5 Common Gas Fireplace Repair Problems

washington dc gas fireplace

Many homes in the Washington DC area have gas fireplaces.  When you own a gas fireplace, it’s important to know about some of the more common repairs. Some gas fireplace repairs can be done on your own while others require the help of a professional chimney sweep company like ours.

Fireplace Burner isn’t Turning On

You may find that when you go to light your fire, the burner isn’t turning on. If the pilot light is still working, it’s likely a problem with the thermostat. The good news is that you can often fix this on your own by checking that the current room temperature is below the thermostat setting.

If the problem isn’t in your thermostat, you may need a professional to help you with several other aspects:

  • Faulty wiring
  • Dirty orifice on the pilot light
  • Thermocoupler needs to be replaced

Once a professional comes out, they can troubleshoot the issue and make the necessary repairs so your fireplace burner can begin working once again.

Fireplace Doors Not Sealing Properly

Often, the glass doors to your gas fireplace might not be sealing properly, which is a relatively simple fix. The first sign that will tell you that your seals aren’t in place is that you will smell the gas coming out of your fireplace. The clips and glass fasteners both have to be in place firmly.

The Ignition Isn’t Working

If you try to start a fire and the ignition isn’t working, you will need a repair of some sort. You may want to check the breaker box first to see if there has been a trip. Otherwise, it may be that you need to open the gas valve to restore the flow. If neither of these issues is the problem, you will want to get a professional in to check on the natural gas lines or the propane supply and to check the function of the wiring.

Soot Buildup

Gas fireplaces leave soot that can build up over time.  You should be cleaning your fireplace on a regular basis so that you don’t get significant soot buildup.   Residue can affect the oxygen flow within your unit.  There may not be enough oxygen flow, or there might be too much gas flow. Additionally, you should consider getting a professional chimney inspection to find out if any blockages could be causing the problem.

A few other things that you can do for soot buildup 

  • Adjust the air setting
  • Adjust the damper
  • Align embers and logs according to fireplace instructions
  • Clear off the combustion screen
  • Remove leaves and debris from the chimney

When you can get soot buildup under control, it will help your fireplace to last much longer – and look its best, too.

Blower Problems

A blower can create a grinding or shrieking noise. It may be an indication that the blower needs work.  Loud blowers can be deceptive.  Some older models are always louder than newer units.  Newer technology has come out to provide fans that barely make any noise. You may want to call in a professional to see what they can do about your existing blower.

The type of gas fireplace you have may determine the kinds of repairs that you will have over its lifetime. For example, there are ventless and vented fireplaces. Unvented fireplaces shouldn’t produce soot.at all. In ventless fireplaces, you may experience odors as a result of such things as dirt, dust, and pet dander that get into the burner and the other components that are responsible for combustion.

Potential gas fireplace problems are the reason gas fireplaces should be cleaned every year.  By keeping your fireplace clean, you can keep the unit in better condition. You can also catch problems at their early stages.  Do the basics yourself and hire a chimney sweep every year to do the rest. 

Want to learn more? Read this article from the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

Why Gas Fireplaces Must Be Cleaned & Inspected Every Year

gas fireplace cleaning

It’s common knowledge to homeowners in the Washington DC Metro Area that wood-burning fireplaces require regular cleaning and inspections. After all, leftover residue dramatically increases the potential for fire hazards.  Many think that having a gas fireplace installed eliminates the need for having their chimneys cleaned every year.   The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that chimneys al all kinds should be cleaned every year.  The truth is that getting your chimney sweep is every bit as important for gas fireplaces. Read on to learn how gas fireplace cleaning and inspection is so essential:

Gas fireplaces can create visible buildup and debris

Although there is less potential for noticeable buildup with a gas fireplace than a sooty wood-burning appliance, it’s still bound to happen over time. The following are just a few examples of damage that you or your chimney sweep technician can observe:

  • Deteriorating ceramic logs. Pieces may break off and clog vents.
  • Cracked crowns and damaged mortar joints. These allow moisture to enter the chimney and break off flue tiles.
  • Residue may appear on the fireplace’s glass doors
  • Glass doors can become chipped or scratched, and may require replacement
  • Birds may build nests in your chimney, thereby harming ventilation

Gas Fireplaces Can Leave Corrosive Deposits

It’s easy to see when wood stoves and other appliances require cleaning. These fireplaces create ample soot, which is instantly visible upon inspection.  With gas fireplaces, the need for cleaning may not be as immediately obvious.  That doesn’t mean the need doesn’t exist, however. Natural gas and propane tend to deposit toxic — but invisible — substances. These can cause significant problems for your chimney and pose a safety and health risk.  The need for action may not become evident until your gas fireplace is damaged.  When discovered late, gas fireplace repairs are much more costly. 

Make sure that your gas fireplace is functioning properly

Professional chimney sweeps like ours always check to make sure that every aspect of your chimney is working correctly.  They can determine how efficiently and safely your fireplace is functioning.  They can also inform of whether a need for repairs exists now or might be needed farther in the future. 

