Category Archives for Gas Fireplace

Gas Fireplace Won’t Light? Here Is What to Do.

It can be frustrating when your gas fireplace won’t light but there several easy ways to try and repair it. Gas fireplaces are known for their efficiency and ability to heat your home without creating large cold spots like a traditional wood burning fireplace, and they also don't require consistent tending.  

Modern gas fireplaces have realistic looking logs that are often made from ceramic fibers, and more robust flames similar to their wood-burning counterparts. Even if you already have a wood burning fireplace, it's possible to convert it to a gas fireplace. Read on for our troubleshooting tips to address a gas fireplace that won’t light.

What is a Gas Fireplace?

A gas fireplace is simply a fireplace that uses gas instead of wood as its source of fuel. This kind of fire doesn't create smoke as it burns the gas and relies on the combustion happening in a sealed environment, which makes it more efficient.

Instead of smoke going up a chimney, a gas fireplace releases its carbon dioxide and water vapor through a tube that goes out of the home. Gas fireplaces burn very cleanly, and there are also gas burning models available that don't need special venting.

These fireplaces claim to be safe, but in more air-tight homes, some concern has been raised by the American Lung Association about air quality and lung health. The number of impurities these ventless units put into the air may be minimal, but long-term testing has not been done to determine their impact on our health.

How a Gas Fireplace Works

Pop corn and a cup of coffee at the top of the table and behind it is a gas fireplace

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A gas fireplace has the appearance of a natural wood fireplace, but the way that it works is slightly different. First, there are a significantly lower amount of impurities put into the air, and instead of smoke going up a chimney, there is a vent that routes water vapors outside of the home.

Gas fireplaces work by having a source of fuel which is the gas, and an ignition in the form of a pilot light. This system is very similar to a conventional gas furnace but on a much smaller scale and some added safety features that make it safer as a focal point of your home.

There’s no need to feed or tend a gas fireplace, and if your gas fireplace won’t light the solution is likely a simple one such as a faulty part, or a small amount of maintenance being required. The logs in this kind of fireplace are mostly for appearances and have little to no impact on how the fire burns other than making it look realistic.

To start a gas fireplace, you push a button, and the lighting mechanism starts the fire. There's no need to do anything else other than maybe close or adjust the doors to your liking. By closing the doors or vents, less heat may enter the home, but opening them will offer additional heat to flow into the room.

Gas fireplaces can burn either natural gas or propane depending on where you are and what fuel you have. It is likely that if you already have a gas burning appliance, you’ll use the same type of gas for your gas fireplace. Each year there is a small amount of maintenance that needs to be performed to ensure that the fire will light and burn correctly.

This maintenance should generally be performed by a certified technician that has specific training in maintaining and repairing gas fireplaces. There is some maintenance that you can do yourself, but it is generally included in an annual technician visit.

Gas fireplaces can help lower your heating costs because it warms the room that you are spending time in but doesn’t cause the rest of your home to become colder as is the case with a wood burning fireplace. Some models also connect to a thermostat on your wall and will adjust automatically to put out more or less heat based on the temperature you select.

There are many different models of gas fireplaces, and some even come with a remote that you can use to turn on the flames, adjust them, and make other changes. Some light cleaning is required to remove soot or dust that can build up around the unit. It is also possible that carbon can build up around the area where the logs are or around the gaskets to the doors.

Regular cleaning of your gas fireplace is crucial as it keeps the unit operating safely and prevents excess impurities from entering your home. Cleaning the area can also keep other particles from burning that shouldn't and holds your fire securely in the enclosed fireplace.

Newer gas fireplaces have been designed to more closely resemble wood-burning fireplaces, but there are still some differences. The logs in wood-burning fireplaces change over time as the fire is regularly tended and more fuel becomes available. In a gas fireplace, the logs stay the same, and the flames from the burning gas move around them in predictable ways.

If your gas fireplace won't light, there are a few things that you can check before you call a technician to take a closer look. Since there aren’t many parts involved with a gas fireplace, the number of things that could be wrong is limited, but it's worth checking various components to ensure they are in proper working order.

Troubleshooting a Gas Fireplace That Won’t Light

Gas fireplaces don’t have many parts so troubleshooting one that is refusing to light should be a rather quick process. By performing regular maintenance on your gas fireplace, you can ensure:

  • All of the parts are in good working order
  • The unit is operating safely and combusting properly
  • The ventilation is adequate

Most gas fireplace manufacturers recommend at least annual checkups for your unit that are performed by certified technicians.

The Pilot Light, Igniter, and Thermocouple

The pilot light is the most frequent problem when it comes to a gas fireplace that is having trouble lighting. This part of the fireplace is responsible for lighting the gas that comes out of the fuel line, and it generally stays “on” waiting to be used but is safe in an enclosed system.

