Gas fireplaces have become very popular because of many reasons such as a precise control of temperature and clean burning. This doesn’t mean that gas fireplaces never have problems, so let’s look at a few common ones and how homeowners can resolve them. In this first of two parts, we’ll talk about soot and pilot light issues. Each situation has a solution !
Excess soot buildup
While top rated gas fireplaces and fireplace inserts burn much more cleanly than wood fires, over time a buildup of soot is inevitable. It’s not always easy to see soot with the naked eye, so take a white cloth and rub it on some of the ceramic logs in the firebox. If the cloth comes up with thick black marks across it, you know you have the beginning of a soot issue.
Excess soot happens for two primary reasons:
- Badly positioned logs – if logs aren’t positioned properly, an even burn is impossible and some amount of fuel will go unburned.
- Clogged burner ports – this will cause the same effect as badly positioned logs. Have a professional perform a thorough cleaning of the logs and burner ports.
Aside from the suggestions above, there are a few other things you can do to prevent a build up of soot.
- Regularly inspect the screen. If you find a moderate or major amount of soot, clean it according to instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- Check your chimney for any debris that might be creating an obstruction. This can include leaves, twigs, bird nests and anything else than can reduce air flow.
- Make sure your damper is completely open and in good repair.
Pilot light problems
Problems with pilot lights are among the most common issues with gas fireplaces. This small flame is kept lit by a small source of gas and is essential to ignite the main burner of the fireplace. If your pilot light goes off, you won’t be able to start a fire.
If you notice that your pilot light is out, first check to determine if the gas supply is still on. If there is no gas supply, then you have to find out why that is.
There may be a problem with the gas line that brings gas into the house from an outdoor tank or underground pipes. If you suspect this is the case, don’t try to diagnose and fix the problem yourself. Contact a fireplace service technician. Another reason for no gas is that your tank (assuming you use one) is empty. If you receive gas through a utility company, it’s possible there is a temporary outage somewhere along the utility’s lines.
A component known as a thermocouple may be the reason gas is not flowing to the fireplace. These devices need to be replaced every few years. An indication of a problem with the thermocouple is if the pilot light “almost” lights but quickly goes out again.
A final cause of pilot light problems could be faulty wiring. Inspect for wires that are lose, damaged, melted or in any other way abnormal. As with many aspects of gas fireplace maintenance and repair, you’re advised to seek professional help for wiring issues.
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