Using a Gas Fireplace When the Power is Out

The popularity of gas fireplaces is undisputed.  Whether it’s natural or LP gas, the realism of the fire in many gas hearth products today is truly remarkable.  Homeowners enjoy the convenience and the versatility of a gas fireplace.

But what about when the chips are down and an ice storm, heavy snow, high winds or an equipment failure causes an electrical power outage?  Can a gas fireplace be expected to heat?  A forced air furnace will not operate without power.  Can I use a gas fireplace without electricity?

Before we answer this question, let’s get a better understanding of how your gas fireplace works.


When you flip a wall switch, click your remote control or the thermostat starts calling for heat, the gas valve on your fireplace will open.  Gas valves generate their own electricity and operate on millivolts, a very small amount of electricity.  That’s substantially less that the 120 volts that are needed for most household appliances, rechargers and lamps that plug into a wall outlet.


Millivolts of electricity for your gas fireplace are generated by a small device called a thermocouple.  Basically, a thermocouple is a sensor that measures temperature.  It’s made with two different types of metals.  Several of these thermocouples connected together are called a thermopile.  A thermopile is about the diameter of a pencil and a couple of inches long.  A small wire connects the thermopile to the gas valve.

Pilot Light with Thermocouple and Thermopile on a gas fireplace. Is is possible to use a gas fireplace when the power is out?

A pilot light, or a very small gas flame about ¾” high, heats one end of the thermopile.  Since one end is hotter than the other, the difference produces a temperature dependent voltage.  That voltage is millivolts of electricity whose purpose is to open and close the gas valve.  It’s worth noting here that the normal position of a gas valve is closed.  Without millivolts of electricity being generated, the gas valve cannot open and will remain in the closed position.

A pilot light has two primary functions.  One is to generate millivolts in order to open and close the gas valve.  Once the valve is open, the second function of the pilot flame is to ignite the fuel as it flows into the burner assembly.


Hang on, we are going to get to the original “will it operate without power” question in just a minute!  But first, a few details and a bit more background information so you have a thorough understanding.

For many years, “standing” pilot lights were kept burning 24/7/365 in fireplaces, water heaters and furnaces.  This type of technology has been around for years and has been proven to be extremely reliable and consistent in its performance.  However, since the pilot is always lit, this use of gas is considered wasteful by some.  As a result, electronic ignition was developed.

An electronic ignition system does not utilize a standing pilot light.  The pilot is on, only when the fireplace (or furnace or water heater) is operational.  After flipping a wall switch or pressing a remote control to start your fireplace, an on-demand electric source creates a spark and ignites the pilot light.  This type of ignition system is called IPI, or Intermittent Pilot Ignition.


Remote control for IPI Gas Fireplaces, Ambiance Intrigue gas fireplace. Can I Use a Gas Fireplace When the Power is Out?

Either type of system, millivolt or IPI will start your fireplace.  In the event of a power outage, the millivolt system will operate normally.  The IPI system will operate normally providing the fireplace has battery backup.

Pros and cons of each system?  A millivolt system is a proven technology that’s time tested and very reliable.  It’s a simpler method to ignite the fireplace.  But, is it wasteful?

There are a couple of distinct advantages for keeping a pilot light on year-round.  If you live in a damp or humid climate, there’s a very small amount of heat generated by a standing pilot light.  This can keep the inside firebox dry and prevent rust from developing.  A standing pilot light will also prevent small, silky spider webs from forming inside small orifices in the fireplace.  The result is a service call to get the fireplace operational again.

An IPI system is going to be more “efficient” since natural or LP gas is used only when you flip a wall switch or click on your remote.  However, IPI is a more complicated ignition system.  It requires an electric source to create a spark that ignites the pilot light.  If the power is out, the fireplace will not ignite.  But most IPI ignition systems for gas fireplaces will use a battery powered backup module for starting the unit when power to the house is disrupted.  You just make sure the batteries are fresh!