The pilot light system has its own gas line that frequently runs alongside the gas line that feeds the fireplace to keep it lit. This tiny flame takes very little fuel to keep running, and when you are frequently using your fireplace, it's worth having it ready to use. 

It's possible for the gas that fuels the pilot light to fail at the part where the gas valve is present, and this can mean that you need a new valve. Alternatively, the problem may be easily fixed by opening the valve and allowing the gas to flow through and fuel the pilot light.

Another issue is that the gas is moving out of the pilot light area, but there's no light or spark when you try to turn on the unit. This issue can stem from a failed spark igniter, which is what starts the pilot light. Look around the area where the pilot light, igniter, and thermocouple sit and clear away any visible debris, or dust.

Lastly, it's possible that the pilot light is on, but it doesn't stay lit, and this can mean that your thermocouple has failed or is otherwise unserviceable. A homeowner can often replace this part, but many prefer to call a technician to ensure the installation is completed correctly, and the whole unit is inspected and determined to be safe.

One other trick is that you can blow air from a compressed air can into the pilot light area to get rid of spider eggs or any other debris that may be blocking the way. After you've done this, wait a few minutes and try lighting the unit again.

Loose Connections

A person's feet, a cup of coffee, smartphone and a remote placed at the top of the table and behind them is a gas fireplace

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Once you've established that the pilot light, igniter, and thermocouple are likely in good working order, it's time to figure out if there are any loose connections or bad parts in the system. It's also worth checking the valves to ensure that none of them are defective, and with electrical ignition units, you may want to double check that they are getting power.

If you smell gas and haven’t turned on the fuel, or altered any parts, you may want to turn off the gas to the fireplace to ensure that there isn't a gas leak. If you suspect there's a gas leak, it is best to call a professional and turn off the gas to the whole fireplace.

When to Call A Technician

If you aren’t comfortable troubleshooting your gas fireplace, then it's best to call in a professional technician that can look at your fireplace and determine the issue. While some fireplace problems are easily solved with simple solutions, some are much more involved and should be addressed by a technician. 

If you are in doubt about the state of your fireplace, or if it hasn't received service in the last year, it's probably best to call a technician and get an annual checkup and the recommended maintenance for your unit.

Featured Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

How to Light a Gas Fireplace Quickly and Safely

One of the most desired aspects in both new home construction and remodeling is the addition of a fireplace. These days, nearly sixty percent of new homes have at least one fireplace. Homes that have a fireplace on average are appraised up to $12,000 more than similar homes that lack a hearth. So whether you are looking to build or revamp your home, it is in your best interest to consider this feature in your design. 

What Types Of Fireplaces Are There?

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There are several different types of fireplaces for you to give thought to. Electric fireplaces use electric coils to create heat. They use a fan to help circulate warmth throughout the room. The disadvantage of this type is that depending on how much you use your fireplace, an electric blaze could increase your electric bill quite a bit.

Gas fireplaces can be either free-standing or direct-vented. Free standing gas fireplaces use a pipe for ventilation. This feature makes it easier to install in an area that does not have an existing hearth. Direct-vented gas fireplaces use a chimney, either an existing one or one built expressly for that fireplace. If you already have a mantel and chimney, it can easily be adapted to house a direct-vented gas fireplace.

Gel fireplaces are self-contained and use isopropyl based fuel. Ethanol fireplaces are also self-contained but use ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, or ETOH biofuel to maintain the fire. Both of these are good options if you are renting a home but still want to have a fireplace. However, your area may not have easy access to one or both of these fuels. 

Finally, wood-burning fireplaces are those that use wood as fuel and has a chimney for ventilation purposes. These are the ones that most people think of when they imagine a fireplace since it has been around for ages.

What Is The Difference Between A Gas Fireplace And A Traditional Fireplace?

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A fireplace is a wonderful thing to have on those long winter evenings. Overall, a gas fireplace is a better investment than a traditional wood-fueled hearth. In comparison to a traditional wood burning fireplacea gas fireplace creates less mess. 

A gas fireplace produces fewer contaminating emissions. It doesn’t require a seasoned wood stockpile to use. Because there is no ash residue, you don’t need to clean it out after each use. There is no creosote buildup in the chimney caused by burning wood. 

Gas fireplaces don’t need a chimney so you can install one nearly anywhere in your home with far less hassle than a traditional fireplace. The gasses created as the natural gas burns in the fireplace can be vented through PVC pipes in the wall. Some gas fireplaces have built-in fans to circulate the heat better throughout the room, so less heat is lost up the chimney.  

Although most gas fireplaces can be lit at the touch of a button, even if there is an electrical outage, many can still be lit manually. Several models have a pilot light, much like a gas stove, that can be turned on either with a remote control or wall switch. 

