If you have a fireplace in your home, you know the joys and comforts of having a fire roaring while curled up on your couch with your favorite book or watching your favorite show on a frigid winter evening.
And, as much as your fireplace can bring with it a sense of security, warmth, and coziness when working correctly– it can also be a cause for concern when it is not functioning properly.
One of the main concerns from gas fireplace owners is the smells that it can produce. And, it is certainly normal to be concerned about certain smells that your fireplace produces, such as natural gas or kerosene, or chemical smell. So it’s no surprise that the single most common question that fireplace owners ask is—is it normal for a gas fireplace to smell?
And the answers are not as straightforward as a simple yes or no. While some smells are indeed normal depending on the age, make, and setup of your fireplace, others can indicate something wrong and shouldn’t be ignored.
Let’s take a closer look at this hot topic.
Is It Normal For a Gas Fireplace to Smell?
To know if the smells coming from your fireplace are normal, it is first important to know what type of fireplace you have. There are many variations, however, the most important when it comes to the smells your fireplace could be producing are if it is vented or ventless.
Vented gas fireplaces are vented to the exterior of your home and take in outside air for combustion, and exhaust all the gases outside of your home. Due to the air circulation and venting to the outside, a vented gas fireplace should have little to no impact on the air quality of your home.
Ventless gas fireplaces are usually the culprit when it comes to smell from gas fireplaces. This is because instead of venting and circulating air to and from the outside, it is re-circulated back into the home.
Are Fumes From a Gas Fireplace Harmful?
Naturally, you are wondering if these fumes and gases are dangerous or harmful. Fireplaces are a source of carbon monoxide, which can be extremely dangerous to you and your loved ones.
Generally, a vented gas fireplace can be left on for long durations; however, it is not recommended to be left on overnight. On the other hand, Ventless gas fireplaces should not be left on for longer than a few hours at a time and the manufacturer’s specs should always be followed.
Regardless of which fireplace you own, you should make sure that you have a working carbon monoxide detector near your fireplace and all across your home at all times.
The reason for this is because you cannot smell carbon monoxide, and a build-up can go unnoticed—with potentially fatal effects.
Reasons Your Gas Fireplace Smell Like Kerosene
Kerosene, on the other hand, has a very noticeable smell. And there are a couple of reasons why your fireplace may be producing a smell resembling it.
One reason you may be smelling kerosene is that your gas fireplace logs are new and need to be broken in. The smell associated with the new logs goes away after about 3 or 4 uses.
Another source of a kerosene smell may be impurities in the air of your home. Maintaining a healthy air quality in your home is important, particularly if you have a ventless gas fireplace. These impurities are invisible and make their way to the fireplace to be burned up. The product of which can be a variety of smells, including kerosene.
Some common contributors of impurities in the air are as follows:
Type of Fireplace – vented vs. ventless gas fireplaces
Combustion gases and smoke from the fireplace can leave your spaces smelling kerosene. To prevent smells, gas fireplaces have a flue passage running inside the chimney to direct the gases and smoke outside. The users of gas-powered fireplaces can choose to use vented or ventless gas fireplace logs.
Vented gas logs have a flue passage that allows carbon monoxide and smoke to pass. On the other hand, ventless gas fireplaces do not produce smoke and a vented gas logs smell. Thus, a vent-free gas appliance requires no flue or chimney. The absence and closure of the flue vents in the ventless gas logs can cause a fireplace to emit a smell like kerosene.
The combustion and heat generation processes in the vented and the vent-free gas appliances are slightly different. Your fireplace may smell like kerosene due to the absence of the flue passage in the ventless gas logs causing your fireplace to smell like kerosene.
The flue passage in vented gas logs does not allow recombination of the gases with natural gas. This is different for the ventless gas logs with no flue passage. The vent-free appliance requires room air to recombine with carbon and hydrogen.
It then emits its natural byproduct of carbon dioxide and water vapor, where the unavoidable consequence is heat. If the natural gas fails to burn off completely, there may be a little heat and a kerosene odor from your fireplace.
Natural gas impurities
Natural gas impurities are the most common cause of your gas fireplace emitting a kerosene smell. Notably, your natural gas burner does not produce odors when burning in its purest form. However, distributors may add impurities to the gas, mainly for safety. For instance, distributors may add methyl mercaptan, smelling rotten eggs and burnt matches.
The additive makes you aware of significant issues such as a gas leak preventing and reducing the likelihood of safety incidences. Since these additives burn along with the gas in a vent-less gas log fireplace, you may notice a kerosene smell within your space.
Common impurities that contribute to your gas fireplace smell
Smoking in the house
Tobacco smoke contains elements such as chemical formaldehyde. These may ruin the air quality in the house leading to the unpleasant fireplace and room odors.
As liquid ingredients from your house’s new paint evaporate, they may release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. When mixed with the combustion gases, they emit an unpleasant fireplace odor.
