Fireplace Safety Tips
Our fireplace service technicians are already in full swing checking our clients’ gas fireplaces & fire pits throughout Phoenix. First and foremost, fireplace safety is at the top of our list for every homeowner and business owner we visit. Over the last 25+ years, we’ve inspected, repaired, cleaned, and serviced many thousands of propane & natural gas fireplaces. I’m quite pleased to say, there have been numerous occasions our visit likely saved lives – not to mention, their home.
Fireplace Service Near Phoenix, AZ
We began offering fireplace service in the Phoenix, Arizona area over ¼ century ago when I founded Magic Touch Mechanical. Today, fire pit & fireplace service is an entire division of our company, aptly named, The Fire Place.
Of course, Magic Touch still offers a full array of heating & air conditioning services along with home energy improvements. Fireplaces & fire pits are a specialty that require a unique skill set & training, hence us forming The Fire Place. If you have a gas fireplace in your home, fireplace safety should be your first consideration every Fall as well.
Fireplace Safety Starts with You
It’s that time of year again. With temperatures dropping and the holidays upon us, you’re probably ready to use your fireplace and/or outdoor fire pit again. Both are perfect for creating a cozy atmosphere for family & guests to gather around especially around the holidays. Before you light that fire, here’s some fireplace safety tips to make sure you keep your home and family safe.
If you’ve already started your fireplace and it seems to be working okay, great! However, I want you to turn it off and go through these steps. Why? Because fireplace safety starts with you!
All Fireplaces Require Annual Safety Inspections
The most common fireplace fuel types found in homes today are gas (natural gas or propane), electric, pellet, and wood-burning. Each type of hearth requires different procedures and tests, maintenance, and cleaning to provide safe & reliable operation. Every fireplace manufacturer and expert agree they should ALL be checked and cleaned by a professional once a year.
Pro Tip: One manufacturer states their “fireplaces are designed to operate non-stop 364 days per year.” The 365th day of the year is reserved for cleaning, testing, and service!
With proper care, professionally installed and maintained fuel-burning appliances will provide many years of warmth and ambiance. However, left neglected, the risk of fire, combustible gas leaks, and poisonous carbon monoxide entering your home significantly increases.
Bottom line: The first step in fireplace safety starts with you. Schedule a professional inspection & cleaning annually at the start of the season.
Don’t Put That in There!
A big ‘no-no’ is putting anything in your fireplace that doesn’t belong there. This is Rule #1 in fireplace safety!
For your own protection, stick to the following guidelines of 4 things you should never put in a fireplace. Never put wood, paper, or any other materials into a gas, electric, or pellet-burning fireplace or fire pit.
- Only dried firewood should ever be used in wood-burning fireplace.
- It is never necessary to use lighter fluid in your fireplace! Doing so is quite dangerous!
- Never burn cardboard, treated lumber, Christmas trees, newspapers, inked papers, or wax paper in your fireplace.
Using your fireplace to burn anything other than the fuel it was designed to burn poses a serious fire risk. Burning foreign materials in your hearth can also allow harmful gasses to enter your home. Cardboard, lumber, paper, and other foreign materials will cause rapid creosote* build-up in your chimney.
*Creosote: A highly flammable & combustible residue buildup in chimneys and fireplaces created by burning wood & paper. Creosote buildup is the #1 cause of chimney fires!
Open Your Flue Damper
The flue damper, aka chimney damper is designed to prevent conditioned air from escaping through your chimney. Flue dampers are most often used in wood-burning fireplaces but are found in all hearth styles. Your flue damper should never be closed when the fireplace is in use. Most gas fireplace designs exclude a flue damper completely or are designed to take extra steps to close manually.
Forgetting to open your damper when using your fireplace can be a potentially fatal mistake. Your flue is designed to allow a poisonous gas called “carbon monoxide” to vent to the outside of your home. Without a means to escape, these odorless & tasteless gasses can make your family very sick or worse – much worse.
Gas fireplace flue baffles should never be closed in fireplaces with a “standing pilot”. Standing pilots are always on and continuously burn a small amount of gas by design. In other words, the flue needs to be always open to allow the gasses to escape. The only exception is when the fireplace will not be used for a while and the gas is turned off.
Note: Standing pilots, while common, are inefficient since they burn gas even when the fireplace or pit is not in use. If your fireplace has a standing (always-on) pilot, consider speaking to a professional about replacing it with an electronic ignition.
Keep Your Fireplace Clean
Gas Fireplaces require annual cleaning to ensure proper operation of built-in safety features and components. It’s not uncommon to find fireplaces that won’t light or stay lit when they are dirty. These issues are often caused by carbon build-up on ignition systems, safety components, and burner assemblies. While gas fireplaces burn cleaner than wood fireplaces, they still require professional cleaning every year according to all hearth manufacturers.
Wood fireplaces require an even more in-depth chimney cleaning on a regular basis than other types. This is a result of the creosote buildup discussed above. If you’re unsure if your chimney has excessive creosote buildup, have it inspected by a professional chimney sweep (chimney cleaner).
When talking fireplace safety, ensuring your hearth is clean is about more than just appearance. Clogged burner ports and dirt buildup can lead to improper fuel combustion creating several safety hazards.
Test Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Any home with a gas appliance inside should have a minimum of one carbon monoxide detector on each floor. If you have a two-story home with a basement, you should have at least 3 co detectors. I recommend also having one in every bedroom in your home (to assure you hear the alarm if you’re sleeping.
Most carbon monoxide detectors have a test button on the front to assure the alarm will sound. It’s a good practice to place a reminder on your schedule to test them at least once per year.
Enough about fireplace safety, let’s talk eye-candy!
Just like trends in flooring, cabinets, and paint colors change over time, fireplace styles and features change over the years. If you live in an older home or tract home, chances are your fireplace has a ‘basic’ look to it.
In the 80’s and 90’s, polished brass and built-in mantles were all the rage. In the 2000’s we saw oak log sets, glass bifold doors, and lots of ornate inserts. Today the trend seems to be a more modern, simplistic, sleek look.
Ceramic log sets are being replaced with colorful fire glass covering “hidden” burners, stainless burner pans, and even remote controls. Oversized mantles and surrounds are being removed to make room for the large flat screen TV above the fireplace.
Many cities have banned wood-burning fireplaces in new homes so we’re seeing more natural gas and electric fireplaces than ever. For existing gas fireplaces, the upgrade possibilities are usually only limited by your imagination and budget. Rather than the mantle and fireplace surround being the focal point, nowadays it’s what’s inside the fireplace that’s being remodeled.
Modern Gas Logs Are Hot!
Good news for those that still prefer the more contemporary look of traditional logs: Modern gas log sets look much more realistic than those of the past and there’s more to choose from. Thankfully, the days of clay-colored fake logs are over. Some modern log sets are so realistic; it takes a trained eye to even know it’s not actual firewood! I replaced my own gas logs with a white birchwood set. The white birch transformed the look of not only my hearth, but the room it’s in and makes the hearth ‘pop’.
New options allow you to change the look of an entire room simply by updating your fireplace components. While not every existing fireplace can be “modernized”, most can. Do you love your fireplace but wish you could update it like the rest of your home? There’s a good chance you can!
If you live within a 35-mile radius of Mesa, AZ, contact The Fire Place by Magic Touch to schedule a fireplace safety check today!
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