Measured concentrations of combustion gases from the use of unvented gas fireplaces

Indoor Air. 2010 Oct;20(5):370-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2010.00659.x.


Measurements of combustion product concentrations were taken in 30 homes where unvented gas fireplaces were used. Measurements of CO, CO(2), NO(x), NO(2) , O(2) (depletion), and water vapor were taken at 1-min interval. The analyzers were calibrated with certified calibration gases for each placement and were in operation for 3-4 days at each home. Measured concentrations were compared to published health-based standards and guidelines. The two combustion gases that exceeded published values were NO(2) and CO. For NO(2) , the Health Canada guideline of 250 ppb (1-h average) was exceeded in about 43% of the sample and the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 110 ppb (1-h average) was exceeded in 80% of the sample. Carbon monoxide levels exceeded the U.S. EPA 8-h average standard of 9 ppm in 20% of the sample. Moisture problems were not evident in the test homes. An analysis of the distribution of CO showed that the CO is dispersed throughout the home almost immediately upon operation of the fireplace and that the concentrations throughout the home away from the immediate vicinity of the fireplace are 70-80% of the level near the fireplace. Decay analysis of the combustion gases showed that NO was similarly stable to CO and CO(2) in the indoor environment but that both NO(2) and water vapor were removed from the air at much greater rates.

Practical implications: Previous studies on unvented gas fireplaces have made assumptions of how they are operated by users. This article presents the results of field monitoring of 30 unvented gas fireplaces under normal operation, regardless of whether users follow industry recommendations regarding installation, usage patterns, and maintenance. The monitoring found that health-based standards and guidelines were exceeded for CO in 20% of homes and for NO(2) in most homes. There were no identified moisture problems in these homes. Nearly, half of the fireplaces were used at least once for longer than 2 h, counter to manufacturers' intended usage as supplemental heating. This demonstrates that given actual usage patterns and compared to current health-based thresholds, these appliances can produce indoor air concentrations considered to be unhealthy to at least sensitive or at-risk individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / standards
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Canada
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis*
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis*
  • Confined Spaces*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Heating / methods
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis*
  • Nitrogen Oxides / analysis*
  • Oxygen / analysis*
  • Steam


  • Air Pollutants
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Steam
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Oxygen