Re-lighting a pilot light on a millivolt system is fairly simple.  The procedure is outlined in your owner’s manual and is also explained on an aluminum tag behind the bottom grill of your fireplace.  If you want to see the procedure done, Napoleon Fireplaces has a good tutorial on the subject.  Your fireplace may vary slightly from this video, but if yours is a millivolt system, the procedure is essentially the same.


Today, many fireplace manufacturers produce units in both millivolt models and IPI models.  There are some states where IPI technology is mandatory.  Other states will allow either type of ignition.

A standing pilot ignition system is typically less expensive than an IPI system.  IPI uses newer technology and can be more difficult to troubleshoot than a standard millivolt system in a fireplace.

Many WE LOVE FIRE dealers and their service techs would tell you that they prefer a millivolt system over an IPI system in a fireplace.  Remember the old adage, “Keep it simple, make it work”?  That could be applied here.  There’s a lot less to go wrong in a millivolt system.

The cost to operate the pilot light on a millivolt system is approximately 4.5 therms (450 000 BTUs) of natural gas or about 5 gallons of LP gas per month.  Gas rates vary a lot depending on the time of year and regionally.  As this article was written, in the Midwest, gas usage for the pilot light on a millivolt system would be approximately $4.50 - $6.50/month for natural and about $5.25 - $7.25/month for LP.


Either type of ignition system will operate in the event of a power failure.  Depending on the size of the gas burner, a substantial amount of radiate heat can be generated from the fireplace.  This radiated heat from the appliance will warm the objects in the room.  On the other hand, without power to the house,  no convective heat will be felt.  Why?

That brings up a common question that dealers are asked:  “Will my blower fan operate with the power out.” The answer is no.  Fans are reliant on house current and if the power is out in your house, regardless of the type of ignition system on your fireplace, the fan will not operate.

Below is a list of fireplace and grill stores that service Virginia (VA)

Manassas, VA

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109

Winston's Chimney Service LogoVisit Store Page

Mechanicsville, VA

Hearth & Home Shoppe
8151 Mechanicsville Tpk
Mechanicsville, VA 23111

Hearth & Home Shoppe LogoVisit Store Page

Roanoke, VA

Dixie Building Products Inc.
3342 Melrose Ave NW
Roanoke, VA 24017

Warrenton, VA

Costello's Warrenton Fireplace & Hot Tub
251 West Lee Hwy
Warrenton, VA 20186

For more information, contact your local fireplace and grill store..

