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What is a Vented Space Heater?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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A vented space heater is a small heating unit designed to supplement or replace a central heating system. These units allow homeowners to heat a single room or area without heating the entire home. Vented models rely on a combustion process to produce heat, and they include an exhaust system to direct combustion-related gases and fumes outdoors.

Homeowners can choose between electric and combustion space heaters to supplement home heat. Electric models rely on electricity rather than combustion, and are therefore not vented. Combustion-based models burn propane or natural gas, and thus produce fumes and by-products like carbon monoxide. Without an exhaust system, these combustion units cannot be used indoors without significant health risks to occupants. In many areas, using a combustion-based space heater indoors without proper venting is also illegal.

A vented space heater can solve this problem, and allow homeowners to enjoy efficient and effective home heating without the health risks. These units include an exhaust chamber, which passes fumes into a flue or chimney. The fumes then travel through the flue or chimney and exit the home through an opening in the roof or exterior wall.

The standard vented space heater draws air from inside the home to build sufficient pressure within the unit so that exhaust fumes exit the building as desired. The most effective vented space heater models feature a sealed combustion chamber. This chamber allows the unit to rely on only outdoor air during the exhaust process, rather than drawing air from indoors. Sealed combustion units reduce the risk of backdraft and often result in better indoor air quality, though these models may cost more than standard units.

One of the primary advantages to using a vented space heater is the low operating cost associated with these units. Compared to electric space heaters, combustion-based units are much more efficient and cheaper to run. Installing a vented space heater is the only way to enjoy these cost savings indoors, as unvented models are dangerous or illegal. Compared to inefficient electric space heaters, vented units also reduce fossil fuel consumption and help protect the environment.

Of course, buyers should also be aware of the potential drawbacks and limitations of these devices. The initial installation costs of a vented space heater are high compared to the cost of an electric or unvented unit. This is due to the extensive work required to add a flue or chimney and route exhaust piping through the roof or walls. Over time, the savings in operating costs may largely offset this initial investment.

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