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Should I Turn The Pilot Off On My Gas Fireplace During The Summer?

Gas Fireplace Pilot

This is a great question which gets asked all the time regarding gas fireplaces and gas inserts. The short answer is that it really depends on individual and what they are trying accomplish by either leaving it on or turning it off. There are functional reasons for asking the question, such as “will it hurt my fireplace if I do or don’t turn it off”, and then there are monetary reasons. It depends on what you want to know.

Here is some basic information about leaving the pilot on or off…

Pilot OFF:

  • No gas is being wasted so you are conserving energy and saving money!
  • No heat is being generated by the pilot so the glass door on your fireplace will not be warm to the touch. Just one less thing to worry about when it is HOT out.
  • With the pilot off, there are still trace amounts of gas molecules in the burner and pilot tubes of your fireplace. The gas companies add a chemical called Mercaptan to the gas which gives it that lovely odor we all know. Spiders are attracted to the smell of the Mercaptan and will sometimes build webs in the pilot and burner tubes when the flow of gas is off. So when you go to turn on your fireplace in the early fall or late summer, it will not work, and you will have to call you local installer to come service the unit. This will cost money.

Pilot ON:

  • On a cool night you can flip the fireplace on to take the chill out without having to re-light the pilot.
  • No chance for a spider to make a web in one of the tubes and clog the burner
  • If the pilot is left on for long stretches of time, without actually turning on the main burner of the fireplace, a white film can develop on the inside of the glass. This is sulfur based film and if left uncleaned could possibly etch itself into the glass. The sulfur is a bi-product of the burning pilot and it can build up over time on the glass. If you see this develop, refer to your user manual (or look it up online) to find out how to clean the glass or risk having that white haze there forever.

The big questions that people are usually wondering about is how much gas does it use. Really, it is “how much to it cost per month for the pilot to run?”

You need to understand that most Gas Fireplaces have  pilot’s which use about 900-1100 BTU/hr. This is pretty powerful, and for good reason. The pilot must generate enough Millivolts of electricity to open and close the gas valve. This also means that it uses a fair amount of gas.

For a natural gas home, you pay for you gas by the Therm. A Therm = 100,000 BTU. So if you your pilot uses 1,000 BTU/hr and it is running for 24 hours a day, and 30 days a month, that comes out to be about 720,000 BTU. Divide that by 100,000 BTU to find the amount of Therms it uses (approximately 7.2). Then look at your gas bill and find out what you pay per Therm. Usually it is $1 and change. So you pilot can be costing you $7 to $10 per month.

Propane is a little bit different. Since propane is done by the gallon, the numbers are different. There are about 91,000 BTU in a gallon of propane. And the cost per gallon of propane is a lot higher than natural gas, floating somewhere around $3.05/gallon now. Doing the same math it would mean the pilot uses about 8 gallons of propane per month, which translates to about $24.00 in fuel cost.

Those are the facts to the best of my knowledge. For propane users, it seems to make sense to turn off the pilot light from a monetary point of view. Even if the pilot gets clogged while its off, it is a virtual wash in money having it serviced by a repair person. For natural gas customers it can really go either way.

 

170 responses to “Should I Turn The Pilot Off On My Gas Fireplace During The Summer?”

  1. Mamie Orr says:

    Hello! I was wondering how much heat a burning gas log Pilot Light- by itself- puts out? For example, 2 degrees? 5 degrees? I’m trying to calculate the temperature of a room in the summer.

    THanks!

    • Patrick says:

      I am not really sure. you would have to talk with a fireplace manufacturer on that. I know they can be anywhere from around 900 -1100 BTU/HR

  2. Elizabeth F says:

    If I turn the pilot off on my gas fireplace and the switch on the wall gets turned to the on position will it open the gas up?

    • Patrick says:

      It should not open up. If it does open up, it would mean that the gas valve was damaged and should be replaced.

  3. Darlynda says:

    Hi, i’m just wondering approximately how big the flame should be on the pilot light. There is an actual small fire on a round burner thats still on in my fireplace with the switch turned off, i don’t remember it being lit that big last year. Any suggestions on what I should do?

    • Patrick says:

      Pilot flames are pretty big because they have to generate a certain amount of heat to convert the heat into millivolts of electricity. They are typically half blue and half yellow. The flame should be fully engulfing the the thermopile and thermocouple.

  4. Curt says:

    Can I leave the flue closed with the pilot light on?

    • Patrick says:

      I would not do so. In Massachusetts where we are located the local code makes us remove the damper completely when the gas log set is installed in a masonry fireplace so I would leave the flue open, even just a crack, to vent it out.

  5. karla says:

    does the pilot light generate heat if i turn it on, i.e. heat enough to warm up a small room?

    • Patrick says:

      It generates enough heat to warm the glass on the direct vent appliance. In the winter time I do not think it would be powerful enough to warm a room up with any significance.