44 Responses

  1. William Gresham
    Out home has a Majestic ventless natural gas firelog system. I cannot locate any visible batteries as a backup for the firelogs. However, I have the gas pilot flake lit. Today, during an Alabama Power scheduled line maintenance where our house power supply was interrupted for several hours, I flipped the wall switch and the firelogs lit. I am not sure where the electric power to activate the thermocouple came from. Any information, I would just like to know.
    • Dominique Page
      Thanks for your comment! The energy to light your burner came from the pilot flame. That flame hits the thermocouple and it generates the energy in 'milivolts', just enought to power the valve to open when you call for 'heat' on the main burner. Hope that answers your question! Dominique
  2. Robert Carlton
    Thanks for a very good explanation of the different fireplace ignition systems and their pros and cons. I was about to replace my millivolt/pilot based system with an electron energy pilot-less system but now I understand the issues better I my stay with my millivolt system. My only problem is the continuous pilot burns out the sensor every 24 months and requires an expensive service call to replace.
    • Dominique Page
      Thanks Robert for your comment. There may be a way to extend the life of your 'sensor'. The pilot flame can be reduced a little. Maybe it is burning too strong. The next you have it serviced, ask to reduce the pilot flame as low as it can be, yet still providing contact to the thermopile and thermocouple. Thanks again for your comment! Dominique
  3. Kevin Kirkpatrick
    This is great information. I have a question. If my gas fireplace that has an electrical wall switch is already lit and the power goes out, will the valve shut, thereby turning off the gas flow? Heading into a deep cold snap and wondering if I need to turn it on low and just leave it on. Thanks for any insight.
    • Dominique Page
      Hi Kevin Thanks for reaching out. If you have a wall switch to turn on and off the fireplace, it will still turn it on if the power goes out. The current travelling to the switch is battery powered for some switches or, powered by the thermopile inside your fireplace. If you want to feel more secure, you may shut down the power or the breaker feeding power to the fan of your fireplace. Then, try to turn off and then 'on' the fireplace using the wall switch. Stay warm!!! Dominique
      • Chelsi
        One of my coworkers has gas fireplaces in her home that I'm assuming need electricity to turn on at least she thinks so, her power has been out for a day and a half due to an ice storm. What advice can I give her?
        • Dominique Page
          Hi Chelsi The best is to have your coworker watch this video. This will work with most gas fireplaces. If your co worker has an electronic ignition fireplace, simply make sure the batteries in the remote and in the receiver are in good condition. The fireplace will turn on the regular way. Stay warm!
      • Name*
        My fireplace turns on by an electrical switch and will NOT turn on if I don’t have power. Any idea how to light it when electricity is out?
        • Dominique Page
          Thanks for reaching out. The best is to follow the procedure in this video. This will work. Stay warm! Dominique
        My (natural) gas logs are powered by a wall switch. If the power goes out WHILE my logs are currently burning, will they stop burning? Just trying to understand if the disruption of power also does the same to the gas logs while using them. Thanks for all of the great tips!
        • Dominique Page
          Hi Lisa Thanks for reaching out. The gas logs will operate in a very similar way to gas fireplaces. They will continue on when the power goes out. All good! Worst case, if the power is out and the 'fire is out too', you can 'match light' your gas logs after turning on the gas. Stay warm!
    • Wayne Couvillion
      As a followup to the previous question by Kevin, to be clear, is the wall switch powered by the battery, not by AC current? If so, I guess the batteries need replacement at times and where would I find them? My fireplace unit is by Vermont Castings, B-Vent Series. I am also worried about this winter storm. Thanks.
  4. Aubrey
    Our fire place goes out with the power. I do not believe our fireplace is the same as what you have mentioned in your article. I come on with wall switch and also making sure the gas key is also on. When the power goes off so does the fire. Any indication of how we can bypass this system to keep the fire lit? *sincerely texan by natural birth, and currently freezing
    • Dominique Page
      Thanks Aubrey for your message. We're sorry you have to go through this hardship with the weather and the power outages. I am not sure what fireplace you have. If the fire goes out as soon as you lose power, it could be that the fireplace is 'power vented'. Does your 'chimney' have a 'fan' to push the exhaust out? If that is the case, you would absolutely need electricity for your fireplace to work. Otherwise, the fireplace can run without electricity. Some latest technology fireplace may require AA batteries if there is no electricity. If these batteries are 'dead', the fireplace might not be able to run or start. Hope this helps. I also hope everything comes back to normal ASAP!
  5. Mike
