Rosie urges anyone who converts a wood-burning fireplace to gas to take precautions to protect your family and your home from harm and practice good gas fireplace safety.
Whenever you use a gas appliance in your home, you run the risk that excess carbon monoxide will poison your family or that an untended gas flame will cause a fire.
You can prevent those tragedies by studying your manufacturer’s gas fireplace safety instructions and by following Rosie’s tips for enjoying your gas-burning fireplace without incident.
For all gas-burning fireplaces
1. Hire a licensed contractor to convert your wood-burning fireplace to gas. Working with a gas line or a propane tank is a job for an experienced professional, not a do-it-yourselfer.
2. Make sure your contractor installs an oxygen-depletion sensor in your gas fireplace. This device, sometimes called a “safety pilot,” automatically shuts the gas off if the temperature in the fireplace gets too cold or if too much carbon monoxide builds up.
3. Insist on having one, even if your gas fireplace is vented.
4. Check your county and city building codes before installing a gas fireplace to learn about restrictions on where you can place a gas fireplace. Ask your contractor to get a building permit before installing the gas line or propane tank that will fuel your fireplace.
5. Have your chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep before you fire up your gas logs for the first time.
6. Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your house.
7. Although tests show that gas fireplaces do not increase carbon monoxide levels in your home, it’s wise to have the detectors if you use any gas appliances at home, including a furnace, a stove or a fireplace. Change the batteries twice a year.
8. Have a professional, like a fireplace retailer, inspect and clean your gas log set once a year. During a routine maintenance inspection, the professional will:
- Clean and adjust the logs and accessories like the glowing “embers” so they look their best.
- Clean the fan and air circulation passages.
- Clean the glass.
- Check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector.
- Make sure vents are unobstructed.
9. Keep your children away from the gas fireplace. If your model has glass doors, they will get hot enough to burn a little hand that leans against it.
10. Leave three feet between the fireplace and flammable objects like furniture and curtains.
11.Contact your service professional if you smell an unusual odor or if the appearance of the flames changes. If you smell gas, call 911 and leave the house.
12. Before cleaning your logs with a damp cloth, wait for the unit to cool completely.
Especially for vent-free gas log sets:
1. Burning gas can deplete the oxygen in your home. If you burn your vent-free logs for more than an hour, crack a window open to replace the oxygen.
2. Better still, limit your use of your vent-free gas fireplace to no more than a few hours at a stretch.
Especially for vented gas logs:
1. Clamp your fireplace damper into the open position so it never closes. The open chimney will allow carbon monoxide to escape. A closed one will send it into your home, where it can poison your family. The gas is odorless and colorless, and it doesn’t produce smoke like a wood fire does, so you won’t know it’s in the room until develop symptoms.