    • Erik says:

      I couldn’t say the exact amount because I never actually measured it, but I used to have a fireplace that was “sealed” with glass front you could not open, and turned on and off with a wall switch(as long as pilot was lit). it was in a bedroom that was about 20 by 20 and the pilot alone raised room’s temperature atleast 10 degrees. the fireplace couldn’t be on for more than 30 minutes to an hour or you’d literally be sweating. Obviously oversized for room, but I rarely used it or even had the pilot lit because of how much heat it gave off even in winter

  6. Kelley says:

    Great article! We have a little one who we don’t trust around the glass when it is hot from the pilot light. Is there any problem with turning the pilot light on and off say 3 times a week? Would we hurt the fire place?

    • Patrick says:

      It shouldn’t hurt the fireplace. At some point the thermocouple and thermopile will stop working and need to be replaced, but it happens with all fireplaces and should not be related to turning on and off the pilot.

  7. mike says:

    The fire keeps going out on my fireplace. Is there a problem with leaving the switch in the ‘on’ position even thought there is no flame? This was actually how it was for a great while as I didn’t know which was the on or off position as neither turned the fire on? Is there a gas leak risk? thanks.

    • Patrick says:

      I am assuming you mean the pilot keeps on dropping out, or the fireplace is running and then turns off. There is no danger in leaving that knob in the on position – at least that i know of. When the flame sensor, thermocouple, or thermopile no longer sense a flame presence, they automatically shut gas flow off through the valve. It is a safety built into the unit to stop the gas flow. This can happen a number of different ways – through a very windy day moving the pilot around and off one of those for a split second, or they could be old and need to be replaced. In either case even though that knob may still say on, the flow of gas has been stopped, and wont be allowed through until you physically relight the pilot. It sounds like your fireplace is in need of service.

  8. James M says:

    Great article. My question is does it hurt the pilot light switch to keep turning it on if it’s used on an almost daily basis in the winter? Thanks.

    • Patrick says:

      James,
      To my knowledge it does not hurt the pilot light to keep turning it on or off. But, like anything else, the more you use that switch, the faster it may wear out. We do not replace many though.

  9. LJ says:

    If I turn off the pilot light, does this mean that the propane company would have to come and perform a pressure check in the fall before relighting the pilot? Cause that’s expensive 🙁 Does anyone turn off both the pilot light and the propane tank?

    • Patrick says:

      LJ
      The line should stay under pressure even with turning the fireplace pilot off. When you go to light it again in the Fall, it may just take a few minutes for the gas to come through the line, as it will dissipate over time. Some people do turn off both. If you turn off gas at the tank, it could take even longer to get it to light up the first time in the fall, but then once you do get it lit, it should be fine.

  10. patty says:

    What should you do if the pilot is on but there is a faint gas smell?

    • Patrick says:

      Patty,
      I would call the company that installed the gas fireplace or a service company and ask them to come out and check for a gas leak. In the meantime, turn off the shutoff, to stop the flow of gas and do not use the fireplace.

  11. Hi, this is the best string I’ve seen on this topic! My question is, I have 2 ventless fireplaces (new) in 2 old brick fire boxes (the home is over 100 years old). Both have the flue completely sealed up to keep water from getting in. The gas is propane. Is this safe?

    • Patrick says:

      Debbie,
      Ventless fireplaces are legal in a lot of states and are designed to operate in fireplaces that are sealed up. Being from Massachusetts, I am only familiar with our codes, so they could change from state to state. And we are not a vent free dealer, so I am not an expert on vent free completely, but I will tell you what I think I know. In MA, as long as it is not a bedroom, or a very small confined room, under 130 sq ft I believe, the vent free logs are allowed. I know that each manufacturer gives off a clearance above the opening to any combustible wood, such as a mantel, so that also would have to be taken into account. As long as the fireplace was installed to the manufacturers’ specifications and designed to operate with propane gas, you should be fine. If you get headaches while using it, or see an excess amount of soot on the logs, I would stop using it immediately and call a professional to come out and service them to make sure they are working correctly.

  12. Janice Ryan says:

    Can I turn off the pilot light or do I need a technician to come to my house to do it?

    • Patrick says:

      Janice,
      There should be directions on how to turn the pilot off for you fireplace in the installation manual. Usually it is just turning a knob on the valve. If you are comfortable doing it by yourself then do so. If you are not comfortable doing it, then you can call a service technician to do it for you, but they will most likely have to charge you to come out.

  13. Patricia Lawler says:

    If I turn off my fireplace pilot light, do I have to turn off anything else….like the propane line that feeds it?

    • Patrick says:

      Patricia,

      You should not need to do that. The flow of gas should stop at the valve when you turn the pilot off in the unit.

