Restoring a Bedroom Fireplace

Posted by Karen Duke on 9/1/2018 to Tech
We're often asked about installing or renovating fireplaces in bedrooms. Here in Richmond, Virginia it is a controversial issue as building inspectors may not like the idea due to safety concerns.

Please be assured that we, too, feel that safety is the utmost concern with any fire. However, we also appreciate a homeowner's desire to install or restore a bedroom fireplace for the warmth, charm and romance a fire offers. A fireplace can be as safe in a bedroom as in any other room of your home.

What about vent-free gas appliances in bedrooms?
This issue is particularly misunderstood. Vent-free appliances in bedrooms must be a wall hung heater and must be under 10,000 btu's.
  • A vent-free log set that is under 10,000 btu's is not allowed because it is not a wall mounted appliance.
  • Vented appliances in bedrooms are NOT limited to the 10,000 btu rule, unless the bedroom is considered a confined space, as defined below.
The building inspector in your locale has the ultimate approval for fireplace installations. It is helpful to ask which code is applicable in your locality to determine which code he or she is quoting. For example, a direct vent fireplace may be allowed while one with an open fire is not.

The International Fuel Gas Code, for example, states
(noted in red):



SECTION 303 (IFGC)
APPLIANCE LOCATION
303.3 Prohibited locations. Fuel-fired appliances shall not be
located in, or obtain combustion air from, any of the following
rooms or spaces:
1. Sleeping rooms.
2. Bathrooms.
3. Toilet rooms.
4. Storage closets.
5. Surgical rooms.

Exceptions:
1. Direct-vent appliances that obtain all combustion air directly from the outdoors.
2. Listed vented gas fired room heaters, listed vented decorative gas appliances and listed decorative gas-fired appliances for installation in vented solid fuel burning fireplaces, provided that the room is not a confined space and the building is not of unusually tight construction.


All the gas appliances we sell are one of those defined above; they are either a decorative listed appliance, a heater rated listed appliance, or a decorative appliance for installation in a vented solid fuel burning fireplace.

The following information is extracted from the Gas Hearth Appliance Training Manual published by the Hearth Products Association:

"LISTED APPLIANCE: Equipment or materials tested to
required standards by a testing organization.....Assures
suitability for use in a specified manner when equipment
installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation
instructons. Listed VENTED gas appliances will be either:

Room Heater:
* Must meet the federal efficiency mandates of the Energy Conservation Act and meet efficiency standards based on an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) based on btu input.
* Must have a vent safety shutoff system, designed to stop gas flow to the main burner if the appliace is not connected to a venting system or if the venting system is blocked.

Decorative Appliance
* Is not designed for heating; its sole or primary purpose is aesthetic enjoyment 
* Is not required to meet fuel efficiency standards 
* Cannot use a thermostat to control operation of the flames

Decorative Appliance Installed in Solid Fuel Burning Fireplaces
Standard Z21.60 sets forth requirements for appliances installed into an existing fireplace:

* The appliance can only be installed in a non-combustible solid fuel burning fireplace that has a working flue.
* There must be a permanent free opening (usually the damper) of a minimum area determined by appliance input rating and chimney height. 
* The chimney damper must be fixed in a manner that maintains the minimum permanent vent-free opening.A fireplace screen must be in place during operation.

What is a "Confined Space"? 
A "confined space" is defined by the National Fuel Gas Code as a space (or room) with less than 50 cubic feet per 1,000 btu input of the appliance.

Example:
Can a listed decorative gas coal basket with 25,000 btu input be installed in a 12' x 15' room with 8' ceilings?

25 (thousand btu input of the appliance) x 50 (cubic ft required per 1,000 btu input) = 1250 cubic feet.

Length x width x height of room gives the total cubic foot area.
12' x 15' x 8' = 1440 cubic feet. 

The room area in this example is 1440 cubic feet; this appliance needs 1250 cubic feet of area. The appliance could be installed in this room based strictly on the limitations of a "confined space".

Note that the building inspector or other "authority having jurisdiction" in your area should be able to provide you:
-Which code is used in your area
-The specifications required and allowed per that code
-The interpretation, if needed, of that code (though you'd best try and understand it yourself too)
-Means of implementing that code for your particular installation
-Inspection of your installation to determine that it was performed in accordance with applicable codes and according to manufacturer's installation instructions.

Further advice, for installation in bedrooms or any other room in your home:

*Heating appliances, decorative gas appliances and theirchimneys/venting systems should only be installed and serviced by a qualified technician.

*Always follow manufacturer's installation instructions

*Only perform installation in accordance with your local codes

*Notify your homeowners insurance company that a new installation has been performed

*Make sure and have the appliance cleaned and serviced annually to help assure proper performance

CONSIDER AN ELECTRIC FIREPLACE INSERT
There are several advantages to installing an electric insert in a bedroom fireplace.
  • There are no gas lines to run, no chimney issues to address. Just take it home and plug it in to the wall outlet.
  • Electric fires are great heaters in smaller rooms that can be closed off, able to provide the sole source of heat for about 400 sq. ft.
  • You can use the "flame only" setting without the heat any time, enjoying the ambiance of a fire effect without heat