With time, valves can slowly develop leaks. Unfortunately, leaks are not very obvious.  As a result, these problems may not be examined as quickly as warranted.  The same applies to the thermopile and thermocouple, which may show wear over time. During an inspection, your technician can determine the extent of the damage and alert you to a possible solution.

What Happens During a Gas Fireplace Cleaning Inspection?

When your local technician arrives to clean your gas fireplace, you can expect a thorough inspection of every aspect of the appliance. The following are a few of the most critical elements of a gas fireplace inspection:

  • The expert inspects the fireplace’s exterior, observing for chips and cracks in or debris on the glass doors, and quality of the general fireplace framework.
  • A close look at the interior ignition will determine whether the fireplace lights correctly.
  • The face of the unit may be removed to inspect valves beneath the fireplace or insert.
  • A thorough cleaning process may ensue, to guarantee the removal of all residue from vents.
  • A quick check for your carbon monoxide detectors will determine whether they are correctly in place and functional.
  • Your technician will end the inspection by alerting you to any problems that require attention, and how urgent those issues may be.

You love the comfort and beauty your gas fireplace provides, along with its incredible efficiency.  A little care and attention can keep your fireplace in working order in for decades to come. If you have yet to schedule your annual inspection, now is the time to get started. 

Why you should preheat your flue…and how to do it

chimney flue

Homeowners across the Washington DC Metropolitan Area are reaping the benefits of having fireplaces installed in their homes.  One of the most underestimated aspects of using a fireplace is preheating your flue.  Many homeowners wonder why preheating your flue is so important.  When there is a fire in your fireplace, cooler air from your home fuels the fire, the air above it gets hotter.  The chimney flue provides allows the hot air to rise out of the house along with the smoke and other fire byproducts.  Preheating your flue warms the chimney causing the air to start moving in the right direction.  Below are some additional things that you should know about preheating your flue.  

Things that you should check prior to preheating the flue

  • Before using your fireplace it is essential to make sure that you have had your annual chimney sweep and cleaning.  Preheating the chimney is a waste of time if your chimney is not safe to use.
  • Is the damper open all the way? You’d be surprised at how many of us forget to check the damper position before building a fire. 
  • Is the chimney flue cold? Chimneys that are allowed to get cold between fires are full of cold air. This cold air acts like a plug because it is heavier than the warmer air in the room.
  • Check to confirm your chimney is drafting properly.
    • Open the damper all the way
    • Use a lighter or match to see which way the air is flowing. The flame pulling upwards means the smoke will go that way, too. The flame pulling back into the room means that you need to preheat your flue or the smoke will also come back into the room.

How to preheat your chimney flue

When you know that the chimney has passed inspection, you know that there is probably nothing wrong with the chimney except that it is too cold to draw properly. Keeping the damper open while laying the fire will sometimes be enough to move some warm air into the flue but that can take up to a half hour and there are quicker ways to preheat the flue:

  • Make four or five newspaper “torches” by rolling a few pages up tightly. Lighting a few of these torches and holding the flame up so the heat rises into the flue will usually heat the air enough to make a draft go up the chimney. This is the most common procedure and it works.
  • A blow dryer or fan can be used to push the cold air up out of the flue. The warm air in the room draws after it and the flue is warmed. The air being blown up the chimney doesn’t need to be hot because the air from the room is still warmer than the air in the flue.

Other Tips To Help Your Chimney Vent Properly

  • Cracking open a window (about one inch) helps the fire get started because it pulls more air in over the flames.
  • Using dried, seasoned wood makes the fire burn hotter.
  • Build the properly sized fire for your firebox.
  • Use a metal grate so air can get underneath the wood.
  • Build the fire as far back in the firebox as you can.
  • If the fireplace has glass doors, open them so air can draw in from the room.

Remember that a cold flue can keep the smoke from rising so try preheating your flue the next time you start a fire. If you still are having problems, call a chimney specialist to evaluate what is going on.

 

Tips to get your fireplace & chimney ready for the cold

fireplace and chimney maintenance

Many people use the changing seasons as an opportunity to create new decoration ideas for their fireplace hearths.  It is also important to make sure that any Washington DC chimney repairs are completed before the cold weather arrives. Chimneys, along with fireplaces and wood stoves are involved in close to half (42%) of fires related to home-heating systems. Before you begin to use your fireplace.  You can follow some basic safety steps to get your chimney and fireplace ready for the cold weather in Washington DC.  

Here are some key steps to take to prepare your chimney and fireplace for the cold weather:

Chimneys Maintenance Tips

Hire a Professional Chimney Sweep: As emphasized in the beginning, proper maintenance prevents chimney fires.  Hiring a professional chimney sweep it the first and most important step.  The National Fire Protection Association advises that you have your chimney swept once per year by a professional chimney repair company.  Not only will a professional chimney sweep get rid of soot and debris, which could potentially catch fire, they will also check for damage to your chimney.  The chimney liners and other structures will be checked for cracks, leaks, missing mortar, loose bricks and other hazards.  

Cap Your Chimney: If your chimney does not have a chimney cap, then you need to have one installed.  Chimney caps which will protect your structure from unwanted animals, such as birds and squirrels, and will also keep out rain and debris. A cap with wire-mesh sides covering the chimney’s top will keep these things out. If your cap is missing, replace it. If your cap has suffered any damage, be sure to make all the necessary repairs. 

Tips for Wood Burning Fireplace

Cleaning: If you have a wood burning fireplace, you need to make sure that you properly clean it before the heating season. In particular, be sure to clean the firebox using a vacuum. You should also remove soot that has accumulated on the fireplace’s walls or the chimney’s opening.

Using Your Wood Burning Fireplace: There are also some basic tips to follow when it comes to choosing the right firewood, preparing the firewood, building a fire, and ensuring safety.

Choose Seasoned Hardwood: It is best to burn wood that is dense and seasoned, for example, oak. This wood should have been split and have been stored in a place that is dry and high for no less than six months. By contrast, green wood and softwoods, including pine, produce greater amounts of creosote, a byproduct of combustion that is flammable. If allowed to build-up and the internal flue temperature reaches a certain level, there is a high risk of a chimney fire, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America

Preparing the Hardwood: If you choose to cut your hardwood yourself, you want to adhere to some core principles. First, the wood needs to be split so that the pieces will fit into your fireplace. As well, keep your pieces to no larger than six inches in diameter, in turn helping them to burn correctly. Regarding stacking the wood, the split-side should be positioned downward and not directly on the ground. Also, the wood should be kept covered, so as not to suffer damage from rain or snow. It is also important that you store the softwood for a minimum duration of six months, and hardwood for at least 12 months.

Testing the Moisture: Make sure that you buy a wood moisture meter. Aim for a moisture reading no higher than 20%, which means the wood is dried enough. Too much moisture will result in the wood not burning properly.

Consider Buying Local Wood: If you decide not to cut your wood, or realize it’s not feasible for you to store it for an extended period, you may want to consider buying local wood. Be sure to find out whether your state or city has any special ordinances relating to firewood.

Avoid Overloading Your Chimney: As we mentioned before, creosote is a highly flammable byproduct of combustion. Large fires produce higher amounts of smoke, and in turn, greater amounts of creosote buildup. By comparison, smaller fires produce less smoke and less creosote. For this reason, you want to avoid overloading your chimney. The risk of cracking your chimney lining also increases with a larger fire that’s higher in heat. 

Building Your Fire: Logs should always be placed close to the rear of the fireplace and should be put on a metal grate. Additionally, make sure to use kindling to start a fire as opposed to flammable liquids. Also, make sure that the fire has air and that you keep ample space between the logs. 

Practice Safety with a Spark Guard: Another important measure is to use a spark guard, which serves as a buffer preventing embers from coming out of the firebox. Typically this is mesh metal screen or sometimes glass doors. 

Move Flammable Objects Away from the Area: It is critical that you move any flammable objects far away from either your wood stove or fireplace. 

Use a Fan to Circulate the Air in Your House: You may want to consider running your ceiling fans on low speed to circulate the warm air in your home generated by your fireplace. 

Tips for Gas Fireplaces

If you have a gas fireplace, you don’t have to worry about removing and cleaning up ash. While there is typically less maintenance involved with gas fireplaces, there are still some basic steps you should take with your gas fireplace in preparation for the colder weather and the heating season:

Clean the glass: Consult your owners manual, and make sure you are using a cloth that is soft and the right type of cleaner. You do not want to scratch the glass, which increases the risk that the high heat could result in it shattering.

Use a Vacuum to Clean the Inside of Your Fireplace

Inspect Your Fireplace Thoroughly: Any damage, including cracks or rust, should be appropriately dealt with, and the parts that are affected should be replaced.

You can find additional gas fireplace safety tips here

Tips for Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves offer many advantages. In general, they are cleaner than wood. Also, they provide greater efficiency than electric wall heaters and gas furnaces. However, just like your other home heating solutions, they require cleaning before their use during the cooler months.

Consult Your Owner’s Manual: The manual provides instructions regarding how to remove the particular parts of your pellet stove. Once you have done this, you will be ready to clean and vacuum your pellet stove. Be sure to take the following steps:

Cleaning the Exhaust Piping and Venting: The vent cap should be removed to clean it. Since ash can build-up in the T pipe, it is important to open it and thoroughly vacuum it. 

Take Out the Combustion and Distribution Fans: After vacuuming out soot and ash, you should use a brush to get rid of anything that remains stuck. Before putting the fans back in, be sure to replace gasket seals that are worn and have cracks.

Clean Behind All Panels.

Carefully Check the Gasket on your Firebox Door: Issues with the gasket can result in decreased efficiency. A simple way to check your seal is to put a dollar bill on the seal, close the door, and then check if you can pull the dollar out from the door. If you can do this relatively quickly, that’s a sign that the gasket might need to be replaced. Be sure to check a few, as opposed to just one area around the door.

Finally, Clean the Firepot and the Hopper: Remove ash, any pellets in the hopper and pellet dust.

Whether you have a wood burning fireplace, gas fireplace or pellet stove, it is critical that you take the right steps to prepare your structure for the cooler months. By practicing these tips, you can help ensure that your fireplace and chimney will work toward heating your home efficiently and safely as we head into Autumn and Winter.