Ventless gas heater dangers

Old 01-23-07, 03:52 PM
Andrew's Avatar
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 952
Received 14 Upvotes on 10 Posts
Exclamation Ventless gas heater dangers

My mother-in law has a ventless natural gas heater on her enclosed porch, which was installed by her late husband. Any time I visit, I am instantly hit with that "combustion byproducts" smell throughout her house (apparently she cannot smell it). Originally I told her that I was very much against this installation, but she continues to use it. I bought her a CO detector, but she doesn't use it and seems to think it's unnecessary.
I need some help here...
Does anyone know of any case history I can cite to her to back up my claim of the dangers of this setup? Am I nuts or paranoid for questioning this supposedly "safe" installation?
Old 01-23-07, 04:16 PM
Grady's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Delaware, The First State
Posts: 12,682
Received 41 Upvotes on 39 Posts
Ventless Gas Heater

Here are some links thru the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Old 01-23-07, 04:20 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: USA
Posts: 15,047
Upvotes: 0
Received 2 Upvotes on 2 Posts
Call a plumber and have it installed properly. Tell her the reason is that you love her and you want her to be safe and live forever.
Old 01-23-07, 05:12 PM
Ed Imeduc's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Mountain Williams Missouri
Posts: 17,505
Upvotes: 0
Received 1 Upvote on 1 Post

You might also check the law there. In many states you cant sell them . Also that saftey they say they have on them is a oxygen depletion sensor. But by the time that turns it off .You can be dead from the CO.
Check the St Louis papers from the ice storm how many people are dead from CO from vent less heaters they took into their homes.
Old 11-21-12, 12:41 PM
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 2
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Hasn't been a problem for me.

I have had a ventless gas heater in my basement for many years. We are actually on our second one. The first one was a cheap one that did not have a thermostat and I got tired of having to get up to turn the heat up and down. Our current one has a wireless remote thermostat and we love it.

As far as the ODS pilot not going off soon enough to stop the stove, I have found the opposite to be true. Until recently, the ODS has been shutting the heater down about a half hour after I turn it on. Turns out the ODS got dust in it that caused it to shut down. Once I cleaned it out with compressed air, it now works fine.

In all these years, we have never had any issues or symptoms of poisonous gas. There is just a slight odor when the unit is first turned on that goes away once the unit heats up and the catalytic action is fully activated.

I also have a CO detector in the basement that we bought through the gas company and it is always at zero. In fact, since it never detected ANY CO, I thought that it might be broken. So one day we took it with us to our neighborhood bar and plugged it in. There were about 4 or 5 people smoking. The CO indicator kept going up and up until after about 15 minutes it let out a very loud, high pitched, piercing alarm that meant that the CO level was dangerously high. The whole bar freaked out. I quickly unplugged the unit and when I explained what it was and why it set off the alarm, then they really freaked out. I think I might have gotten a few people to quit smoking that day. I plugged it back in when we got home (with the ventless stove running) and it went back to zero.

Now our house is very well insulated, but I do not think it is severely air tight. Also, we only tend to use the heater about 4 or 5 hours each evening. As far as emissions, it seems to emit just the right amount of water to offset the dry heated air. The humidity stays between 30 to 40%, which is much lower than in the summer, when we do not use the heater at all.

And the real kicker is that when the unit is not on, the basement basically does not get heated. But when I do use it and heat up the basement, our gas usage actually goes down because the basement heat rises to the main floor and the ventless heater is so much more efficient than our furnace, which is 80% efficient.

Nobody is going to scare me away from using this great heater. Perhaps there are a lot of other ventless heaters that are cheaply made and emit toxins, but mine is a very well made unit that is also very attractive. It looks like a cast iron wood burning stove and has gas logs inside that makes it look like a real fire. Actually, we originally had a wood burning stove in the exact same place that was, of course, fully vented, and I found that stove to actually be much dirtier and smelly than the ventless stove we now have.

One more point. The ventless heaters the last poster referred to after the ice storm were portable kerosene heaters. That is a whole different ball game than a permanently installed heater running on natural gas. Those things also started a lot of house fires.
Old 11-21-12, 01:40 PM
SeattlePioneer's Avatar
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Seattle, Wa
Posts: 4,469
Upvotes: 0
Received 1 Upvote on 1 Post
You are certainly entitled to operate your heater if you wish to do so. As an experienced repairman who is familiar with the risks that equipment presents, I think that is foolish.

I think such equipment could be operated safely if all the people using it read, understood and followed ALL the usually lengthy list of warnings and directions provided by manufacturers. However, I have never known anyone who did so.

That includes your description of the operation of your equipment, arcdude. All the manufacturers I am familiar with recommend that equipment be serviced only by qualified repair people. But you describe repairs you made yourself, violating those directions.

Also, all such equipment I am familiar with directs users to have such equipment maintained at least annually by a qualified repairman, or whenever the equipment isn"t operating properly. It sounds like you operated the equipment for lengthy periods of time when you knew or should have know it wasn't operating properly.

While it's useful to have a CO alarm, that's not an adequate substitute for using unsafe or risky equipment.

So far, it sounds like you haven't had unsafe events occur because of your use of this equipment. However, because you ignore the warnings and directions of the manufacturer, should defects occur which are hazardous it sounds like you would very likely ignore them or take ineffective action yourself rather than responsible action which would be to quit using the equipment until it is inspected and repair by a competent person.

As a first responder for a gas utility when complaints of carbon monoxide hazards were made, I would estimate I inspected about 6,000 homes and businesses for such issues. Not infrequently I found hazards, and on thousands of occasions I shut off equipment operating in a dangerous way, and sometimes sent people off to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning.

I am not at all inclined to exaggerate the hazards of CO poisoning from gas equipment. I would simply estimate that unvented equipment of the kind you have is, oh, 300 times as likely to be a CO hazard as other gas equipment, and probably 1,000 times as risky as your 80% efficient gas furnace, which has extensive protections against CO hazards.

The fact is that you are not competent to understand the risks you are running by using your equipment in the manner you do. In my opinion, that is a simple fact.

And while you are certainly entitled to run such risks if you wish to do so, I doubt if other residents of your household have similar freedom of choice. I don't doubt for a minute that you have not disclosed the risks to them in a meaningful way, pointing out how you ignore the warnings and directions provided by the manufacturer.

And those warnings are designed to avoid the risks I have explained here in slightly more graphic detail. You are entitled to risk your own safety, but not the safety of other living in the same household, I suggest.

Of course I have no expectation whatever that my comments will change your opinions and practices. I simply state them as a reply to your comments.

Last edited by Gunguy45; 11-21-12 at 02:05 PM. Reason: Removed certain comments...PM sent.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: