Natural Gas Fireplaces

September 26th 2008
Natural Gas Fireplaces

Here is some information that may help you when choosing to purchase a new natural gas fireplace or replace your exiting one.

Designed for beauty, convenience and comfort, natural gas fireplaces are both an esthetic and practical addition to your home. While not a replacement for your central heating system, they can be a great supplementary heating source. Use them to "zone" heat a room or area, and get warm and comfortable any time at the flick of a switch.

Did you know? - Many gas fireplaces don't need electricity to work - an extra practical feature in times when the power goes out.

A natural choice

Style and selection -  Whatever your decorating style, room-size or home design, there's a natural gas fireplace model to suit your taste, layout and budget. Choose from styles that feature simulated logs or coals. Nowadays, they look as good as the real thing, and you never have to
worry about chopping, hauling or cleaning up!

Convenience - A natural gas fireplace is a simple and speedy way to add comfort to a room. With the flick of a switch, you'll quickly have a cosy warm area with a welcoming ambiance.

Control - Many new fireplaces have a thermostatically controlled burner that can maintain a steady temperature setting in the room, working much the same way as your furnace thermostat. And when you leave the room, conserve energy by turning the fireplace down or off. Some manufacturers also offer remote controls.

Reliability - Natural gas performs reliably and consistently, year in, year out. Some natural gas fireplace models don't require connection to your home's electrical service, so even in a power outage, the fireplace will continue to operate. Keeping your gas fireplaces regularly serviced according to manufacturer's guidelines will ensure they perform correctly and efficiently for years.

Shopping tips

Heat input and output - A natural gas fireplace's heat input rating is the amount of fuel energy the fireplace consumes. Most models range from 19,000 BTUs to 40,000 BTUs input. The "heat output" (the amount of useful heat generated from burning) will depend on the model's design and energy efficiency.

Don't overpower the room - Size is important to consider, but biggest is not always best. If there's too much heat, you'll have to turn the flame down too low or turn the fireplace off altogether. If it's thermostatically controlled, the unit may end up "off" more than "on" because it's too powerful for the room.

Give yourself control - Beware of models that have limited "turndown". Look for units with variable flame control so you can fine-tune the temperature. Look for a fireplace that has an automatic modulating control or thermostat in order to maintain a room's desired temperature. This feature provides better comfort levels and saves energy. Also look for controls that are
conveniently placed so that you may readily turn off and relight the pilot.

Check the ignition - The most popular gas fireplace ignition system is the "standing pilot" type. This maintains a small pilot light which allows you to fire up your fireplace effortlessly at any time. During warmer months the pilot flame can be turned off to conserve energy and reduce costs.The "intermittent" ignition system, powered by either 120-240 volt electricity supply or a battery, is an available option. Because it consumes no unnecessary gas maintaining a pilot flame, it conserves energy and helps to save money. However, "standing pilot" fireplaces may provide the best option for those who depend on their fireplace for heating in the event of power failure.

Get a second opinion - Discuss the layout of your home and your proposed use with your fireplace dealer or heating contractor - they can recommend the unit best suited to your needs.

Useful energy-saving features to look for:

- a direct vent (sealed system) design that uses outside combustion air
- a pilot that can be easily turned off during the summer months
- a pilot with a low flame for minimal gas consumption or an electronic ignition
- a heat exchanger to maximize heat production and efficiency
- a thermostat or a modulating control that allows flame settings to adapt automatically to temperature changes.

Log set

There are two common types of log sets. A "sand pan" log set has a gas burner buried in a bed of sand. Alternatively, a burner is located under an open grate. Both types have decorative ceramic logs placed above the burner. Installed in an open masonry fireplace (no glass front), log sets may waste more heat energy than they produce. Room air heated by the home's furnace may escape up the vent or chimney. The flame effect, while esthetically pleasing, only provides a small amount of radiant heat into the room. The overall result may be a loss of heat from the room (in effect, "negative" efficiency). While log sets of this type can have glass doors, unless there is a method of heat exchange in the firebox area you won't get a reasonable level of heating efficiency from this type of fireplace.


Gravity or natural draft venting

This method of venting usually refers to an existing vertical chimney and requires the use of a certified "B" vent or approved chimney liner. This system takes advantage of the natural draft caused by the flames to vent combustion products.

Direct venting

Direct venting (DV) is one of the more efficient and versatile methods of venting. Because the fireplace is sealed, no heated room air is lost from inside the house to the outside. Outside air is drawn directly into the firebox. Products of combustion are then vented back outdoors and sealed
from the room. This eliminates the risk of combustion products spilling into the home. Cool room air is drawn into the fireplace, where it is heated and circulated, then released back into the room.

Power venting

Power vent fireplaces are units which have fan-assisted venting. This allows the fireplace venting to extend horizontally through side walls, eliminating the need for a vertical flue or chimney. Like direct vent fireplaces, they are suitable for applications where a vertical flue is not practical and where there is extra distance between the fireplace and the outside wall.

Are there special considerations for certain fireplaces?

Different types of fireplaces require specialized care. For direct vent and power vent fireplaces:
- do not alter the external vent or construct a fence or other structure near the vent without consulting manufacturer's instructions and local gas codes; minimum clearances from the vent are required for proper operation and safety.
- when clearing snow, do not cover the vent opening or direct snow from a snow blower against the vent

Maintaining your natural gas fireplace

By purchasing a natural gas fireplace, you've made an investment that will bring you comfort and satisfaction for years to come. To help ensure that your fireplace always operates safely and at peak performance, here are some simple tips for its care and maintenance:

- familiarize yourself with the owner's manual and manufacturer's operating instructions; keep the instructions handy
- contact your fireplace dealer if you do not understand the instructions for your fireplace
- contact Terasen Gas if you suspect a gas leak or notice any abnormal odour from the fireplace
- keep children, pets and combustibles away from hot surfaces
- if your fireplace 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
- have a registered gas contractor clean and inspect your fireplace and vent periodically, as recommended in the owner's manual
- if viewing glass or seal need replacing, use only materials supplied by the fireplace manufacturer (items must be suitable for the application and temperature)
- check the manufacturer's instructions before adding or modifying a mantel or surround; minimum clearance is required to combustibles
- keep the external vent clear of debris

How can I tell if my fireplace isn't working properly?

There are almost always warning signs if a fireplace is malfunctioning and in need of service. The most common include:
- pilot light outages
- "booming" noises upon ignition
- delayed ignition (slow to start up)
- excessive soot or corrosion inside the fireplace or on the vent
- any continuous or intermittent odour - either the rotten eggs or sulphur smell of the odorant in the natural gas or a sharp odour that may cause eyes to sting

How do you measure energy efficiency?

Look for the unit's Fireplace Efficiency rating (FE) determined from testing to a new standard issued by the Canadian Standards Association: CSA P.4.1-02. The FE rating is expressed as percentage, therefore the higher the rating, the more efficient the unit. If a fireplace doesn't show its CSA P.4.1-02 rating, please ask the salesperson for this information.

User-friendly and environmentally responsible Natural gas fireplaces offer all the enjoyment of an open flame, without the preparation and cleaning an open fire involves. They start in seconds and provide steady even heat as required. Natural gas fireplaces offer an environmentally responsible alternative to open woodburning, without the inconvenience of locating and storing wood. Natural gas fireplaces also provide reliable support to your home's central heating system.