Recently Stained Wood
Stained wood will release toxic VOCs for short periods after staining. The flame from the fireplace will absorb this and put it out as an odor.
Scented sprays release VOCs, which, when released to the air, will react and be absorbed by the gas ventless fireplace flames to emit an unpleasant odor.
Most chemicals for cleaning release dangerous chemicals and VOCs. They can cause your vented and vent-free appliance to release unpleasant odors once it absorbs them.
Formaldehyde Coming From New Carpet, Drapes, or Furniture
When new carpets, drapes, or furniture begins to off-gas, they release formaldehyde into the air. Its absorption by gas flames can cause your gas fireplace to smell like pickles.
Scented candles are made from paraffin wax. The scented candle may heat unusually when placed near your burner, giving off a kerosene smell.
Glade plugins release VOCs and other toxic chemicals. These compromise the air quality, causing unpleasant odors once the flame absorbs them.
Extreme dust can block your vented gas fireplace burner, causing an unpleasant odor. It can also cause poor air quality in your home, contributing to gas fireplace odor.
Pet hair carries various impurities and is a source of air quality issues. The gas flame can absorb pet hair, causing a ‘burning-plastic-like’ smell.
How Do I Stop My Gas Fireplace From Smelling?
The room air quality will affect the vented and vent-free gas logs smell. Stopping your gas fireplace from smelling requires providing the combustion gases with quality room air to operate. How?
- You can regularly dust and vacuum your home. It helps remove any impurities such as household dust, pet dander, and fur that may build up, causing poor room air quality and gas fireplace odor. When cleaning your house, avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals and plugin deodorizers.
- If you are a smoker, you need to do it outside. This prevents the toxic third-hand smoke from building up in your home, causing the gas fireplace to smell once you light it. When you have a newly painted house or recently stained wood in your house, ensure you open the windows and allow enough fresh air. This will significantly improve the room’s air quality.
- Most importantly, it would help if you considered investing in an air purifier. The appliance draws room air to rid your home of most components that reduce the air quality, consequently eliminating the gas fireplace smell.
- It would also help to seek the services of a qualified professional for maintenance. An improperly maintained gas fireplace can lead to the emission of carbon monoxide. You can get carbon monoxide detectors to help detect the gas and determine maintenance needs. Poor maintenance also causes your gas fireplace to smell like asphalt or rotten barbeque.
Other gas fireplace smells to look out for
Gas smell from the fireplace when off
You may experience a gas smell from the fireplace when off if there are leaks in the exhaust pipe. These gas leaks may have been a problem from the plumbing assembly or a breakdown in the gas fireplace. If Gas leaks should be addressed immediately, you need to steer off using any lighter fluid or open flame sources.
Gas fireplace smell like gas
You may find gas fireplace harmful if it smells like gas. If your gas fireplace smells like gas, it’s is normal, as it is the gas log set smell. However, if you smell gas similar to rotten eggs and the pilot light is on, this may signify a gas leak. This problem should be addressed immediately by calling the gas company.
Gas fireplace smells like chemicals
Your gas fireplace may smell like chemicals on first-time use. Gas fireplaces will have lubricants, paints, and debris from manufacturing processes, causing the chemical base odor. The smell can also manifest if the fireplace fails to burn for a certain period causing the debris inside not to be burned properly. During first-time use, you need to burn your gas log set for about 12-14 hours.
Gas fireplace smells like propane
If you notice strong gas fireplace odors from your gas fireplace or space heaters, it may signify a gas leak inside the fireplace. When you smell gas similar to propane from the gas logs, it may signify that the odor emanates from a very small leak. You can solve both of these problems by repairing the leak.
Gas fireplace insert smells like burning plastic
Your gas fireplace insert may smell like burning plastic if you use it after a few months of no use. The gas fireplace, by this time, has gathered dust, pet dander, hair, and skin cells which, when burned, will produce this unpleasant smell. You should ensure regular cleaning and vacuuming to prevent smells similar to burning plastic.
Gas fireplace smells like burning wood
You may notice a burning wood-like smell if there is plenty of soot buildup. Soot buildup results from clogged pores on the burner, which may cause incomplete combustion and release of carbon monoxide. However, if you want your room odor to be similar to burning wood when enjoying the heat from your gas fireplace, you can use wood-scented sprays.
Gas Fireplace Maintenance Tasks to Prevent Smells
It is also essential to make sure you are performing the necessary maintenace on your fireplace, not just to prevent smells but also to ensure safety. Some of these include:
Schedule Annual Inspections: get your fireplace checked by a professional to ensure it is in proper working order.
Clean Your Fireplace: Clean your fireplace as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Be Vigilant: keep an eye out for any signs that your fireplace may be malfunctioning, whether it is lingering or new smells or moisture building up in certain areas.
There are little things that come close to a warm and crackling fireplace in the dead of winter. However, to get the most out of your fireplace and ensure overall safety, you should ensure healthy air quality in your home, as well as take necessary preventative and safety measures.