There is some uncertainty surrounding the introduction of the first gas fireplace. It is thought that they were introduced between the mid to late 1800’s. These initial gas fireplaces were not exactly safe and were very inefficient . Along with this and the lack of gas delivery lines to most homes, gas fireplaces did not take off in popularity. In 1956 the government enacted the Clean Air Act to reduce solid fuel burning in urban areas. This along with gas utilities being brought into urban areas helped to drive more awareness of gas fireplaces. The advancements in efficiency, reliability, safety and aesthetics of gas fireplaces have been substantial.
The gas fireplaces of today rival the aesthetics of a natural wood fireplace. In the middle of a winter snow storm, snuggled up near a modern gas fireplace, the hearth delivers ambience. These modern units are efficient and safe, but do require proper maintenance routinely performed by a qualified professional. Fireplace manufacturers recommend yearly maintenance on their fireplace units,and most of their warranties that cover their products require yearly maintenance of the product. Mechanical devices fail and need attention, especially when operated within the intense heat of a fireplace. While gas valves do not typically fail, if they do they “fail safe”, meaning the valve is meant to close when it fails to prevent gas leakage from the valve. It is common for thermocouples and thermopiles to fail. These parts are similar to the belts in your vehicle. They take a great deal of stress whenever the unit is on and are fairly inexpensive to replace. You won't get very far without them functionally correctly.
Routine maintenance can sometimes extend the life of certain parts of the fireplace. The cleaning of the thermocouple and thermopile may in fact extend its useful life. The blower, which is used to circulate air around the firebox and drive warm air out into the room, can suffer from lack of maintenance. The blower draws in room air for circulation along with whatever else is in your air. Dust, animal hair and other debris can accumulate around the blower and force the blower to work harder to move air, possibly resulting in a shorter life or noisy blower. Proper maintenance can also determine the integrity of the seals or gaskets around the fireplace, especially the glass. Depending on the type of seal, it can crack, break or shrink. This could lead to combustion gas leakage into the living space. There are many parts to a gas fireplace, they should be maintained and inspected by a qualified professional.
The basic cleaning of a gas fireplace is important as well. Though all cleaning items may not be directly safety related, they can affect the aesthetics of your fireplace. The most obvious area is the glass. If this is not cleaned routinely or is cleaned with the wrong kind of glass cleaner a white fog could be permanently etched into the glass. Soot on the glass could also indicate that the fireplace is operating inefficiently or that the glass gasket is failing. Often when a gas fireplace is shut down for the winter, bugs will find their way into the unit. Most of these bugs do not present a problem outside of aesthetics. But some bugs can get wedged into gas orifices and ports. Spiders can create webs that create blockages of gas orifices or exhaust ports. Even larger animals can create nests in the venting which could cause harmful gas to back into the living area or prevent the fireplace unit from operating correctly. Dust that settles on the fireplace unit can also create unpleasant odors if not removed and allowed to be heated by the fireplace.
The maintenance, repair and installation of a gas fireplace should be performed by a qualified professional who has received the proper industry training and certification through an agency such as the National Fireplace Institute (NFI). The maintenance of the fireplace unit should include an exterior and interior inspection of the fireplace unit as well as the venting system. The interior and exterior of the unit should be cleaned by vacuuming, wiping down and other means. Diagnostic testing shall be performed on relevant components to determine that they are operating efficiently and can sometimes determine an eminent failure of a component. This could be the difference between enjoying a warm hearth or being left in the cold during the cold and busy winter season for fireplaces.
Hazard testing is without question one of the most important things to perform during the maintenance of a fireplace. During this testing, the fireplace unit, venting system and gas supply lines should all be checked for leakage. Gas supply lines that leak can lead to fires starting in unintended areas. Leakage from the fireplace or venting system can lead to Carbon Monoxide (an odorless and tasteless harmful gas) and other combustion gasses being allowed into the living space. The situation can have catastrophic and fatal consequences if not detected and corrected immediately. If you ever suspect any gas leakage, immediately leave the area and from a safe place contact the local fire department and/or local gas utility company. You should also have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors located in the correct areas around the fireplace unit and within the living space.
The company that you choose to provide services for your fireplace should stand out above the rest. The individual should be knowledgeable, courteous and efficient. They should inform and educate the customer but not confuse the customer with industry verbiage they may not understand. At the end of the service, the customer should have a general understanding of the services performed as well as a detailed written report on the condition of the fireplace and the services performed should be provided to the customer along with any necessary pictures.
Grand Flames provides professional fireplace services rooted in integrity and safety to the Central and Northern Colorado Rocky Mountains. Call us today to experience exceptional fireplace service (970) 557-5151. GrandFlames.net