Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit
DIY Tips If Your Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit or Doesn’t Light at All
If your gas fireplace won’t stay lit, there are a few things you can try yourself before calling a pro. Of course, a professional fireplace repair company like The Fire Place by Magic Touch* is experienced in solving these problems. If you’re unsure if this is a project you can or should tackle yourself, we’re available 7 days a week!
*The Fire Place is a division of Magic Touch Mechanical providing fireplace & fire pit repairs and service since 1997.
PRO TIP: Any attempts to service your own gas fireplace you do at your own risk – and the risk of your family, pets, and property. Sometimes it’s better to just hire a pro. In my opinion, this is one of those things and should only be attempted by very mechanically inclined people. Gas fireplaces, furnaces, and other combustion appliances are safe when professionally installed and maintained. Done improperly, the risk of gas leaks, explosions, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning are very real. If you feel like you can handle this repair, read on and we’ll explain what to do!
If you live in the Phoenix, AZ area or within a 35-mile radius of the Magic Touch Mechanical main office in Mesa, Arizona – just call us for gas fireplace service. We’ve been repairing, maintaining, and upgrading gas fireplaces for over 1/4 century!
My Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit!
If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume your gas fireplace either won’t stay lit, or won’t light at all. The first thing to understand is, the problem is most likely related to the ignition assembly. Depending on the fireplace model, the ignition assembly usually consists of the pilot light assembly, pilot tubing, thermocouple & thermopile.
Of course, there are a number of other problems that could cause a gas fireplace not to light or stay lit. However, the most common reason a fire pit or gas hearth won’t light is an ignition assembly issue. Notice I said an ignition assembly “issue” and not failure or fault. As you read on, you’ll see it may not be a failure at all. In fact, the reason your gas fireplace won’t light may very well be the safety components are working exactly as designed!
First Things First – Is Your Pilot Light Lit?
Nothing irks me more than when I call my internet service provider to report an outage and they ask me if my modem is plugged in. That said, you know there’s a reason they have to ask that right? You know there is a percentage of people that probably say; “Oops never mind.” Again, I hate to say it but… is your gas even turned on? We see a few a year where the gas isn’t on or the propane tank is empty!
Step 1: Verify both your gas key valve and the ball valve on the gas flex line (if equipped) are both on. If you use propane, check to make sure you have propane in the tank.
Step 2: Have you checked to see if your pilot light control knob is in the off position? If it is, light the pilot by following the instructions on your hearth or in your user manual.
PRO TIP: If you do not know how to light a pilot light, check for gas flow, or verify you have propane, you need to call a pro rather than reading on. I’m not trying to be mean – I’m trying to advise you to stay safe!
Did That Work?
YES: If you lit your pilot light and everything appears to be functioning normally now, you are good to go! However, consider calling a pro to perform maintenance and cleaning of your fireplace. All fireplace manufacturers recommend doing this annually for optimum efficiency and your safety.
NO: If you’ve verified you have fuel flowing and your fireplace still doesn’t light, or comes on and shuts off soon thereafter keep reading.
My Fireplace Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit
If the pilot light on your gas fireplace won’t stay lit, a very likely culprit is a component called a thermocouple. A thermocouple is a safety device and is a component of the ignition system. Its purpose is to prevent the gas valve from opening if the pilot light isn’t lit. Without this device, your gas valve could allow gas to leak into your home…enough said right?
The thermocouple is a metal rod that sticks out right in front of the pilot itself. It senses if flame is present or not. If the pilot light is lit, it heats up the thermocouple. This opens the gas valve and allows gas to enter the burner ports…and voila, fire!
Step 3: Is your pilot light staying on after you lit it and turned the knob to the ON position?
Did That Work?
YES: It appears you simply had to turn the knob from OFF or PILOT to ON and now your hearth will do the rest. Enjoy your fire, but remember, it’s still good to have a pro check everything out.
NO: You’re still reading so I guess there was no “voila” for you. Don’t worry, we’re just getting warmed up (no pun intended).
SORT OF: If you verified gas flow, lit the pilot and it stayed lit, and then got flames but they went out quickly, keep reading!
Try Cleaning Off Your Thermocouple if Your Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit
It’s not unusual for the thermocouple to collect carbon deposit buildup after a season of use. After all, your thermocouple is sitting in a direct flame the majority of the time. Carbon buildup is a grayish – blackish powdery coating that makes the thermocouple metal look dull.
Step 4: If after inspection you determine there is a carbon buildup on your thermocouple, try cleaning it off. The best way to do this is with a strip of fine grit sandpaper. Lightly rub it back and forth until the metal appears to shine again. Often, you’ll find that’s enough to fix a fireplace that won’t stay lit.
Did That Work?
YES: If that worked and your fireplace stays lit, you’re problems are most likely no more! (Do me a favor in return and go give us and this blog a good review on Google for saving you some $$). Verify it worked by cycling your fireplace on and off several times. If it continues to light and stay lit, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t continue to stay lit you most likely have a weak thermocouple that needs to be replaced.
NO: If that didn’t work, the technician in me wants to recommend you call a pro at this point. It’s not a very expensive repair to have a fireplace service contractor repair this problem (in most cases). Plus, the contractor can test all the other components and even clean your whole hearth for you while he or she’s there. Chances are, if your thermocouple is worn out, it’s probably been much more than a year since you’ve had your hearth inspected – it’s time.
