We get it— operating gas fireplaces can sometimes be confusing and stressful, and this is one of the many questions frequently asked by users. The answer’s simple.
It is best not to keep the pilot light of your gas fireplace on all year long. Ideally, you should turn off the gas fireplace’s pilot light when the weather becomes warmer and the use of the fireplace decreases. Doing so will conserve energy and avoid wastage, cutting down your costs in the long run.
If you’re unsure whether you have a standing pilot light or not, check the knob of your gas fireplace and see if it has a ‘Pilot’ position between the ‘On’ and ‘Off’ options. Standing pilot lights have to be manually turned on or off using the control knob, while an intermittent pilot light doesn’t.
What is a Pilot Light, and What does it do?
A pilot light is a small flame (usually gas) that is ‘standing’ (kept alight most of the time), and its function is to provide an ignition source for the main burner in the gas fireplace.
When you turn on your fireplace, the flame from the pilot light ignites the gas delivered to the main burner; hence the fireplace comes to life.
Pilot lights are used in most large heating devices with powerful gas burners such as furnaces, water heaters, gas fireplaces, etc. However, the use of electrical ignition sources is becoming widespread nowadays, and many gas fireplaces have that option.
How Much does it Cost to Keep the Pilot light on in a Gas Fireplace?
The cost of keeping your pilot light on depends on the type of gas your fireplace uses. If fueled by natural gas, keeping the pilot light on can cost you $7-10 per month, while liquid propane can set you back up to $20 per month.
Although the pilot light is a small flame and consumes considerably less fuel than the main burner, these costs can add up if the pilot light is used all year round.
If you want to save money on your utility bill, turn off the pilot light during the hot summer months when the fireplace is not used for a prolonged period of time. Doing so will save gas and be more cost-effective, especially if summers are long in your area.
Why you should Turn off your Pilot
The main reason you should consider turning off your pilot light seasonally is that doing so will decrease your fuel usage and consequently bring down your gas bill. This will also help you avoid any additional heat in your house during the blistering summer, even though the pilot light has a small flame.
Please note that it is not suggested that you should turn the pilot light off during a time when your fireplace is in frequent use, but rather when it remains unlit for a long period.
The best course would be to turn it on during the start of winter and switch it off when the weather gets warmer, and the fireplace is no longer needed.
Why you should Leave your Pilot on
Leaving the pilot light on in your gas fireplace can be beneficial in some ways as well. If you have a particularly long winter season (during which the fireplace is used), you could consider leaving the pilot on, as it would save you the hassle of switching it on and off.
This would also ensure that the pipes don’t get clogged up with dead insects and debris, and the fireplace keeps functioning smoothly. The pilot light would also absorb any humidity present in the air and prevent rust from forming inside the fireplace.
All this contributes to maintaining the fireplace’s overall integrity and decreases chances of malfunction, saving you from calling a technician for service and repair. Is it dangerous if the pilot light goes out in the gas fireplace?
Conceptually, if the pilot light’s flame (or any burner for that matter) went out, the gas would start diffusing into the air and build up inside the house. This would be a major safety hazard and could lead to an explosion.
So does a pilot light compromise safety in this regard? Not at all, since the majority of modern gas fireplaces have safety valves installed that break the flow of gas as soon as the flame goes out. Special temperature sensors detect the presence of the flame and deploy a fail-safe system to shut off the gas when there is no flame.
What do I do if my gas fireplace pilot light goes out?
If your pilot light goes out, the safety measures present in your fireplace will switch off the gas.
However, to be on the safe side, turn off the gas from the main feed and allow the air to clear for a while before turning the pilot light on again. Follow the instructions given in the user manual of your fireplace to reignite the pilot light safely and correctly.
If you smell gas in the environment after the pilot light goes out, immediately close the main gas feed and evacuate the room after opening all doors and windows for ventilation. Call a technician to come by and evaluate your fireplace to make sure nothing is faulty.
If your pilot light goes out frequently or doesn’t light at all, it might be because of carbon buildup on the thermocouple. The thermocouple is a temperature-sensitive device located near the pilot light that monitors the presence of the flame. Due to constant exposure to fire, carbon could accumulate on the thermocouple, making it difficult for your pilot light to stay on.
You can solve this problem by cleaning the carbon buildup on the thermocouple yourself using sandpaper or calling a professional.
Gas Fireplace Maintenance
It is essential to maintain and service your gas fireplace at least annually to ensure its safety and proper functioning, as well as preserve its life.
As with all devices involving fire, you should contact a professional serviceman or inspector to regularly check your fireplace for any damage or leaks that pose a threat to safety. This should be done once a year at the very least.
Other steps you can take for the maintenance of gas fireplaces are:
1. Switch off the pilot light
When you have finished using your fireplace for the season, it is recommended to turn it off completely, including the pilot light. This will help save gas and allow you to clean the fireplace thoroughly before shutting it up for summer.
2. Clean up the mess
After you have turned the pilot light off and allowed the fireplace to cool down completely, you can start a thorough deep-clean by following the instructions in the guidance manual— or contact a technician to do it for you.
If you’re doing it yourself, you will need safety gloves and cleaning supplies to clean the glass cover of the fireplace and then remove it to clear out the soot, dust, dirt, and debris inside (vacuuming is best).
Wipe down the louvers and visually inspect the fireplace for any damage. Make sure the decorative logs and lava rocks in your fireplace are replaced if they are cracked.
3. Check the chimney
It is important to inspect the chimney and clear out any obstructions. Also, check its structure for signs of wear or deterioration. Condensation patches are especially harmful and can damage the structure of the chimney, compromising your safety.
Contact a professional for a comprehensive inspection of your fireplace and chimney if you’re not confident that it’s in top condition.
Lastly, it is important to educate young children about fire safety and be vigilant when the fireplace is lit to avoid mishaps.
Warming yourself up by a roaring fire during chilly winter nights is one of the greatest pleasures of life, and it is made convenient by gas fireplaces—which are way easier to maintain than wood ones. However, certain precautions need to be taken so that your fireplace keeps functioning correctly and lasts you a long time.
We hope this article helped solve your queries regarding the functioning and maintenance of gas fireplaces and was beneficial to you somehow.