Fireplaces are great centerpieces that can bring style and class to just about any room. The most common of these are wood fireplaces, but gas ones have their own set of advantages that make them real popular as well.
Using propane or natural gas rather than wood, they have less upkeep and are typically safer than their wood-burning cousins. Gas fireplaces can also burn longer for just a little bit more money. Because of their unique function and construction, they have their own special set of unusual problems related to them as well.
Safety and Gas Fireplaces
To understand why it is important to properly troubleshoot and maintain your gas fireplace, we first need to go over some of the basic facts surrounding them. Now while it is true that the amount of property damage, injuries, and deaths have dropped considerably since the early 1980s, there is still tremendous damage that has been wrought by fire.
In 2016 there were over 350,000 reported fires which resulted in 5.7 billion dollars in damages and over 2,700 deaths. One of the largest contributors to these residential fires was not having a working smoke detector, improper handling of chemicals like gasoline, and not keeping up fireplace maintenance.
Fireplaces, while beautiful, can have multiple things go wrong with them. Gas fireplaces have their own set of issues that you need to keep in mind. While all of these problems aren’t necessarily deadly on their own right, they can cause considerable damage, or at the least be an annoyance if not properly fixed.
If at any moment when inspecting gas fireplace the area smells tremendously like gas, and you don’t know where it is coming from, then you need to leave the area and get help immediately.
Is the Pilot Light Functioning?
One of the biggest problems associated with gas fireplaces is related to the pilot light. Often times a pilot light won’t turn on, resulting in absolutely zero flames happening in your fireplace. A pilot light that doesn’t glow blue is also a problem, as this means it is not getting hot enough.
This piece is found on just about any gas appliance as it is the primary ignition source. To check if it is doing its job just open the vent and look to see if there is a small flame inside. If it is out, you might just need to merely relight it with a match or a lighter.
Special types of extended match holders and long nozzled lighters specialize in just this sort of thing. If it doesn’t stay on despite relighting or if the flame is burning too cool, then you probably have a more serious problem on your hands. For instance, excess moisture can build up in the gas line.
All you have to do is go to the gas meter and find the tee – drain the capped pipe that holds the moisture. If this doesn’t work you may just need to clean it. If you continue to have lighting issues past this you may need to take a closer look at the thermocouple or thermopile.
Check the Thermocouple or Thermopile
Both the thermocouple and thermopile are used to generate electricity to light the fire and be a general sensor for the temperature. If either of these malfunction than the pilot light will not be able to do its job. The thermocouple is often found in older gas fireplaces and the number one issue related to these is that they aren’t hooked up correctly, or not properly secured.
Check the wires, screws, and tubing to see if everything is in the proper places. Thermopiles are a bit newer and are often found in the latest models of gas fireplaces. Because they generate electricity that is measured in millivolts, they are often called millivolt generators.
Like their predecessor, their main problem is usually that they aren’t hooked up correctly or have loose wiring. Replacement of these are difficult and should only be done when all other issues related to the fireplace are resolved.
Airflow and Chimney Issues
Unless you have a ventless gas fireplace, you should have some sort of chimney attached. All chimneys regardless of what they are attached to act on a simple principle: Hot air rises, while cooler air drops. Gas fireplaces, if they ever are producing smoke can come from numerous areas – improper log alignment, dirty burners, or a misaligned screen.
Sometimes the issue can be an with the chimney, stopping the warmer leftover gas from leaving the fireplace properly. Higher efficiency models actually have an issue that less efficient ones don’t – in that there isn’t enough heat being radiated through the flue, resulting in lower flue temperature.
This can result in condensation building up inside the chimney itself. It is recommended to have a certified chimney sweep who is familiar with gas models to look at your fireplace at least once a year so they can prevent these problems.
Keep Everything Clean
Not cleaning and upkeeping your fireplace can result in lower than average flame height, parts of the fireplace breaking down often, an even gas leaks. Taking the time a couple times a year to keep everything clean will greatly increase the lifespan and efficiency of your gas fireplace.
Before you start make sure to put safety first and turn the gas off. Always wait a few minutes too for all the gas to leave the piping and for the chamber to cool off. From here, brush away any collected dust or debris from the logs – use a softer brush to do this as these logs are usually fragile.
When putting them back make sure to align them in the exact way that you found them. Suction away any debris around it with a vacuum cleaner. If you think any smaller lava rocks will be sucked up in the process, put some cheesecloth over the nozzle with a rubber band. Keep an eye out specifically for cobwebs and dust bunnies in the corners.
When cleaning off the glass covering make sure to only used certified fireplace glass cleaner. Other window cleaners like Windex might have an adverse effect when mixed with carbon on the glass, so it is highly recommended not to use these. Make sure to spend some time cleaning the pilot light and combustion chamber too.
Troubleshooting fireplace problems will not only improve the overall look and efficiency but also make it much safer. Fireplaces that aren’t properly maintained can be a tremendous fire hazard – causing all sorts of property damage, injury, and in extreme cases death.
When looking at your fireplace always look at the two most obvious parts first – the pilot light and the thermocouple or thermopile. If you think you are having condensation or heat issues related to the flu, try getting a certified chimney sweep to check out your system.
Not only should you have one of these come out to inspect your fireplace annually, but you should spend a little time a couple times a year keeping it clean.
Get Your Gas Fireplace Inspected and Cleaned
Are you having gas fireplace troubleshooting problems? Get it checked out by Vertical Chimney Care. Vertical Chimney Care is the most trusted chimney service and sweeping company since 1985. Let’s make your home clean and safe. Contact us today to speak to a specialist!