What’s the Difference Between a Thermocouple and Thermopile?
If you’re fireplace ignition doesn’t look like the picture above but more like the one to the right, you have a thermopile. Overall, a thermocouple and thermopile do the same thing. Both use the energy derived from heat to convert it to electricity. A thermopile is simply a series of thermocouples bundled together. As a result, a thermopile generates more electrical current than a thermocouple.
A thermopile can be used to power a thermostat in some appliances. However, a thermocouple does not provide enough electricity to do so. You can take the same steps described above with both types if your gas fireplace will not stay lit.
With both thermocouples and thermopiles make sure not to sand either too aggressively. If a light sanding doesn’t work, the problem is most likely more than carbon buildup. Also, be very careful when working near the spark ignitor (see top picture). The casing of the spark ignitor is typically made of ceramic and is extremely fragile especially with age.
Other Reasons a Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit
As with any heating appliance, there are a number of reasons why a gas fireplace won’t stay lit. Although the ignition system is a very common issue when a fireplace won’t light, it’s not always the problem. Here are some other common issues your fireplace or fire pit may not be working properly:
- Incorrect Gas Pressure– Fireplace technicians use a tool called a manometer to measure the gas flow through the gas valve. When the gas pressure is not set properly, the fireplace will not stay lit. If it’s just out of adjustment, the technician can get it back in calibration. If you own a manometer and know how to use it, you can do this easily yourself. I assume people reading this article do not – which is why I lead with having a fireplace technician do it.
- Faulty Gas Valve– After ignition system components, a faulty gas valve is the next most common component failure we see in gas fireplaces. While gas valves typically last the life of a fireplace, they are a functional component and subject to fail. There’s way too much at risk to suggest a layperson mess with a gas valve replacement – so I won’t. It’s definitely time to call a fireplace service company if your gas valve is broken – period!
- Clogged / Dirty Burner Ports– Usually, clogged burner ports will cause your gas fireplace to have uneven flame distribution. More often than not the hearth will perform poorly, not fail to stay lit. However, in my thirty years as a fireplace technician, I have seen it happen.
- Faulty Flux Capacitor – The flux capacitor plays a critical role in… Okay, there’s no such component as a flux capacitor in a gas fireplace. However, I’m happy to see someone is still reading this article!
Gas Fireplace Cleaning
You can clean your burner ports yourself with care and attention to detail. Do not use chemicals or water! I recommend using a soft bristle brush, rags and a toothbrush to get the job done.
PRO TIP: Never use anything to poke or drill out burner ports!
PRO TIP: It’s very important to replace the gas logs in the same location you removed them. Gas log sets are strategically designed and placed for proper flame distribution, heating, and operation.
You may find it’s very dusty in the components cabinet of your fireplace. This is pretty common even after just one season of use. Some disposable rags, a feather duster, and a good wet/dry vacuum should do the trick. Be very careful not to disturb any of the wiring and even more so, any of the gas tubing – move slowly and methodically.
Fireplace Glass Cleaning
When it comes to fireplace glass cleaning, things can get a little tricky. With the many styles and types of gas fireplaces and inserts, procedures for removing the glass vary widely. Breaking that glass can lead to expensive repairs, and in some cases parts may no longer be available. For that reason, I highly recommend hiring a professional for fireplace glass cleaning. Certainly I’ve explained how to do much more complicated things than glass cleaning in this article, why not just explain this one?
Frankly, the answer is; I’ve seen homeowners accidentally break their fireplace glass before. It’s hard to watch when they realize how much it will cost to repair vs. what they would’ve paid a professional to clean it. Whether you repair your own fireplace or not, you should have it inspected and serviced professionally annually. It’s not very expensive to add glass cleaning to keep your fireplace looking its best. Plus, you won’t have to worry about how to disassemble and reassemble the fireplace.
One last note about gas fireplace glass cleaning: Dirty fireplace glass can be a sign of improper combustion – meaning the gas isn’t burning off properly. This can be an indication of a safety issue. If your fireplace glass continually gets cloudy or yellow/brown, it’s definitely time to have it checked by a pro.
PRO TIP: Letting your glass stay dirty too long can result in it becoming uncleanable. The staining eventually etches the glass making replacement of the glass the only viable option.
Fireplace Service Near Mesa, AZ
If after reading this article you still need a professional fireplace service company, I hope you’ll call us. Magic Touch Mechanical provides maintenance, repairs, and upgrades to gas fireplaces and fire pits. We service the entire Phoenix-Metro area and surrounding cities.
If you live outside of Magic Touch’s service area, there’s a few good places to find a good fireplace service company.
- Angie’s List – Angie’s List is now free to search. Tip: Search the “gas logs” category for more local consumer reviews.
- Google – The almighty Google knows everything about everyone it seems. Start by searching fireplace service company near me. Check out their reviews and make sure you see many specific to fireplace repair and service.
If you found this article useful, please do me a favor and share it on social media. Even better, leave us a Google Review so other people find it too!
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The Fire Place is a division of Magic Touch Mechanical