Do Fireplaces Need Electricity?
In less than a month our schedule will flip from being mostly HVAC related calls to mostly fireplace related calls. Many of those calls will be from people planning to remodel, replace, or install a new fireplace or fire pit. Customers are often surprised when we talk about how we will get electricity to a fireplace that wasn’t previously required. I thought this would be a good topic to write about answering the question; do fireplaces need electricity?
Older Fireplaces & Fire Pits Didn’t Use Electricity
Most older furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, and fire pits operate without being connected to the home’s main electrical circuits. These appliances utilized a ‘standing pilot’ which was always burning regardless of if the appliance was in use or not.
A standing pilot uses the heat energy from the pilot’s flame to energize a component called a thermocouple or thermopile. The energy produced by the pilot’s heat is enough for the thermocouple to produce a small amount of electricity. That electricity is enough to open the gas valve and ignite the burners in the fire pit or fireplace.
Standing Pilot Fireplaces & Fire Pits Still Exist
You can still purchase standing pilot fireplaces & fire pits and replacement parts for older appliances (in some cases). However, standing pilot ignition systems waste energy and are far less convenient than appliances that use an electronic ignition.
One pro of a standing pilot is the fireplace will operate even in the event of a power failure. The only thing required is the fuel source (natural gas or propane). Keep in mind, in severe storms sometimes the gas company will turn off gas to certain areas for safety reasons.
That said, many more modern fireplaces and fire pits can still operate during a power failure when properly equipped.
Modern Fireplaces Need Electricity
Think of a fireplace or fire pit pilot as an on/off switch. It’s the main component of the hearth’s ignition system. Just like your car or truck requires ignition to start the engine, a fireplace needs ignition to light the burner. Sticking with the car analogy, older cars used a key (mechanical ignition) whereas newer cars utilize a pushbutton (electronic ignition).
Modern fireplaces need electricity to start the ignition process. There are several types of electronic ignition fireplaces & fire pits on the market. The most common is called an intermittent pilot. As the name implies an intermittent pilot is not on all the time. It uses the homes electricity to create a spark and upon lighting the burner shuts off.
There are a few pros to an intermittent pilot including convenience, efficiency, and safety. Not having to light a pilot every season is what most people like best about them. Simply flip a switch, press a button on remote control models, or even ask Alexa to, “turn on the fireplace.”
What Happens to Fireplaces That Need Electricity in a Blackout?
Here in the Phoenix area, we seldom lose power and when we do it’s usually not for very long. Growing up in New York, I remember regular power outages – especially during major winter storms when we needed heat most!
Since standing pilot fireplaces don’t require power, they remain an operable heat source even during a blackout. Of course, here in Phoenix we use our fireplaces and fire pits for ambiance more than the need for heat. However, in many parts of the country your gas fireplace is considered one of the home’s heating systems. Now that we know modern fireplaces need electricity what happens when there is none?
Most Modern Fireplaces That Need Electricity Have a Battery Backup
Remember, fireplaces that need electricity for ignition only use that power for a few seconds to light the pilot. Once the burners are lit, the electricity is no longer needed as the gas or propane takes over.
Today’s gas fireplaces typically have an option to add a battery backup in the event your home loses power. Common household batteries (most often AA batteries) provide enough electricity to light your fireplace during a power outage.
Pro Tip: We recommend removing backup batteries during normal operation and only installing them in a power outage. Most fireplace owner’s manuals say to remove batteries once power is restored.
Fireplaces Need Electricity for the Blower Fan to Operate
Keep in mind many gas fireplaces need electricity to power blower fans, lighting, and other accessories. Typically, these accessories are not needed for the fireplace to operate. For example, your fireplace will still work even without the blower fan during a power outage.
Power Vented Fireplaces Need Electricity to Function
There are a few types of fireplaces that need electricity, or they simply will not operate. Modern fireplaces that use a power vent in the flue (exhaust vent) will not operate during a power outage. These appliances are equipped with built-in safeties to prevent the fireplace from lighting if the exhaust fan is not running.
It probably goes without saying but, just in case … electric fireplaces will not operate without electricity. Laugh all you want – the previous sentence just helped someone!
Need Help with Your Fireplace or Fire Pit in Phoenix, AZ?
The Fire Place by Magic Touch has been exceeding customer expectations in the Phoenix area for almost three decades. With over 3,000 5-Star reviews, we’re proud to say we’re the highest rated fireplace service company in Greater Phoenix.
We provide fire pit, fireplace, & fire feature installation, repair, maintenance, & service throughout Phoenix, AZ, and surrounding cities. The Fire Place isn’t your average fireplace store because we provide repairs, maintenance & remodels even if you didn’t buy your fireplace from us!
Contact The Fire Place today to schedule your next fireplace service, repair, or remodel!
Magic Touch Mechanical