Enjoy Your Gas Fireplace Safely (And Often)!

Enjoy Your Gas Fireplace Safely (And Often)!

A gas fireplace serves as one of the safest and most reliable appliances in the home, providing both heat and ambiance at a moment’s notice. Gas fireplaces are clean burning, require little maintenance, and can be an important source of heat in an emergency situation such as a power outage.

Because efficiency and safety are important issues, HPBAC recommends that a gas fireplace be professionally serviced at least once a year to ensure top performance and aesthetic appearance. A qualified professional inspects the burner, fan, venting, pilot light and thermostat, and even cleans the glass. Further, a carbon monoxide detector should be present in the home. 

Here is a full list of recommendations to ensure you are getting the safest and most enjoyable experience out of your gas fireplace:

Safe setup

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and place smoke detectors throughout the house. Test the smoke detectors and batteries regularly. See that the extinguisher is in good working order and that all family members know how to operate it.
  • Obtain a building permit prior to installing or replacing your hearth appliance, as required by the laws in your area.
  • Advise your insurance company about the installation or replacement of your hearth appliance.
  • Have your hearth appliance installed out of the way of foot traffic and away from furniture and draperies.
  • To fully understand the necessary steps involved in proper operation, read the manufacturer’s instruction manual for your specific hearth product.
  • If your hearth appliance is being installed in a home during construction or renovations, do not operate it until the area is thoroughly cleaned; drywall dust and other contaminants may harm the fan motors and burners.

Using your hearth appliance

  • Do not store combustible materials, gasoline or other flammable liquids near your hearth appliance.
  • Never leave a child alone in a room with a hearth appliance. If your child is not in a playpen, an adjustable gate system that fits most hearth appliance areas can be installed which allows adult access to the hearth appliance but keeps kids outside in the safety zone. Alternatively the same kind of safety gate system can be used to cordon off the entire room to prevent your child wandering into the room alone.

Regular maintenance

  • Clean the glass regularly (but never when it is hot). It is recommended to use a glass cleaning product specifically intended for fireplace glass, available through most hearth retailers or hardware stores. Never use abrasive products or ammonia-based cleaners which may scratch the glass surface.
  • Maintain your hearth appliance regularly in accordance with the manufacturers specifications, and industry best practices.

To discuss any of these matters, feel free to contact:

Adam De Caire

Director, Public Affairs
HPBA Canada
(647) 998-4235

Let’s Talk Wood Preparation & Storage

Let’s Talk Wood Preparation & Storage

Did you know burning green wood can severely damage your woodburning stove and cause residue build-up in your chimney? Green wood (or freshly cut wood) releases a lot of creosote (tar). It will burn, but it won’t burn well, and if done regularly can cause a chimney fire or worse. Green wood is safe for outdoor use, but seasoned wood is best for the most efficient and clean burn indoors.

Seasoning is the process of allowing wood to dry over a period of time (usually six months) depending on climate, and type and age of the tree. Although some wood may require less time, six months is considered a reasonable amount of time for the moisture content to drop from 50 per cent to 20 per cent or less.

Once you have selected the correct seasoned wood for maximum woodburning efficiency, consider which species of wood is best for heating your home. Hardwoods (maple, walnut, oak) were traditionally the preferred burn choice because leaky cast iron stoves wouldn’t maintain a fire made of softwoods (cedar, red pine, fir) overnight. However, with the latest advancements in technology, woodburning appliances all function well with a wider variety of wood species, due to their better control over the combustion process. In modern stoves, both soft and hardwoods make excellent fuel for spring and fall use, but it’s still best to save your hardwoods for the coldest part of winter. Also, consider burning fruit trees, such as apple or cherry, as they produce a pleasing aroma, and do well heating your home too.

Want to save time and energy? Buying pre-cut wood is a great way to go, but it is important to know what you are getting. Check with the seller to see what types of wood are included and be clear on how much wood you will receive. Don’t forget to determine the appropriate log dimensions so they fit inside your stove. It is good practice to visit the woodlot and inspect the wood before purchasing.

The official measurement of firewood is a “cord”. A “full cord” is four feet tall by four feet deep by eight feet long. Depending on the log size (commonly sixteen to eighteen inches), a “face cord” may only offer a third the firewood as a full cord, and should be priced accordingly. Firewood is also sometimes sold by the amount that fits in a truck bed; this can make the amount of wood difficult to gauge and can conceal a higher price per cord measure.

The amount of wood you need depends on climate, length of seasons, size of your home, and whether or not your appliance is the primary heating source. In theory, a cord of wood could last you four months in a smaller home with conservative use and moderate winter temperatures. However, it is better to err on the side of caution and overestimate the amount of firewood needed, so you aren’t left out in the cold. Always source a couple of woodlots to keep your options open. A cord most likely will only last you two months.

Once your wood has been delivered, or you’ve just finished splitting your own wood (the most inexpensive firewood source), it now needs to be stacked and stored properly.

