A gas fireplace can turn a ho-hum living area into a space that is warm and inviting, even on the chilliest of nights. Compared to wood-burning fireplaces, gas-powered options are simple to use and convenient. You do not need logs and kindling to light them. All you need to do is press a button or flip a switch to get a cozy and comforting fire going. When you want to extinguish the fire, you simply turn the fireplace off.
As with any heat-producing appliance in your home, there are some safety considerations to keep in mind when using a gas fireplace. These gas fireplace safety tips will help to protect your home and family and allow you to get the most out of your fireplace.
1. Never Leave Your Fireplace Unsupervised
You will get the most use and enjoyment out of your home’s fireplace if you only use it while you are in the room with it. Gas fireplaces and their protective glass can still get hot to the touch. That means you or another adult needs to help keep kids or pets away from the fireplace so they do not burn themselves. You also want to ensure nothing flammable, such as toys, books or blankets, gets left too close to the fireplace.
If a fireplace is in a bedroom or if you use your living room as a guest room from time to time, is it safe to sleep with the gas fireplace on? Generally speaking, your best option is to turn the fireplace off before going to bed, whether you will be sleeping in the same room as it or not. Doing so will cut down on the risk of a potential problem with the fireplace going unnoticed.
2. Always Double-Check Your Safety Screens
As of 2015, gas fireplaces with glass fronts need to include a protective barrier if the temperature of the glass gets higher than 172 degrees F. The requirement is in response to reports of people, particularly children, being burned after touching the glass front of a fireplace. The safety screens provide a barrier between the heat and the person or animal, helping to reduce the risk of burns.
While fireplaces produced after the first day of 2015 need to include the protective barrier, older gas fireplaces might not have one in place. If that is the case for your home’s fireplace, you can retrofit it with one. If your fireplace does have a safety screen, it is important to make sure it is installed properly and securely. During an annual inspection, a certified and trained technician from SMO Energy can confirm that the safety screen is securely in place or can re-attach it if needed.
It pays to be smart about your fireplace, even with the safety barriers properly installed. When the fire is burning, avoid touching the screens and glass fronts.
3. Keep Children Away
It is never too early to teach your kids about fireplace safety. From a young age, talk to your children about the risks of fires and explain to them the importance of keeping their distance from the fireplace. If you are not sure how to tell your child about burns and other injuries that a fire could cause, ask your family’s pediatrician for advice. They can give you pointers on how to communicate the seriousness of the situation to your young children without causing excessive fear or trauma.
At home, make it a rule that children cannot be in the room with a burning fire unless an adult is in the room, too. If you have older children and teenagers, make it clear that the rule applies to them as well.
If your gas fireplace has a remote, keep it in a secure spot, well out of reach of children. You might even want to keep the remote in a separate room or in a locking cabinet or drawer that only the adults in the household have access to or know the code to unlock. To reduce the chance that a small child will push the ignite button or flip the switch to turn the fireplace on, consider having the button or switch installed at a height that is beyond their reach. If the fireplace is already installed and the switch or button is child-height, purchase a switch plate cover to keep small hands away.
Finally, protect your children while your family enjoys the fireplace together. Arrange the seating in the room so that it is a safe distance from the fire. You might also consider using tape to make a line on the floor that children cannot cross when the fire is lit. Place the line several feet from the fireplace.
5. Give Your Fireplace Some Space
Although you might want to gather around the fireplace as it burns in the evening, remember not to get too close to it. Keep at least 3 feet from the front of the fireplace when you and your family relax around it.
In addition to keeping people and pets a safe distance from the flames, it is also a good idea to keep any objects at least 3 feet away. This is especially true for items that are flammable, such as textiles, paper materials and furniture. If you have throw rugs in the room that the fireplace is in, make sure they are at least 3 feet from the front of the fireplace as well.
While electronic devices, such as televisions and stereos, are not likely to catch fire if they are too close to the flames, they can be damaged by the heat of the fire. Keep them a safe distance away. If you are going to mount a television onto a wall, it is a good idea to choose a wall that is not directly above your fireplace.
Is there anything you can keep next or right in front of the fireplace? Gas fireplaces do not require the tools, such as pokers or shovels, that wood-burning fireplaces do. While you can keep those next to yours, they are not necessary for the fireplace’s operation.
6. Schedule a Yearly Inspection
An annual tune-up and inspection of your gas fireplace will help to ensure it continues to operate safely. It can also save you money in the long run, as the inspection can detect any small issues before they require significant and costly repairs. During the inspection, you can expect the certified technician to check that the fireplace is igniting properly, inspect the safety system and check the fan operation. They will also clean the fireplace, including the glass front and will inspect the vent and chimney.
To ensure your fireplace gets the annual attention it needs, you might consider signing up for a service agreement with SMO Energy. An annual service agreement includes inspection and cleaning, as well as the replacement of many common parts. To make things more convenient for you, you can sign up for multiple service agreements, such as one that protects your home’s HVAC system or heating system. Signing up for more than one service agreement with SMO Energy helps you save money. It also ensures all of your home’s valuable equipment is adequately protected.
7. Contact a Professional With Any Concerns
You are not limited to working with a professional fireplace technician just once a year. If anything about your gas fireplace seems out-of-sorts or unusual, your best bet is to get in touch with a professional and have them come out to take a look at things. Some signs that your fireplace needs attention include:
- The glass is hazy or dirty: The glass front of a gas fireplace needs to be kept clean so that you can monitor the flames when the fireplace is turned on. You might be able to clean the glass yourself, using standard window cleaner, but for the best results, it is usually recommended that you have a professional do the job.
- You notice a strange smell: Your gas fireplace might produce an unusual odor for a few reasons. It could be that dust or debris traveled into the fireplace and is currently being burnt up by the flames. Some smells are more concerning than others, though. For example, if you notice a smell like burning cables while your fireplace is on, switch the fireplace off and call for service right away. If you smell rotten eggs, turn the fireplace off, leave your house and call 911. The rotten egg smell might be a sign of a gas leak.
- The fireplace won’t ignite: Your gas fireplace should light up when you push the button or flip the switch. If it does not, a number of things might be amiss. There might be a problem with the pilot light, for example. A fireplace that doesn’t ignite is not an emergency situation, so you will not have to evacuate your house. Simply flip the switch back to the off position and call SMO Energy to have a technician come out to take a look at it.
- The fireplace is making noise: When everything is operating as it should, your fireplace will be pretty quiet when it is turned on. If you notice loud noises, such as shrieks or rumbling, it can be a sign that something is wrong with the blower. It is not an emergency situation, but it is a good idea to turn off the fireplace and schedule an appointment to have a technician take a look at it.
Let SMO Energy Answer All Your Questions About Gas Fireplaces
SMO Energy is committed to being Southern Maryland’s total home comfort provider. In addition to fuel oil delivery and heating and cooling equipment installation and replacement, we also offer gas fireplace installation and replacement. If you are considering installing a new gas fireplace at your home or would like to replace an older model, contact us to learn more. One of our trained, certified technicians will visit you at your home to discuss your needs, recommend fireplace options and discuss fireplace safety with you.