    Have a remote starter for fireplace. Had serviceman to have pilot light come on only when remote pushed, question: If we turn on & power goes off durning this time 1. Is pilot light still on & can't be turned off till power comes back on ? 2. Does pilot light only comes on long enough to ignite the gas & then goes off after fire starts. Bottom line any danger starting up fireplace with our remote & then being at the mercy of waiting for power to come back on b4 can turn off?
    • Dominique Page
      Hi Mike Thanks for reaching out. Is your remote showing letters IPI on it? If so, when the fireplace is 'off', the pilot goes off too. If you have no power, the AA batteries inside your fireplace will give the 'iginition sparks' the energy to trigger the valve to open to feed gas to the pilot. If the batteries are dead and there is no power, you will not be able to start the fireplace. If you put your remote on CPI (instead of IPI), the pilot will run continuously, non-stop. So when the burner goes off, the pilot will stay on. This is the best setting to use in the winter months. There is no danger operating either way (IPI or CPI). For reliability, we prefer the CPI mode, as it will turn the burner without fail even on the coldest days. Stay warm! Dominique
  6. Kathy Kelly
    Our power was out. Used the battery back up and all worked well using the remote. Trying to revert back to just the remote now since power has been restored and not using batteries but now cannot get the pilot light to ignite with the remote. We have a Quadra-Fire model # QF 130-C Serial# 0024127532 with the IntelliFire Plus Remote Control The remote works with the batteries but not when the batteries are removed and trying to use to ignite pilot light. Thank you
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Kathy Thanks for reaching out. I am not why this is happening. The happy part is that it worked during the power outage! Maybe it would be good to call the local Quadra-Fire dealer and get their technical advice on this. I am not very familiar with the Intellifire system... Dominique
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  8. Anthony
    I've been using my gas fire place for several years with no issue. This year, I try to use the remote and nothing happens. Once I start the fire in manual mode with an attached "clicker" I can switch back to remote mode and the remote will stop and restart the fire. The next day, the remote won't start the fire again without switching to manual mode and starting all over again. Do you have any idea what needs fixing in my setup? I can see the pilot light is always on.
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Anthony Thanks for reaching out. First place to start is the batteries inside the remote and the receiver inside the fireplace. If that doesn't fix it, it could be the thermopile or maybe something with the control board or the remote itself, depending on your fireplace and its 'technology'. If that is the case, it might best to call in a service technician from your local fireplace store. We may have one near you. Hope this will be helpful If you do go to a fireplace store, bring your remote along... Dominique
  9. Irene
    Please send me an email. I have a home built in 1978 and the fireplace was never used in all this time. It has a gas valve on the side brick of the fireplace and inside are five bricks. I was thinking about this fireplace. How can I tell if the fireplace has milli electrical charges or something else? I have never heard of this before. We had a prolonged power outage in February and I don't know if trying to turn on the gas valve on the side would have worked or not. I have no idea where this power milli source is around the fireplace. Can you please advise me? How would I know if there is such a power source? Also, do people use kindling like paper to get things started and use a long handled match? Thanks.Irene
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Irene Thanks for reaching out. If that fireplace hasn't been used in a long time, it would be best to have it inspected before using it. The chimney needs to be looked at, to make it is 'free' of any debris, etc. Also, the gas valve needs to be tested for leaks. This is important for your own safety. Once inspected, if everything is good, you will be able to turn on the gas and get some heat. This would be a good thing to do, if there's ever another storm with prolonged power outage. To locate if we do have a partner expert near you, click here.
  10. frank
    Hello, just to be clear with my understanding, my gas fire place with a standing pilot that uses a wall switch to turn on will still operate normal during a power outage? without doing anything special? The fire place is 25 years old and uses the mili system. Thank you for your help. Frank
    • Dominique Page
      Good day Frank. Thanks for reaching out. You are absolutely correct, your fireplace will work when the power is out! That millivolt technology is very reliable and will do wonders for many years to come! Cheers! Dominique
      • Tom
        Hi I have 3 different gas stoves with always on pilots heating the home. Currently they work when I lose power. They are all temp controlled by these really old thermostats and I wanted to upgrade to more smart thermostats. My question is do I need specific types of thermostats that would keep them working during power outages or as long as the thermostats work off batteries it should still send the call signal that keeps them working during power outages? Hope this made sense.
