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Gas fireplace

The weather outside might be frightful, but your fireplace can be so delightful! You may be looking forward to curling up next to that first fire of the season, but relighting your gas fireplace calls for a few safety measures. Learn how to safely rekindle those fireside flames with these tips for relighting your old gas fireplace.

Check Your Chimney

Your chimney provides the proper ventilation needed to keep the air clean and healthy in your home. After periods of non-use, you’ll want to inspect your chimney for debris and anything that might be blocking airflow. Remove any blockages before starting the season’s first fire.

You also need to check the cleanliness of the chimney. Just because there’s no soot doesn’t mean your chimney is clean. Gas burns cleaner than wood, but it can still deposit substances corrosive to your chimney. These acids released by the gas are difficult to see and can pose health risks.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) explains that two problems are common from by-product buildup: incomplete combustion and condensation. Incomplete combustion can occur when gas by-products prevent adequate draft in the chimney. This can make it difficult to light your fireplace and also prevents carbon monoxide from escaping the chimney while your fire is burning. Higher efficiency gas fireplaces keep chimneys cooler, but they can also cause condensation in the chimney, which corrodes the surface.

The CSIA recommends looking for these signs of ventilation problems:

  • Damp patches on interior or exterior walls
  • Blistered paint
  • Stains on the ceiling around the chimney
  • White stains on the outside of masonry chimneys
  • Eroded mortar joints
  • Crumbling bricks

If you find any of these, call a certified chimney sweep to do a thorough inspection before lighting your fireplace.

Know Your Log Type

Knowing what type of gas logs you’re using can help you keep your fireplace running smoothly. Yellow flame logs have a very realistic look and require venting because they produce soot and carbon just like real wood logs. They’re comparable to wood logs in both looks and heat and are often mistaken for real wood.

Blue flame logs, also known as vent-free or unvented gas logs, produce much more heat than yellow flame logs. They burn hotter and cleaner but can still produce the by-products of any gas fire, so you’ll still want to check for damage to the fireplace before lighting them. Blue flame logs don’t always require a chimney, so make sure to check the firebox cabinet even if there’s no chimney.

Some gas logs come equipped with remote controls for ease of use. If this is the kind you use, check and replace the batteries in the remote control before you light the pilot to ensure a smooth transition to the cooler months. This can let you stay curled up in front of the fire longer without having to leave your spot just to look for batteries.

Watch Out for Carbon Monoxide

Regardless of which log you use, burning kerosene, propane or natural gas releases carbon monoxide (CO) into the air. Because CO is colorless and odorless, you can’t tell if the levels are rising without help from a monitor.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing CO detectors in any home where gas is burned as fuel. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, place a detector at the correct height on the wall inside a centrally located room in the home. You’ll also want one outside of each sleeping area and on every level of your home. For optimum performance, test the detectors before you light your first fire of the season and at least once a month.

Light That Fire!

Now that you’ve taken your preliminary safety precautions, you’re ready to light your pilot light. Before you attempt to light the pilot, find your emergency shut-off valve and turn it to the on position. The emergency shut-off valve is usually placed in the floor or the fireplace wall. For a standard valve, it’s on when the handle is in line with the gas line. For decorative valves, you should see distinct “on” and “off” markings on the faceplate.

Next, locate the pilot system. This is usually located on the front of the fireplace wall. For standard systems, you’ll see two knobs: the hi/lo knob and the pilot knob. The hi/lo knob is used to adjust the flame after the pilot is lit. The pilot knob has three positions: on, off and pilot. Move the pilot knob to the pilot position. This will allow you to push the knob in, which manually releases the flow of gas to the pilot.

Now, while holding the pilot knob in, push the igniter button in once every second until the pilot is lit. Because this is the first light of the season, it may take a while for the gas to reach the pilot. Allow several minutes for the pilot to light if it doesn’t light in the first few seconds. Keep holding the pilot knob in throughout this process.

Once the pilot lights, you’ll need to continue holding the pilot knob in for 10 to 15 seconds to sustain the light. After that, release the knob and turn it to the on position. Adjust the height, if needed, using the hi/lo knob. You’ll now be able to start your fire manually or with your remote control.

If you’re getting ready to relight your gas fireplace, let us know your safety tips and tricks in the comments below!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I like that you said that is important to look for the correct gas log for your fireplace for better performance. My wife and I just bought a new fireplace and we want to learn more about using it. Thank you for letting me know that not all gas logs are the same.

  2. I appreciate you sharing some of your thoughts on fire safety when using your gas fireplaces this winter. One thing that really stood out to me while reading this article was that you need to make sure that everything is installed correctly because you do not want your carbon monoxide to leak. My wife and I are definitely thinking about putting in a fireplace into our new home, but we definitely want to make sure that the lines are installed properly. Thanks again!

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