Gas fireplaces are incredibly convenient, but those gas fireplaces still need to be serviced just as a wood-burning fireplace or pellet stove needs to be.
That might come as a surprise to some people who just moved into a home with a gas fireplace or who had a gas fireplace installed over the winter. (It might also come as a surprise to people who have been burning fires in their gas fireplaces for season after season without getting it serviced. If that’s you, there’s no judgment here — but you really do need to get your gas fireplace serviced.)
Why Service A Gas Fireplace?
“But why?” you might be thinking. “The whole reason I opted for a gas fireplace is that I didn’t want to have to deal with all the usual stuff you get from a wood-burning fireplace.”
After all, a gas fireplace doesn’t leave behind the typical residue and debris that you get with a traditional fireplace — there’s no ashes or soot, nor are there any of those blackened chunks of burned wood. After burning a fire, you don’t have to bend over it and scoop everything up.
However, a gas fireplace still needs occasional cleaning. Regular household dirt, dust, pet hair, and other grime can find their way into your fireplace. In these situations, you can usually clean it up with a small handheld vacuum cleaner or a specially designated cleaning brush. Just make sure the gas is turned off before you lean in there to clean it up. You should also take care that you’re not accidentally turning the gas on while you’re doing it.
While you’re completing this chore, you should check the lava rocks — those rocks that heat up when your fireplace is turned on. Make sure none of these are showing any signs of being broken or suffering any wear and tear. If they aren’t in good condition anymore, you should replace them lest they become a fire hazard.
Beyond this simple cleaning, a professional’s insight is valuable to make sure your gas fireplace is in working order. Here are a few important matters a professional chimney service worker can look at:
- They can check for any gas leaks that could be allowing gas to escape from your fireplace and into the rest of your home, where it’s not only unhealthy for you and your family to be breathing in but could also pose a serious fire hazard to your home.
- The exhaust from your fire still needs to go somewhere (that is, out your chimney) and a professional can check to make sure there are no obstructions in your chimney that could be forcing the exhaust back into your home or, as with gas leaks, posing a fire hazard.
- A chimney technician can turn the gas off on your fireplace and clean the valves and ports that emit the gas into your fireplace. The technician can also test the interior gas ignition to make sure your fireplace is lighting up the way it’s supposed to. This will ensure you don’t have any problems where your fireplace doesn’t actually ignite (annoying, but not dangerous) or where you have the opposite problem and your fireplace has the potential to explode (dangerous).
- If you have a gas fireplace, you should consider having a carbon monoxide monitor installed in your home and have it inspected every year to make sure it works.
- Your chimney service team can take a look at the exterior of your chimney to make sure you don’t see anything like crumbling bricks, cracked paint, or eroded motor joints. Inside, they can look for stains on the walls near the chimney or any peeling wallpaper. Any of these signs of distress could mean that something isn’t working right inside your chimney. If you notice any of these signs before you’ve called in a chimney technician, hold off on using your fireplace until a professional can assess how serious the problem is.
- A professional will also be on the lookout for signs of water damage or condensation inside your fireplace and chimney. Because water is corrosive, there’s a chance that any water buildup will eat away at the masonry. Water from condensation could indicate that there’s a bad draft in your fireplace that needs to be addressed or more damage will follow.
Sure, gas fireplaces are convenient, but it would be irresponsible to assume they are free from any need for maintenance. Remember that anything involving fire poses some level of risk, so it’s best to have a professional take a look to ensure everything is working properly and address any problems they see.