        • Dominique Page
          Hello Tom. Thanks for reaching out. The answer is 'yes', you can upgrade to newer smarter thermostats. You could also upgrade to a WIFI App, so you can operate and program all 3 of your gas stoves from your phone. That system is called iFlame. We've tested it and it works like a charm. It's been on the market here since early 2019. You may contact our most local partner store and they will help you get that smart device. I hope this answers your question. Stay warm! Dominique
  11. Elsie Harasym
    My and my neighbour’s gas fireplaces are about 20 years old. They replaced the switch on the wall with an old (non-programmable, heat only thermostat. They set the thermostat at 15 degrees Celsius and say that if the power goes out in the middle of the night and their furnace stops working, the thermostat will turn on the fireplace when the temperature in the room drops below 15 degrees. Will this work? Is it safe to do? Thanks.
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Elsie. Thanks for reaching out. To answer your question, yes, it will work and it is safe. You may have it done as well. Contact one of our local partner store by clicking here. They will make it work for you. Stay warm! Dominique
  12. Margaret Strom
    If I have my gas fireplace running and the power is out….what happens with strong winds…can they put the flames out, and then does gas keep flowing into the house, or does it shut off? Thanks
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Margaret Thanks for your message. If ever the wind blew out the flame, there is a safety on the valve that would turn off the gas, even if the power is out. You would need to restart your fireplace manually. Hope that answers your question. Dominique
  13. Jennifer Denton
    I have a gas fireplace with the old style pilot that stays in. We just lost power to our home and of course the blower stopped working. My fireplace was already in use when it went out. My issue is our fireplace is enclosed in glass so it depends on its blower to heat the place. Should I turn the gas down or will it be ok to leave it as it is? I don’t want it just getting so hot inside the fireplace that it could damage it, but if it is safe to leave it on then I would like to. I will go ahead for safety sake and turn it down but would love to know the answer to this (will I damage it if I leave it on since it has a glass enclosure). Thank you.
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Jennifer. Thanks for your message. If your fireplace was installed by a professional and certified NFI installer, you are good to use it without the fan and without worrying. If you are not sure about it, it might be a good idea to turn it down a bit while the power is out. The best course of action is to have it inspected to make sure it was installed up to code and up to the manufacturer's specifications. Hope this helps. Dominique
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  15. zidane
    very clear and good article easy to understand. Thank you
  16. Jan
    Hello—we recently purchased a Superior 18/24 millivolt burner (VD1824 PR) with an 18” Crescent Hill Log Set. We have two carbon monoxide detectors; one monitored. When our power goes out, this is our only heat source. There’s no where in the manual that says how long we can continuously operate it. I have seen lots of websites saying ventless LP fireplaces should only be burned 2-3 hrs at a time, but they don’t say how much “downtime” to have in between burning, nor how many hrs a day it is safe to operate. Can you advise?
    • Dominique Page
      Hi Jan, thanks for reaching out. It would have to be common sense. If your CO detector comes on, you obviously need to turn off the logs set. Many of the ventless logs sets are installed with the fireplace damper always 'open'. So in that sense, the logs could run endlessly. If the fireplace damper is closed, your best option if you want to run longer than 3 hours is to make sure your CO detector truly works. Have you contacted the fireplace store where you bought this set from? They might know with your home setting what is the best course of action.
  17. Laura
    Our new gas fireplace is connected to the same circuit as our basement lights, and the power is controlled by the basement light switch. Is it safe (and/or advisable) to turn that switch off each night and completely cut electrical power to the fireplace, or could they cause a gas buildup? Thank you!
    • Joseph Bodden
      Laura, thank you for your note. It is unusual for the basement lights to be on in order to operate a gas fireplace. If you have an intermittent ignition system, there is likely a battery back-up with it. So without power to the house or the switch on, the fireplace would light as long as the batteries are fresh. The normal position for a gas valve is in the closed position. If there is no power (either house voltage or batteries) the fireplace will not light and no gas will 'build-up". The fan would not run since it relies entirely on house current. If your fireplace is equipped with a millivolt system, it will ignite as long as the standing pilot light is going, with or without any power. I would suggest calling the dealer where this fireplace came from, and/or checking your owner's manual to determine the type of ignition system that your fireplace came with. I'd also check with the electrician who wired the fireplace to the basement light switch. I honestly don't know if this might be a code issue or not, but it is certainly a huge inconvenience to the homeowner and one I don't think I would accept. Thanks again for your question. We hope this helps steer you in the right direction. Please tell your family members and friends about
