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A fireplace is a unique and classic feature central to the home. There are different kinds of fireplaces, all with their respective pros and cons. Gas fireplaces burn natural gas, only needing a button pressed to turn on or off. These are easy to use, eco-friendly, and affordable.
A gas fireplace will keep going out due to issues stemming from insufficient cleaning, the pilot light not turning on, or more complicated internal mechanic failures. You can resolve these problems yourself or call a professional to do so.
You must learn how your gas fireplace operates in order to fix it. In this article, I will explain what common problems there are with gas fireplaces, how different kinds of gas fireplaces work, and when it’s appropriate to fix an issue on your own or call for professional assistance.
Why Your Gas Fireplace Stops Working
Here, I have gathered together the best-known reasons for why your gas fireplace has stopped working. Most could be fixed using a DIY solution, but some call for a company consultation.
A widely-known issue among gas fireplace owners is when the pilot light doesn’t turn on. The pilot light is the minuscule flame that initiates your gas appliance to begin heating up. When the pilot light refuses to turn on, this directly prevents your gas fireplace from turning on.
You can attempt to turn the pilot light back on using several cleaning methods and supplies. Sometimes dust has built up. You can clean this area in the most efficient way you think possible. However, if there is an aroma of gas in the air, please evacuate your home and dial 911. By this point, the situation is out of your hands.
A thermocouple is what senses the temperature of a device and creates a voltage at a junction of two metals. It works in conjunction with the pilot light in initiating the gas fireplace. Therefore, if your gas fireplace is refusing to turn on, the culprit could also be the thermocouple.
Dust buildup is often the cause. This issue can be solved by just cleaning the thermocouple or replacing it entirely.
The thermopile works similarly to the thermocouple in generating heat when spurred by the pilot flame. Cleaning or replacing is still a viable solution for this inconvenience. You will know when to replace a thermopile if a meter reading gives a result equal to or less than 20 millivolts.
Of course, gas fireplaces differ in their model and, consequently, can experience differing defects. Here are the widely-used models and designs gas fireplaces use and what issues will arise with each of them.
Main Control Valve
The main control valve can be tested by using a multimeter that determines its resistance. You must read 0 initially. The web source, My Gas Fireplace Repair, directs placing the meter on the TP and TH terminals. Pictures and the specific readings you must see on the multimeter can be accessed on their website.
If none of these suggestions work, then seek outside help. However, it’s recommended that you exhaust all options for the sake of saving money and time. Besides understanding such problems, you should learn about what sort of gas fireplace you have, precisely so that you can anticipate faults before they get out of hand.
If you need a more thorough or visual explanation of DIY solutions, there are a multitude of videos on YouTube. Here is a video on how to clean your gas fireplace pilot, brought to you by Central Jersey Fireplace. Another video resource teaches you how to replace your gas valve in a direct-vent fireplace, uploaded by Obadiah’s Woodstoves.
Different Types of Gas Fireplaces
There are three distinct classes of gas fireplaces: inserts, log-sets, and built-ins. Each has its advantages depending on your priorities.
Gas fireplace inserts are placed within a larger fireplace and chimney. This design allows you to utilize and upgrade already-existing features in your home. Inserts use natural gas or propane, which can lower your heating bill.
Inserts must always be professionally installed, as a gas line must be connected for it to work properly. Because of its efficiency, a gas leak may not be easily detected. Thus, you must have a carbon monoxide detector if a gas leak is what is causing the fireplace to stop working.
Gas fireplace built-ins can be professionally inserted, or you can install them yourself. These fireplaces are not too unique, but their main advantage is compactness, and they are also known to emit high levels of heat.
If you are curious as to how a built-in fireplace is installed by a non-professional, click here to read this article from Our Blessed Life blog.
Gas fireplace log-sets use, as their name implies, ceramic logs to heat your abode. These are great precisely because of a more realistic appearance. Log-sets, however, are not known to heat as efficiently as their counterparts.
There’s a more general but important classification for gas fireplaces–direct vent and vent-free. Inserts, log-sets, and built-ins can go under one of these two categories, which determine their features and performance.
Direct Vent vs. Vent-Free
Direct vent gas fireplaces enlist air from the outside of the home. They also export exhaust fumes outside, creating a system that preserves the air quality within the home. The expulsion of byproducts, fumes, and the like also significantly lowers the risk of fire.
Ventless gas fireplaces are not as popular or efficient as their vented alternatives, but these still are ubiquitous. These appliances possess a control panel for the pilot light. Air is used and recycled within the same room, increasing exposure to fumes.
Both of these fireplaces work similarly besides fundamental differences. Knowing how to work the pilot light, thermocouple, thermopile, and control valves are mandatory in both cases. I advise you to take caution before dismantling your appliance.
How do gas leaks occur in fireplaces? I’ve discovered that a rotten egg odor emanating from fireplace logs is one indication of a gas leak. This is mostly due to a loose valve that allows the gas to leak out.
There are also false alarms. Any substance not normally belonging inside a fireplace that can be found elsewhere in your house will cause the logs to emit a strange smell. Low air quality can also cause this confusion. I still believe, however, that you should investigate before jumping to conclusions.
The pilot light, thermocouple, thermopile, and main control valve should always be the first place to start when solving your fireplace’s intermittent pauses. You can still prevent these issues by maintaining healthy air quality and doing routine check-ups on your fireplace.
Direct vent and vent-free fireplaces are significant when choosing or just learning about a fireplace. They affect air quality in different ways, a fact that coincides with how air quality can cause a gas leak scare. On the other hand, vents do a better job of masking actual gas smells. This is exactly why I advocate for consistent and regular monitoring of gas fireplaces.
So there you have it! Gas fireplaces are amazing additions to the home but can simultaneously be a hassle to maintain and fix. You perhaps aren’t interested in all things construction, but at least you can navigate the basics of cleaning and testing the internal mechanics of your fireplace.
Once you’ve sorted out all the responsibilities mentioned above, you can huddle up around the fire in an environment that’s finally safe and hazard-free.