop you from adding the atmosphere of a fireplace to your home.

    What are BTUs?

    Before we get started, here's a quick summary of how heat output is measured in the first place. The amount of heat an appliance is capable of producing is quantified in BTUs (British Thermal Units). One BTU represents the amount of heat necessary to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. Fireplaces and stoves are typically rated according to the number of BTUs they are capable of producing.

    If you want to get a ballpark for how many BTUs you will need to heat a certain room, you can use this BTU calculator which factors in the volume of the room, the age of the house, and the desired temperature change.

    Low Output Direct Vent Models

    Manufactured by Superior, these direct vent fireplaces achieve a low heat output without the use of special heat dispersal systems or other add-ons.  Instead, a pan burner system does the job of dispersing the gas supply into a very thin layer over a relatively large width. Despite the low rating of only 12,000 BTUs for natural gas and 10,000 BTUs for propane, the flame appearance is excellent and does not sacrifice authentic looking flames for low heat output. 

    Two designs are available to complement your style. The DRC2033 series has a more contemporary vibe with a black painted interior and a pan burner designed to be covered with fire glass. The fire glass comes in a variety of reflective colors. The DRT2033 series lends itself to traditional decor with a ceramic log set made to look like aged oak. It comes with the option of a brick liner or a painted black interior.

    Both models come with the option of either millivolt ignition (which does not require any external power and is easily linked to a remote), or electronic ignition with a battery backup that would allow the unit to function in a power outage.

    The installation is relatively simple. As with all direct vent fireplaces, a glass face seals the combustion chamber and a double walled vent system is used to both vent exhaust gases to atmosphere and draw in combustion air for the burner. These two systems can be routed vertically and horizontally for maximum versatility and are adaptable to both propane and natural gas.  

    An included barrier screen is also useful for covering the glass, especially in very small rooms where accidental contact is a real concern. On the rare occasion when more heat is desired, an optional blower system can be installed and switched on only when required.

    Non-Heating Electric Model

    Although it is more expensive, the Dimplex VF2927L Opti-V maximizes installation versatility, has no built in heater, and is among the most realistic electric fireplaces on the market.  The fireplace features a cast log set with internal LED lighting and an LED screen to give the appearance of ultra-realistic, three-dimensional flames and sparks. Coupled with high quality sound integration, it crackles like a real fire and is truly miles ahead of most electric fireplace technology. 

    Installation is a cinch, with no venting and minuscule power requirements (less than $0.01 per day). The unit stays cool, is maintenance-free, emissions-free, and meets the strictest building codes. Since the flames are virtual, it can safely be installed and enjoyed almost anywhere, including pull-behind campers, boats, and other tiny spaces. Dimplex is also a leader in product testing and reliability, ensuring that despite the initial cost investment, customers are truly getting what they pay for.

    Low Output Wood Stove

    It isn't easy to find a compact wood stove that can be enjoyed when temperatures are mild, but the Osburn 900 fits the bill. Featuring a compact footprint perfect for small spaces, this stove is designed to heat as little as 250 square feet and still maintain a pleasant flame appearance.

    The stove is rated at 26,100 to 40,000 BTUs, but to allow the stove to produce even less heat, there is the option to equip it with the Osburn Rigid Firescreen. This screen essentially converts the stove into an open fireplace, allowing it to pull dilution air from the home and lowering its overall efficiency. The only drawback with the firescreen is that the lower combustion temperatures may result in more frequent cleaning, but it is worthwhile if you want low heat output from a real wood stove. 

    Installation requires a 6-inch venting pipe. If the unit is installed on top of a combustible floor, make sure that you protect the floor with a non-combustible material. The stove is lined with a fire brick interior and features a self-cleaning ceramic glass front.

    Heat Dispersing Direct Vent

    Napoleon manufactures a family of appliances that offer heat dispersal technology for times when you do not want to use the fireplace as a zone heating source. The heat dispersal system is essentially a metal manifold that mounts to the fireplace and uses ducting to pull heat from the appliance to the outdoors.  While some residual heat is still felt in the room, the vast majority is expelled, allowing you to keep burning the appliance even in the off season. Since excess heat can be transferred outside, the unit is able to burn at a higher BTU output (resulting in an impressive flame) without the extra heat.

    Napoleon offers several models with this technology, but the HDX35 is a very popular traditional model of fireplace, while the HD81 is a lower cost linear model that still offers a beautiful flame presentation and surround options. Both provide a wealth of customizable options to suit the style of your home. 

    With the heat dispersal system not in use, the HDX35 produces a respectable 35,000 BTUs and the LHD45 achieves 24,000 BTUs. This means you have the option of using these models as a true heating appliance when desired.

    The direct vent can be routed straight through a wall or roof, so the fireplaces can be installed in almost any room. Both models are specifically approved for bedrooms and mobile homes and can also be equipped with optional blowers.

    The HDX35 can be used with natural gas or propane and can even be converted to liquid propane fuel with a special conversion kit. The LHD45 was designed to use natural gas, but can also be converted to propane with an additional kit.

    B-Vent Gas Fireplaces

    Historically, B-vent gas fireplaces have served as a go to for contractors and homeowners that are looking for the ambiance of a fire without needing supplemental heat output.  B-vent models function in much the same way as a traditional fireplace, being open to the room and pulling in both combustion air and dilution air from the room as they operate. 

    While this makes them a less efficient heating appliance, it does allow them to be operated for long periods of time when you want flames without much heat. They are a perfect fit for smaller areas or for customers that would like a fireplace to be usable during the off season.

    Summary

    In the end, enjoying a safe, comfortable fire is possible in almost any space as long as you find the right appliance. Make sure that the appliance you choose is right for your situation before you purchase. If you have any questions about which low BTU fireplaces is best for you, our technicians are happy to help!

    About the Author

    Collin Champagne

    Approaching his 10-year work anniversary, Collin is one of our National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified technicians and content manager for the eFireplacestore, eCanopy, and EliteDeals brands. He is a Master Hearth Professional, which means he is certified in all three hearth appliance fields — wood, gas and pellet.

    When not at work, he spends time with his wife, Lindsey, and his sons, Samuel and Eli, on their ranch enjoying their many animals. Completing projects around the ranch and spending quality time with his family are among his greatest joys. 

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