  14. Peter says:

    Is a spider going to nest in my boiler which has a spark ignitor when it is unused for 7 months of the year. I don’t want to have to have a service call every year when I should have bought a piloted boiler to ward off spiders. I also have cave crickets, maybe they’re eating the spiders and it’s ok to turn off a pilot.

    • Patrick says:

      Peter, I cannot say for sure whether or not they will. It is by chance. Some people have no issues ever with spiders and some people have it often.

  15. Jim says:

    This is a great article that enabled me to find the pilot on/off knob. Should the supply valve be closed also? It is on the hose in the open position. Thanks

  16. Leslie says:

    I can detect a gas smell coming from the outside vent of my gas fireplace. Is this something to worry about, or is it because the pilot light is lit?

    • Patrick says:

      Leslie, It could be from the pilot, especially if it vents right off the back. There is difference in smell between burning gas and unlit gas. If you are worried about it I would call a service company come and check it out and maybe have them go over the the entire fireplace while they are there and make sure there are no small leaks.

  17. Art says:

    Can heat radiate down the vent stack, on a hot day, into my house? I keep my pilot light lit and was thinking the heat that was coming from the fireplace was from the stack because all the heat seems to be emanating from the top of the fire place.

    • Patrick says:

      In theory yes, but the heat is probably coming from the pilot. Heat rises, so the top of the glass would be the warmest. With the pilot off it is typically like a window, so on warm days the glass will be warm, on cool days the glass will be cool

  18. Adam says:

    That was very helpful. Obviously one can see the pilot flame in a gas fireplace so it is using fuel, always wondered how much is actually being used.

  19. Natashia says:

    Hi there, thanks for all your time answering everyones questions!I too have one to add as I’m newto this whole gas fireplace thing.
    We have our pilot light lit, just wondering if the knob should be turned to “pilot” or “on”? is the “pilot” setting only for when lighting it? do I just turn it to “on” when I want to use it?
    Thanks!

    • Patrick says:

      The “Pilot” mode is only for lighting the pilot. If you want to use the fireplace then you will have to turn it to the “on” position. Once it is in the on position the wall switch or remote control should operate the fireplace. If you do not want someone else using the fireplace when you are not around, you could turn it to pilot and that would de-activate the switch, unless they know enough to play with that knob.

  20. Janice pryor says:

    Should the pilot be turned off if the house is only used a few weeks each year?

    • Patrick says:

      It is really your call. It doesn’t hurt having it on the entire time. It would only make a difference if you didn’t want someone using the fireplace when you were not around. It does not hurt anything by having it in the “on” position all the time.

  21. Bett M says:

    I’m concerned about the “safety” factor, of leaving a gas fireplace pilot light on when fireplace is not in use. Wouldn’t the open flame of leaving the pilot light on, when fireplace is not being used be a safety risk? Wouldn’t it be much safer to turn the pilot light off when fireplace is not in use, or when nobody is on the premises? Aug. 26, 2015

  22. Connie says:

    Lots of great info., we have turned our pilot light off for years now. If we get a cold winter this year and turn it on, any prepping we need to do?? Extra cleaning, looking for spiders?

    I am in the market to replace this old thing and was considering an elec. insert. Anyone have any experience switching fireplaces?

    • Patrick says:

      There really is no prepping. You will not know until it you go to turn it on whether or not there is a problem.
      If you change to electric do not expect the same heat output. Most electric fireplaces are only the equivalent of 3000 – 5000 BTU which is not that much.

  23. Rachel says:

    Lots of great info, thanks so much for all the answers! Hoping you could confirm if a fireplace in a house i bought is normal. Gas fireplace with the pilot always on, has a hole with key in it on the floor right next to fireplace (based on prior answers thats for gas supply), a ‘light’ switch across the room that when flipped on basically turns the flames on and entire fireplace lights up, then a knob next to the light switch that when turned clockwise increase the size of flame, and vice versa. Just curious if its normal to have three steps/control switches…one for gas supply, one to go from only pilot light on to entire thing lit up, and one to control the flame size? Thanks again for your responses, huge help!

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Rachel. I am unfamiliar with that system of being able to control the flame from the switch on the wall, but it is not out of the realm of possibility. It may be something custom, or just not approved for us in Massachusetts, which is why I am unfamiliar with it. If it makes you nervous I would call a local professional and speak with them directly.

  24. lisa says:

    We have a weekend home we never use during the winter mos. I would like to know if it is advisable to leave the pilot off during the winter mos. since nobody is there to use it. To prevent any rust, should I remove the glass maybe? Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • Patrick says:

      I would not remove the glass. That sounds like a bad idea, in case someone tries to use it while you are away. It is up to you to leave the pilot on or not. It is similar to a water heater in that respect.

