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Possible Causes of Gas Fireplace Ignition Issues

Everyone loves a good sit down by the fireplace, but not if your gas fireplace has started going out regularly. There are a few reasons why this might be happening, mostly related to issues with sensors or various valves, and knowing about these possible issues — plus how to spot and prevent them — can go a long way for fireplace owners.

At Uintah Fireplace and Design, we’re happy to not only offer the very best gas fireplaces throughout Utah, but also to provide fireplace service and repairs for any of our products, including gas fireplaces that are experiencing low burning issues or are continuously going out during normal operations. What are some of the possible culprits here, what are a few basic techniques you can look at to remedy the situation on your own, and when should you leave this job to our pros? Here’s a basic primer.

Pilot Light

The first area you should be checking if your gas fireplace is having operational issues is your pilot light. Typically located on a wall inside the fireplace or behind your logs somewhere, the pilot light is what keeps the fireplace lit, but it needs to be receiving sufficient airflow in order to do so. What happens sometimes is that enough dust or biomass has built up on the pilot light wall that it’s restricting airflow — your gas fireplace will still try and start, but then will quickly go out since there isn’t enough oxygen available.

In most cases, you can at least check the pilot light on your own without calling our team. Your pilot light and fireplace setup will either be operated by a key or a control panel and how you operate it depends on this differentiation:

  • Fireplace with a key: If your fireplace has a key, insert it into the gas valve knob and turn it 90 degrees. This should turn off the gas to your fireplace and deactivate the keyhole and ignition system. You may have to hold a lighter up to the burner simultaneously.
  • Fireplace with a control panel: Turn the switch on at the control panel to “O” or “Off.” Form here, turn the shutoff valve until it’s parallel with your gas line. When you’re ready to light the pilot light, move the knob to the “Pilot” position and then hold the knob down while also pressing the ignition switch. Press the knob down for at least 30 seconds, and then turn the knob back to On.

Once you’ve successfully turned on your pilot light, check what color it is. If it’s dark blue around the edges and lighter blue inside, you’re all set; if it’s yellow or red, your gas is contaminated and you will need to contact our pros for assistance.

Cleaning Pilot Light

In some cases, you can get a mistaken reading from your pilot light if it’s dirty. For this reason, try quickly cleaning it with these steps before you attempt the above steps (or after, if you’re concerned your reading was wrong):

  • Turn off the gas supply to the fireplace
  • Remove the pilot light and remove any buildup with a strong wire brush
  • For any areas you can’t reach, use compressed air for cleaning

If this solves your issue, good! If the pilot doesn’t stay lit after this, however, you could have a thermocouple issue; if the pilot light is on but the fireplace still won’t turn on, you could be dealing with a thermopile concern. We’ll go over both of these momentarily.

Thermocouple and Thermopile Voltage

There are two items that play an important role in gas fireplace operations. Here’s what each of them do:

  • Thermocouple: The thermocouple is the item that keeps the pilot light lit by sending a signal to your gas valve to let it know that the fireplace is actually turned on. When you push the ignition button, this triggers a small burst of gas through your pilot light and then into your burner (hence why you hear that “whoosh” sound). If the thermocouple malfunctions, however, it will no longer be able to send this signal to your keyhole, and your gas fireplace will not light.
  • Thermopile: The thermopile, on the other hand, is an electrical instrument that changes thermal power into electrical power. A thermopile may involve the combination of several thermocouples in some cases.

And if either of the issues we noted at the end of the last section are present, you may need to check the voltage for one or both of these items. This can be done using a basic multimeter you can purchase at any home improvement store. A thermopile voltage below 300 millivolts means the item should be replaced; a thermocouple reading below 25 millivolts signals the same thing.

Professional Assistance

If you’re unsure about your skills for performing any part of the process we’ve gone over to this point, do not hesitate to call our team of fireplace experts for help. In addition, do not attempt any further repairs or changes beyond what we’ve gone over here unless you have specified training with gas fireplaces — not only are you risking your own safety, you may create even further problems that just cost more to replace. Instead, rely on professionals who know exactly how to diagnose your issue and remedy it quickly and affordably.

For more on understanding why your gas fireplace is going out — plus solving the problem quickly and affordably — speak to the staff at Uintah Fireplace & Design today.

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