  18. TJ
    Thanks for this info. Our gas fireplace is about 10 years old and the remote no longer works. We use the "ON/OFF/PILOT” knob to control it. I turn the knob to on to get a fire. In between uses, should I be leaving the knob set to “PILOT”? If I move the knob to “OFF” I lose my pilot flame. Thank you
    • Joseph Bodden
      TJ: Thank you for spending time on A few thoughts regarding your question: 1) You've checked the batteries in the remote and the receiving unit beneath your fireplace, right? If not, be sure to do so, as the batteries in both units will go dead with time. 2) If your fireplace is ten years old, have you had it professionally serviced lately? If not, this is the time of the year to do so. A certified fireplace tech is equipped to check gas pressure, electronically sniff for any minute leaks, clean any dirty burner ports, enhance the look of the flames by adding burning ember material and clean the glass. They will also be able to check the remote to ensure there's a signal from the hand held remote to the receiving unit on the fireplace. Now to answer your specific question: the knob on the gas valve is not designed to turn the flames on and off. There could be a manual switch near the gas valve that was bypassed when the remote was wired in. Reactivating this switch is not particularly difficult, but is probably best left to a professional. They'll need to un-wire the remote and re-wire the manual switch. Or, if the remote is indeed shot, a replacement remote control could easily be installed. The gas valve should be left in the "on" position. When turned to the "off" position, you're stopping the flow of gas to the burner and to the pilot assembly. The "pilot" position is for reigniting the pilot light. Once relit, the valve is turned to the "on" position and left there. Once this is done, the fireplace is turned on and off with a remote, a manual switch or a thermostat. We'd recommend a professional service call to thoroughly check over the fireplace and the controls for it. But do it right away....this is the busiest time of the year for fireplace shops!
  19. Bo in Dallas
    Hi WeLoveFire folks, great info in this article! We have a big cold front coming to the north Texas area this week and I'm wanting to make sure my fireplace will be good to go. I have a Heatilator NBV4236I-B (link: with the IPI system. It is controlled by a wall switch (on/off only, no fan) and has a battery backup that I'll be getting batteries for today. My main question is, if I leave it running and the power goes out WHILE it's running, will it continue to run, or will I need to install the batteries and restart it? Thanks in advance!
    • Joseph Bodden
      Greetings Bo: Great question, and thanks for taking time to ask it. The backup system on most IPI systems is intended to be just that; a back-up system, NOT an emergency system. Most manufacturers suggest that fresh batteries be kept on hand to insert into the battery compartment in the event of a power outage, and not constantly KEPT in the battery compartment. The reason for this: batteries can corrode over time and it's extremely easy to forget they need periodic replacing, especially if there hasn't been a need to rely on the back-up system for a year or two. If batteries corrode in the fireplace, you'll be faced with a rather expensive fix from a service tech. It's best to keep batteries on hand and perhaps test the back-up system occasionally to ensure it's operating correctly without house power. Fresh batteries should last 2 or 3 days during a prolonged outage. Keep in mind the fan will not operate during a power outage, but you'll still enjoy the radiant heat from the fireplace. Thanks for the question and please tell your friends about!
  20. Melinda M
    We have a gas log fireplace upstairs and an insert downstairs. We can get them to run during a power outage but the heat goes up the chimney without the fan. Is there some way to make the heat spread into the room—such as a battery operated fan?
    • Joseph Bodden
      Melinda, thanks for your question. I'm not exactly sure what you're describing to me. Is yours a gas log set positioned in a wood burning fireplace? That is, a burner with logs stacked on top . . . . doors and damper of the fireplace must be open when you're burning it? Or, is it an actual gas fireplace that's been built into a framed wall? The majority of gas logs will not provide any significant heat into the room. Most burn loads of gas, and you're correct that most of the heat is lost up the chimney. Short of replacing what you have with some equipment that's designed to push heat into the room, I'm afraid there's not a whole lot that can be done. There may be something out there, but I am not aware of any battery operated fan designed for a gas log set installed into a fireplace. "Another options would be to get model numbers, take a few pictures and stop at your closest WeLoveFire dealer for a consultation and get their thoughts. Good luck.

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