Let’s face it, when it gets really cold outside, there’s nothing more cozy than a night in front of a fireplace. Especially when you’re tired and just want to fall asleep right away!
Gas fireplaces with an electronic ignition system make it much easier to just flip a wall switch to turn it on. Some even come with a remote control! Compare this to a traditional wood fireplace where you have to gather the wood to put in to the fireplace and then light it and then of course, tend to it every so often.
But, how many hours can you leave a gas fireplace on? Generally speaking, gas fireplaces that are fully vented (aka direct vent) and have a sealed glass front can be left on for many hours. But models that are vent-free and have front doors that can be opened should only be left on for a maximum of 2 hours at a time.
When it comes to indoor air quality, you don’t have anything to worry about with gas appliances like a vented gas fireplace. A high temp glass panel separates the burning area of your direct vent gas fireplace from inside your home so that any toxins are expelled outside and not in!
With no worries for making sure toxic gases get out; all you need is electricity and propane or a gas hookup. Know that some gas fireplaces do come with a battery backup in case there’s a power outage in your area.
You may not have a choice as to the type of gas fireplace that is in your home (especially if you just bought your home) but you can certainly exchange it for a new gas fireplace that has more safety features.
Vent-free gas fireplaces seem like a nice idea, but they come with some serious risks. They produce a small amount of gas. They emit small amounts of nitrous dioxide and carbon monoxide that can be deadly in large doses.
According to the CDC’s warning against exposure at any level for up to 500 people per year who die due to accidental poisoning from it–talk about scary!
If this is your first time owning a residence with a gas fireplace – you should know the difference between the two types of gas fireplaces.
- Fully vented (also known as direct vent)
How Can You Tell If Your Gas Fireplace Is Fully Vented?
Vented gas fireplaces are also known as direct vent gas fireplaces. Generally speaking, if the flames extend above the gas logs and it looks pretty much like a regular wood burning fire then it is most likely fully vented.
How Can You Tell If Your Gas Fireplace Is Vent-Free?
Usually, if your gas fireplace produces small blue flames, meaning they don’t extend much or at all above the gas logs then your unit is vent-free.
Because these vent-free models have doors that can be opened, they are not recommended if you have small children in your home.
There are many different types of gas fireplaces and they all require routine maintenance to help keep them running smoothly and safe.
All gas fireplace models are different so we recommend that you have your unit inspected yearly to clean it and maintain it.
This is why some older adults have reported feeling lightheaded or dizzy after using their vent-free gas fireplace for just a few minutes.
While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not specifically track deaths or injuries from exposure to the carbon monoxide gas produced by ventless fireplaces, about 15,000 Americans suffer from exposure to CO annually (all means) and nearly 500 die.BobVilla.com
With proper safety precautions and tips – which we will go over further in this article, homeowners can use their fireplace without fear of injury or damage.
Table of Contents
Is It Safe To Leave The Pilot On In A Gas Fireplace?
The pilot light is the small flame that keeps a gas fireplace burning. The main question many people ask themselves is, “is it safe to leave the pilot light on all the time?“
The answer to this question is yes, but know that there is always a chance of something happening even if you follow all the rules. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends keeping an eye out for any signs of trouble such as soot buildup or discoloration from flames licking up near combustibles like curtains, furniture or drapes.
If you notice these things then turn off your pilot light immediately and call for professional help before anything happens!
I personally have a vented gas fireplace with a standing pilot which means that it stays lit so it’s on all the time.
How Do You Know If Your Gas Fireplace Is Safe?
If you have an older home, chances are your gas fireplace has been in operation for years. As time goes on and the fireplace is used more often, it can become a safety hazard. So, before you turn it on, you need to make sure that it’s safe.
I strongly recommend that you have your unit inspected every year.
The following points will help you identify if your fireplace needs an inspection or service:
- If there’s no pilot flame, then the gas may not be burning properly.
- If there are any cracks in the brick or mortar surrounding your fireplace, this means that heat can escape and cause a fire hazard.
- If you notice any discoloration of bricks around the area where natural gas enters your home—such as soot marks from leaking gas—it could mean that some of these gases have already escaped into the air in your house.
- A yearly inspection is recommended to clean the inside, the blower and check the outdoor vent. The inspection will also check your pilot light, fireplace inserts and other parts of the unit as well.
How To Make A Gas Fireplace Safer
Whether you have a vented or vent-free unit, it’s recommended that you have it checked by a professional yearly to ensure that it is safe.
Here are some tips on how you can make your gas fireplace safer:
- Maintain your unit – regular yearly maintenance of your chimney and gas fireplace are imperative to keeping it running smoothly and keeping you safe. Make sure your technician checks the gas valve as well.
- Carbon Monoxide Detector – it’s also very important to install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep A 3 Foot Distance – keep furniture, loose objects and anything flammable at least 3 feet away from your gas fireplace.
- Keep Children and Flammable Items At A Distance – make sure that you don’t have any curtains or other loose items too close to the fireplace. Aside from a detector, make sure your kids and pets are safe by installing gates or fencing around the fire perimeters so they stay at a good distance away. Even though fire is behind glass, it can still be hot for awhile after turning off because of how thin and fragile glass becomes when heated up!
- Have Easy Access To Fire Extinguishers – it’s always a good idea to have very easy access to fire extinguishers or fire extinguishing blankets throughout the home.
- For vent-free fireplaces – make sure the damper stays open when the fireplace is running. The closed damperature may force carbon monoxide into your home which can be dangerous for you and other family members in your household.
- Open your windows – If you have a vent-free fireplace, it is recommended to open a window or only use the fireplace for no more than 2 hours at time.
- In direct vent fireplaces – it is dangerous to operate your fireplace with the glass doors taken off. If you need to clean the glass, make sure that it’s cooled down and turned off before removing them for cleaning. Never remove those panels while the fireplace is in operation!
- If You Notice Cracks In The Stone or Brick – do not turn your fireplace on. Instead, contact a professional chimney maintenance company to come check your unit.
- Be Alert To Changes – if you notice that the flame in your unit is different or if you smell gas or anything that is different – turn it off immediately and get a professional to come in and check it.
Alternative To Gas Fireplaces
If you are just not comfortable with a gas fireplace in your home, a nice alternative is an electric fireplace.
There are many beautiful models these days and although they may not produce the warmth that a gas fireplace or a wood burning fireplace produce – they do provide the ambiance that many people love in their home.
A gas fireplace can be a great stress reliever as well as a good secondary heat source – if it produces just a small amount of heat.
I’ve mentioned it a few times already in this article but I just want to repeat it one more time because of how very important it is.
When it comes to gas fireplaces, there’s one thing that you should never forget: maintenance. Without routine care and cleaning from a trained professional at least once yearly, your fireplace could suffer extensive damage or even be unsafe for family use!
So make that service call and get your gas fireplace inspected on a yearly basis.