These days, natural gas is very inexpensive. Therefore, a gas fireplace, which averages about $60 a year to use, is better for your wallet than a traditional wood-burning fireplace, which costs about $120 per year. 

A gas fireplace also will give you more control over the temperature and flame appearance. The fire level can be adjusted easily without fiddling with the poker and chimney flue. Several models also have an automatic thermostat or timer, which further reduces the effort you need to use your fireplace. 

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Gas Fireplace?

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The most substantial proportion of space heating in North America is natural gas. Availability is high, and hook-up costs are low, making it an affordable option to take the chill off year-round. As mentioned above, a fireplace adds substantially to your home’s appraised value. 

Modern gas fireplaces have a realistic look to them that overrides the complaints of die-hard wood-burning fireplace aficionados. The ceramic logs are textured to mimic the real thing at a level that gas fireplaces are sometimes mistaken for wood. This more natural look of a gas fireplace adds to the ambiance of the room and helps you feel relaxed.

Are There Any Reasons To Not Have A Gas Fireplace?

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If you live in an area where power outages during the winter are a concern, make sure that the gas fireplace you choose has a non-electric lighting option. If your propane is piped from a natural gas plant, the power outages might mean your fuel is cut off for a time. You may wish to have a backup source such as a propane tank for such instances.  

If you absolutely must have the smokey scent of pine, hickory or mesquite as you lounge in front of the flames, you are out of luck with a gas fireplace.  Natural gas burns cleanly, without the aroma associated with wood-burning fires. 

However, even gas fireplaces have some emissions, including nitrogen dioxide. So if you have any respiratory issues at all, consider not using gas or wood burning appliances including fireplaces.  

How Do You Light A Gas Fireplace?

opened electric fireplace

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While most gas fireplaces are very similar in design, you should always read the instruction manual that comes with your particular model thoroughly before lighting. If at any time, whether the fireplace is on or off, there is a strong smell of gas, leave the house immediately. Your fireplace may have a leak. 

From outside, call the fire department or natural gas provider for further instructions. Natural gas is flammable and can be dangerous. Therefore, it is imperative that you learn how to light a gas fireplace correctly to avoid injury. 

Here are two ways how to light a gas fireplace quickly and safely:

Lighting A Gas Fireplace With A Control Panel

  • Open the fireplace’s control panel. The control panel manages the pilot light. You will often find the control panel tucked behind the front screen. You can usually remove the screen to access the control panel by pulling on it. 
  • Find the control knob. It should have on, off, and pilot settings. Turn the knob to the off position for at least five minutes to let any gas lingering in the pipes to clear. 
  • If your fireplace has a shutoff valve, twist it until it is parallel with the gas line so that fuel can enter the fireplace. 
  • When you are ready to light the fire, turn the control knob to the pilot position.
  • Press the control knob and hold it down. Then tap the ignition switch until it ignites. If the pilot light does not light, repeat steps 1-4 again. If it still does not light, turn everything off and call a professional.
  • Be sure to hold the control knob down for at least 30 seconds. Doing so will give the thermocouple time to register that the pilot light is back on. The thermocouple is a safety device designed to stop the gas flow if the pilot light blows out. 
  • Turn the control knob to the on position. 
  • Replace the front screen.

Lighting A Gas Fireplace With An Ignition Key

  • Remove the outer cover that separates the room from the fire chamber. 
  • Inset the fireplace key into the gas valve. Do not turn it yet. Some fireplaces have the key built-in. If you have lost the key, you can typically get a replacement at home improvement stores or order one online from the manufacturer. 
  • Light the burner while turning the gas valve with the key. Turn the gas valve counter-clockwise about half a turn to allow gas to enter.
  • Put the outer cover back on. 
  • Use the gas valve to adjust the flame size. 

How Do You Maintain A Gas Fireplace?

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You should check your gas fireplace periodically for carbon soot build-up or damage that may result from a storm that could result in a gas leak. While you are at it, clean the burner plate. To do this, close the gas valve and shut off the pilot light. Use a can of compressed air to blow open any clogged holes. 

If you are having problems keeping the pilot light on, check the thermocouple. You may need to replace it. The flames will look light blue when the pilot light is working correctly. If the pilot light is functioning, but the fire won’t start, check the thermopile. You can get replacement parts and repair it yourself or hire a professional to do so.

Conclusion

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Fireplaces are both aesthetically and psychologically pleasing. Gas fireplaces tend to be cleaner and easier to use than traditional wood-burning fireplaces. If your home already has a fireplace, either electric or wood-burning, consider replacing it with a gas model. 

Knowing how to light a gas fireplace safely and quickly will go a long way in allowing you to enjoy the ambiance and heating properties of your hearth for years to come.