Newbie Guide To Gas Fireplace Maintenance

Okay, okay, it’s true – I have a very healthy dose of caution when it comes to natural gas. For this reason, when I recently moved into a condo equipped with a gas fireplace, I hesitated to use the darn thing – especially because it seemed that the apartment’s previous owner had been less than meticulous about upkeep. Fortunately, my condo board decided to have all the fireplaces in the building professionally cleaned and inspected last week. When the technician came to my unit, I watched him carefully and peppered him with questions. Rather than a nuisance, it was a win-win situation; he was pleased that someone took such an interest in his work and I was pleased when he left me with a beautifully glowing, warm, and (best of all) safe fireplace. Dip into my newly acquired knowledge and find out exactly what gas fireplace maintenance is all about.

Fireplace Cleaning

Not just a box, my gas fireplace comes complete with a set of “logs” made of fireproof ceramic. These decorative pieces are backed by gas burners, which produce the actual flames. All the components contain a lot of nooks and crannies that pick up a ton of dust and pet hair. The bulk of my gas fireplace care consisted of the tech delicately removing the logs, and then tackling the grime with a soft narrow brush and a special vacuum cleaner. He also cleaned the pilot assembly and combustion chamber.

The last step in the cleaning process was removing and wiping the glass screen inside and out. TIP: Condensation when the fireplace is in use tends to build up a foggy white haze on your glass that’s much easier to get rid of completely if you have the screen cleaned on a regular basis.

Safety Inspection

Next came the part that most concerned me … the gas fireplace safety inspection. My friendly tech started by testing the gas pressure and main burner operation, adjusting them slightly. He also checked for leaks of natural gas and carbon monoxide, and ended up giving my fireplace a clean bill of health. When I asked whether I had been right to worry about its safety before, he replied tactfully, “Let’s just say that it had been a LONG time since it received any maintenance.”

The entire process took a little more than half an hour. After he was finished, the pro recommended running the fireplace for about 20 minutes to burn off any remaining dust.

More About Gas Fireplace Safety

Before any scheduled maintenance, avoid using your fireplace for at least 2 hours to allow it to cool down. Turn off the pilot light and switch off the gas supply. Never apply any cleanser to the screen when hot, because it could shatter.

A gas fireplace is no different from any other fuel-burning appliance that you use indoors – you have to be on guard against carbon monoxide poisoning. I was surprised to find that correctly replacing the glass fire screen plays a major role in reducing the risk – an important reason to hire an HVAC professional to do this task. The pro that I talked to said that installing a CO alarm as backup protection is also a good idea; choose a battery-powered model in case of an electric blackout.

Gas Fireplace Heating and Esthetics

Many communities have banned wood-burning fireplaces in the past decade. A gas fireplace will give a similar look and feel, and at the same time is a relatively clean-burning, inexpensive source of heat. Now that mine has been given the thumbs up, I plan to use it to warm my condo on relatively mild winter days, in place of the less energy-efficient electric baseboard heaters provided.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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