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Should I Turn Off My Gas Pilot Light When Not in Use?

Gas Pilot LightMany homeowners ask us whether or not they should turn off the pilot light on their gas fireplace when it’s not in use for an extended period of time. Some homeowners may be concerned about safety while others may want to conserve energy on their utility bill. While ultimately there is no one right decision, you can take the following facts into consideration:

Reasons to turn off your gas fireplace pilot light:

One reason for turning off the pilot light is heat. Although the flame from a pilot light is small, it’s still heat. Depending on where you live, you might not want any extra heat being generated inside your home during the blazing summer months.

A pilot light means heat, and it also means fuel usage. That flame doesn’t stay ignited by magic – it needs gas. Which means as long as that light is on, you’re using your fuel supply to maintain it. If natural gas is your fuel, it might cost anywhere from $7 to $10 a month. Using propane could kick that up to more than $20 per month.

When a pilot light burns for long periods of time (like during the summer) without igniting the main burner, a film can develop on the glass doors of the fireplace. This film is sulfur-based and if not cleaned off, it can permanently damage the glass.

Reasons to leave your pilot on:

Spider’s webs are thought to be the second-strongest material on earth, right behind the teeth of an aquatic creature known as a “limpet.” You probably won’t have any limpets fooling around in your fireplace during the summer, but you may very well have spiders.

Spiders, for reasons unknown to mankind, like the smell of a compound called mercaptan, which gas companies add to their gas. When you turn off your pilot light, the light’s tubes will maintain a trace level of mercaptan, and that will attract spiders, who will spin webs that can clog the pilot light system. Leaving the gas on keeps this compound moving out of the tubes.

Keeping the pilot light on will also keep moisture out of the unit and in turn, help prevent corrosion. Plus, if the fireplace is located in the basement, it may also help to reduce humidity levels.

The only other reason a person might keep the pilot light running during the off-season is to generate just enough heat in the firebox to take a little of the chill off the occasional chilly summer evening. Which is fine, assuming you don’t have a sweater and know how to shut the windows. But remember: running a pilot light all summer might cost you more than a decent sweater.

Gas Log Fireplace MaintenanceAs you can see, it’s probably best in most cases to extinguish the pilot light in your gas fireplace during the months when you don’t need heat. If spiders and their strong webs are a problem, you might consider talking to an exterminator. Still, spiders in your fireplace are better than limpets, if you had to choose one.

Marsh’s Stoves & Fireplaces of Toronto has a full selection of modern and beautiful gas home heating appliances. Stop by our showroom at 3322 Dundas Street West and see how we can help beautify your home. You can also call us at (416) 762-5557.

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