Winter’s here. What better time to cozy up with your honey and lounge in front of a roaring fire? OK, so it’s Texas and it just might be 70 degrees outside in February — hardly fireplace weather. But let’s be honest: gentle dose of reality aside, there’s nothing like the ambience of a fire to set a romantic mood.
Year after year, fireplaces are rated as one of the top amenities desired by homeowners. They’re not only personally appealing, but they also add to the value of your home. In fact, a high-quality, energy-efficient fireplace has one of the highest investment returns of any addition to your home.
So what can you do to keep the embers of your fireplace glowing as brightly as your relationship? For starters, fireplaces should have an annual service and maintenance check by a certified technician to ensure top performance. This goes for standard gas fireplaces and for fireplaces with the built-in fake gas logs. Schedule this kind of service in the summer or early fall, before the "burning season" begins.
The service should include inspection of key parts, such as the pilot flame or electronic igniter, the valve pressure, the heat-exchange area, the log positioning and all electrical connections. Your technician will also sweep or vacuum the firebox and general burn area to remove soot or other by-products. The interior of the fireplace may also be repainted, and the glass front or doors will be removed and cleaned. Finally, the technician will check for any gas leakage.
What about those fake logs?
Although the logs and embers in your gas fireplace should last indefinitely, the embers may lose some of their brilliance after a year or two. These can be replaced or freshened with new embers in the service maintenance check, or you can do it yourself.
Unless they’re dropped and broken, the logs should last a lifetime, although they may require brushing to remove any built-up dust. These logs are now made of a ceramic fiber, so that flames can touch them without a carbon buildup or soot. The result is a fire with a brighter glow and a more realistic look.
Your operation manual should include instructions on how to do some of the maintenance yourself. To clean the glass, for example, use vinegar and water — or a non-abrasive household glass cleaner. If the glass accumulates a white fog (usually caused by dirty fuel or foreign chemicals in the unit), it may be necessary to use a specially formulated product (ask your dealer or manufacturer) to get it clean. Be sure to thoroughly rinse any cleaner from the glass before relighting the unit. Periodically vacuuming the valve cavity area (where the gas controls are) will keep the controls dust-free, which helps ensure good electrical connections.
Cold winter days & safe nights
As far as the daily operation of your gas fireplace, new industry standards for direct-vent units are making them even safer and better equipped to handle any safety concerns. One standard requires a special 30-second lockout safety pilot to guard against the accumulation of a large amount of gas in the combustion chamber, in the event that the pilot light goes out. The gas shuts off in less than 30 seconds and won’t flow again until the pilot light is re-lit.
Under normal conditions, your gas fireplace can be left on indefinitely, without safety concerns. It is, however, equipped with a high-temperature limit switch that automatically turns the fireplace off if it exceeds a certain temperature.
In the off-season, or when you won’t be using your fireplace for a while, turn the pilot off to conserve fuel. Or, depending on your location and climate, it’s probably safe to leave it on to minimize corrosion and prevent the entry of mites and spiders.
Because a gas fireplace is a sealed combustion system, the potential for danger to your family is remote. Like any other gas appliance in your home, the fireplace is carefully engineered and built for years of effective, safe operation. As with any appliance, proper maintenance and upkeep will allow your gas fireplace to perform well for many years to come — and help you enjoy many more wintry days and nights.
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