The popularity of gas fireplaces continues to increase, and it’s not surprising why. Fireplaces that run on gas are highly efficient heating sources with temperatures that are easy to control. Gas is clean-burning, resulting in less soot production. Gas fireplaces are easy to maintain, and the hearth area around them normally stays very clean.
But, as with any mechanical device, gas fireplaces occasionally present issues that must be addressed. Some of the issues we’ll look at here and in part two of this series can be handled by the homeowner; others will need to be addressed by professional fireplace technician.
In part one, let’s focus on two common problems with gas fireplaces: the pilot light, and the fireplace burner.
Pilot lights are found on all sorts of gas-driven appliances from hot water heaters to stove top burners. The purpose of these small lights is to ignite the gas as it is brought to the unit from a tank or underground pipes. Without a pilot light, you’d have to manually ignite the gas by introducing a flame such as from a match.
A small flow of gas powers the pilot light – just enough to maintain a flame. When a pilot light goes out on a gas fireplace, there is cause for concern if the gas flow hasn’t been interrupted. If you ever smell gas in the area of a gas fireplace or other gas burning heating appliance, check first to see if the pilot light has been accidentally blown out.
More commonly, a pilot light will go off because of a failure in the supply of gas. One thing to check is the gas valve on the fireplace and make sure it’s open. If you have a gas tank on your property, check to see if the gas supply has been exhausted. Finally, if a utility company supplies your gas, find out if your gas has been shut off.
When re-lighting a pilot light on a gas fireplace, always follow the recommendations of the manufacture to the letter.
If the light is lit but the fireplace won’t start, the problem may lie in the fireplace’s thermopile, a metal probe that controls the opening of the unit’s gas valve. If this is the case, you should consult with a fireplace professional.
Assuming your pilot light is on and the thermopile isn’t to blame for fire not starting, there are several other possibilities.
One simple reason is that the thermostat is set lower than the temperature within the room. Adjust the thermostat accordingly, and the problem may be solved. Most other fireplace burner issues require assistance from a skilled technician.
Another fireplace burner problem could be that the pilot light orifice is dirty. Various substances can cause this such as soot, dirt and other contaminants.
Wiring issues also can cause a burner to fail to ignite. A technician will closely inspect all aspects of a fireplace’s wiring to determine if repairs are necessary.
Finally, you could be looking at a malfunctioning thermocoupler. A service technician will test this part and make recommendations for repair or replacement.
Read Part 2
Marsh’s Stoves & Fireplaces of Toronto handles a wide selection of modern and traditional gas fireplaces. Check them out at our showroom at 3322 Dundas Street West. You can reach a helpful staff member at (416) 762-4582.