A well maintained fireplace is a lovely feature in a home. A gas or wood-burning fireplace can be a mood setter when entertaining, a focal point for family gatherings or a comforting backdrop when snuggled up with a good book. But, fireplaces do require that a homeowner adhere to proper servicing schedules, maintenance recommendations and safety precautions to be enjoyed to their fullest.
Be Sure the Damper is Open:
Whether you have a vented-gas or wood-burning fireplace, it is important to ensure that the damper is open before lighting a fire. A closed damper would cause the smoke or carbon monoxide to back up into the room, which can be both dangerous and damaging. When not in use, close the chimney damper to minimize heat loss.
Select the Right Gas Log Set:
It seems like each year manufacturers are coming out with more realistic looking gas-log sets. If you are looking to upgrade yours, it is critical that you select the proper size and type for your fireplace as determined by the fireplace dimensions and accessories. Improper sizing may negatively impact the drafting of the fireplace. Additionally, too large a log set will adversely affect the burn and hamper the proper operation of the control system; and too small a set will diminish the beauty of the hearth setting.
Remember There is an Active Flame:
If you have a gas fireplace, remember that the pilot light is an active flame that is burning in the unit at all times. Therefore, it is suggested that you turn off the pilot light before using flammable materials in the vicinity. For example, if you are having your floors stained or refinished or will be using an aerosol cleaner on the glass doors, be sure to first turn the pilot light to the off position.
Turn Off the Pilot and Main Gas Supply:
Many people choose to turn off a gas fireplace’s pilot light and main gas supply during periods of non use, such as an extended vacation or the summer months. Not only will this save energy and money, but it may also help to prolong the operation and aesthetics of the unit and individual components.
Perform Regular Service and Maintenance:
Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, a regular schedule of service and maintenance is highly recommended. Wood-burning fireplace flues should be cleaned at least once every two years – more depending on usage – to remove the buildup of creosote, which is a normal byproduct of wood fires. With gas fireplaces, a technician should inspect the operation of the pilot flame or electronic igniter, the valve pressure, the heat-exchange area, the log positioning and the overall tightness of the electrical connections to ensure optimal performance and safety.
Conduct Chimney Inspections:
All fireplaces should have an annual chimney inspection to minimize or avoid costly structural damage. A thorough inspector will review the condition of the caps and mesh, crown, flashing, bricks and masonry, liners and ducts. Cracks or other damage to any of these elements may lead to water damage. It is also recommended that the inspector look for overhanging branches and vines. Overhanging branches should be cut back 10 feet from the chimney opening, to prevent them from catching fire and to prevent any obstruction to the flow of smoke.
Consider Custom Glass Doors:
No longer are homeowner’s limited to the standard selection of glass fireplace doors. Though costly, beautifully crafted custom glass doors in a variety of metals are now available to compliment the other fine finishes in your home. This is particularly appealing for those who choose to put gas fireplaces in bedrooms, as code requires glass fronts on those units. No matter what style of glass doors you choose, it is important that they seal tightly to minimize heat loss both during and between fires.
Minimize Heat Loss:
It is recommended that you lower your thermostat to between 50° and 55°F so your system doesn’t keep trying to replace the warm air being lost through the chimney. Also, open the window nearest the fireplace slightly and close nearby doors so the fireplace won’t easily draw heated air out of the house. Keeping sealed fireplace doors closed will also help to minimize heat loss. Fireplaces are as popular a home feature as ever. In fact, a National Association of Home Builders survey found that 77% of homebuyers want a fireplace in the family room, where they’ll spend most of their time. And fifty percent of homebuyers would like a fireplace in the living room, where they do much of their entertaining. With so many fireplaces, it’s important that homeowners understand the importance of maintenance and proper operations to ensure years of safe enjoyment.