Stack wood near the entrance to your home, but not against the wall, as this prevents insect and critter problems. Construct an open shed or use a tarp to shield wood from rain and elements. Keep your wood raised three to four inches off of a solid base or the ground to prevent the bottom rows from rotting. Pallet boards work very well for this purpose. Whatever you use, keep in mind there needs to be room for good air circulation all around the stack to aid in seasoning, and protection from the elements year-round. If you split your own wood, the storage area should ideally be sized to hold a three-year supply, to allow for proper seasoning and rotation.

Thank you to woodheat.org for the above information. woodheat.org is a great source for information on heating your home with wood.

Getting Your Fireplace Ready for Action

Getting Your Fireplace Ready for Action

As we head into fall and look forward to cooler weather with a cozy fireplace, we should remember that fireplaces, stoves and inserts – like a vehicle – require yearly maintenance to ensure everything is in good working condition for the heating season. The best person to perform the required service is a trained technician who specializes in the maintenance of fireplaces, venting or chimney systems. Before lighting the first fire of the season, here are a few important maintenance tips if you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace:

  • Have a technician check the gas lines, clean the burner, control compartment, fan and related air circulation passages, as well as check for condensation annually.
  • Ensure the vents are unobstructed and able to do their job.
  • Check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector.
  • Be alert for unusual odors or flames, which are often a sign that the fireplace is not operating properly.
  • Clean the glass and adjust the glowing embers and logs for best appearance.
  • Have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis. Soot and creosote can adhere to the inside and cause a fire because they are highly flammable. A yearly chimney sweep by a professional ensures the whole system is in proper working condition. They will also check the condition of your flue lining, where even a small crack can cause a house fire.
  • Check the integrity of the chimney. When the mortar is cracked or bricks are loose, it can cause moisture to enter your chimney system, which can affect the overall performance of your fireplace. Have it repaired as soon as possible.
  • Make sure the fireplace damper is working properly and that no debris is preventing it from opening and closing.

As with other gas-burning or fire-producing appliances (stove, barbecue, etc.) precautions must always be taken to avoid serious burns. A gas or woodburning fireplace is no exception. Be sure to adhere to the following safety tips to minimize the chance of burns or fire:

Gas Fireplace Safety Tips
  • Installing a safety screen or safety barrier is recommended to reduce the risk of serious burns by preventing direct contact with hot glass, which can take up to an hour to cool.
  • Always supervise children, the elderly, infirm or pets near an operating or recently turned off gas fireplace, stove or insert.
  • Keep the remote control (if available) out of the reach of children. Install a switch lock to prevent children from turning on the appliance.
  • Inform family members and guests that the glass panel of a gas fireplace, stove or insert can be very hot and cause burns.
  • Wait for the appliance and glass panel to cool down before allowing anyone near it. Cool down can take a long time – an hour or more. Some appliances turn on and off automatically with a thermostat, so you may not know when the fire turned off. Always consider the glass as potentially hot.
  • Be aware that metal surfaces such as door frames and grilles may also get hot.
  • Always read the owner’s manual and follow the instructions. For example, there may be ways to disable your remote when not in use to prevent children from turning on the fireplace.
Woodburning Fireplace Safety Tips
  • Install a chimney cap, preferably with mesh, to keep moisture and critters out and to prevent fires by extinguishing hot embers that might otherwise escape from the chimney.
  • Check outside to make sure there are no overhanging tree limbs encroaching on the chimney. Limbs present a fire hazard because they restrict proper draft airflow.
  • Try to burn small fires, as they generate less smoke and cause less creosote accumulation.
  • When building a fire, position the logs toward the rear of the fireplace and use kindling to start the fire, not flammable liquids.
  • Ensure your fireplace is functioning properly by lighting a few small pieces of seasoned wood to see if the smoke exits vertically from the fireplace up the chimney and not into the room. If the smoke doesn’t exit vertically, it could mean there is creosote buildup, debris in the chimney (nests, leaves, branches, etc.) or a closed or partially-closed damper. Keep in mind, if you have a tightly sealed home, opening a window slightly can provide the fireplace the intake air required to direct the smoke up the chimney.
  • When selecting wood to burn, choose dense wood such as oak. Use wood that has been split and stored in a high and dry place for at least six months prior to use. Avoid burning green wood such as pine, as it can produce more creosote. Remember, properly seasoned firewood should have a moisture content below 20 percent for best results.
  • Coals can remain hot for up to three days, which can become a fire hazard if they come in contact with flammable materials.
  • Install a metal-mesh screen to prevent hot embers from escaping. While following these tips can provide an extra margin of safety, there is no substitute for a physical barrier. Consumers with existing fireplaces, stoves or inserts should consider installing a protective screen or physical barrier to reduce the risk of serious burns by preventing direct contact with hot glass, the fire itself, or flying embers. Safety barriers are available through specialty hearth retailers or by contacting the manufacturer.

Since January 1, 2015, all newly manufactured glass-fronted gas appliances – that means fireplaces and heaters – require a protective barrier if its glass surface temperature exceeds 172 degrees Fahrenheit. This safety standard requires that the barrier must be in place when the product is installed.

Visit hpbacanada.org or hpba.org for more safety and maintenance tips, and contact your local specialty hearth retailer to book an appointment for service.