  25. rachael says:

    Hi ive just moved into my first house and noticed our gas fire has its pilot lit constantly and is operated with a remote my fire is wall mounted with no glass over it just has a bowl with pebbles the only way to turn it off is to take it apart as the knob is underneath , am i still safe to keep it on all the time ? Thanx

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Rachael. I am not sure what type of fireplace it is. I would call a local company and see if they can service the fireplace and explain to you on how to use it. You could also check the fireplace to see if there is a metal tag attached to it with the manufacturer and model info and see if you could get the installation manual online.

  26. Aubrey says:

    Our gas insert fireplace has its pilot light lit all the time. It seems to be on windy/cooler days (we live in WI) the fan will randomly turn on when we have not even had the fire going. Is it safe to leave the pilot light on and the fan turn on? Is this even normal? We had a technician come out last year and he said he lowered the pilot light but we haven’t touched it since he did and the fan is turning on again. Like I said it’s pretty windy outside, can that make a difference?

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Aubrey,

      That would have to be a strong pilot on what i assume would be a small unit for it to heat up the thermal sensor from just the pilot. That is the first time I have heard anything like that happening. You could ask the technician to move the thermal sensor to an area further from the pilot so it will not happen. I have never run into that issue.

  27. Glen says:

    Is it normal to smell a faint bit of gas it the pilot is not light and shut off ?

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Glen,

      you could have a slight leak if you are smelling gas with the pilot in the off position. You should probably have someone check it out.

  28. Martina Flynn says:

    great information. Having read this , I will feel safer leaving pilot light on.

  29. Maureen says:

    This article, and the thoughtful questions and answers that follow, are a model for any business that deals with the public. Thank you for offering this service. All my questions were answered while I consider installing a gas log in my Cape Cod home. I googled how much does the gas in a pilot light cost and you offered the answer.
    I wish your company were closer to Cape Cod and I would ask you to install my gas log.

  30. Chris says:

    Thx for all the info 🙂
    But I just want to verify again even after all the comments on top…
    I have a small natural gas smell (only) when the pilot is on.
    When i shut everything up, theirs no gas smell, or when its in full effect.

    I am top vented, with only a few feet of exhaust pipe, going outside.
    I dont remember the technician sealing the rear vent, do you need to have a good seal ?

    Thank you

  31. Sergio Perez says:

    It was cool reading this. Thanks.

  32. Chris says:

    Flipping the wall switch is enough to turn the fireplace off without risk of gas leaking right?

  33. CMF says:

    Why do we have so much heat coming from our fireplace when just the pilot light is on. Heat is coming from the vent into our room in the summer and we are trying to cool the room with A/C. I walk past the fireplace out about 3 to 4 feet and there is a lot of very warm air coming out. Is there a problem with the way it’s vented to the outside?

    • Patrick says:

      Most standing pilot gas fireplaces have a very powerful pilot. The pilot has to be strong in order to generate enough millivolts of electricity to open and close the gas valve. A side effect of this is that they produce a decent amount of heat. This heat will both radiate from the glass and from the vents on top of the fireplace. The venting should be fine. If it was incorrectly vented, chances are the fireplace would not operate properly when you go to use it. You could turn the pilot light off to reduce this heat.

      • Dawn says:

        Had my propane fireplace working but think it may be spiders now….no pilot just a spark……tried over and over to light it…how do i clean a propane fireplace where a spider web may have been created? Thank you

        • Patrick says:

          Your best bet is to call a service tech. The webs, or bodies of the dead spider, are usually located down in the pilot by the orifice. Your best bet is to call a tech to service the fireplace.

  34. Helen says:

    I live in an 11-yr old apartment complex in Waltham, MA, and have a gas fireplace I turn on and off with a wall switch. If we should lose our power, will I be able to start the fireplace for heat?

    • Patrick says:

      If there is a pilot that is on all the time then the chances are good you can start it without power. Any blower or fan would not work, but the fireplace should come to life and radiate heat.

      If there is no pilot all the time, then the fireplace would need some sort of battery backup in order to work in a power outage.

  35. Elke Bate says:

    There is so much great information. I have yet another question: if I want to turn the pilot light off (I want to install a cover over the outside vent to keep birds from nesting inside the vent), is there any way to keep spiders out of the tubes? Where would they get into the tubes to build spiderwebs? Thanks for any comments.

    • Patrick says:

      Spiders seem to get just about anywhere they want, so I dont know how to stop them for sure. I would be careful with the cover to keep birds out. I believe you are supposed to leave them open, just to be safe.

  36. Open gas fires work in much the same way as a traditional solid fuel open fireplaces using a cleaner fuel source. This means the fire will use air from the room as an ignition source, and while a certain amount will be drawn under the fire and re circulated into the room whether fan assisted or through natural convection, a proportion of the rooms warm air will be drawn into the fireplace box and travel out through the flue.

  37. oj says:

    Great Article,

    I just moved into a house and the pilot light is always on. I don’t intend using it through the fall/winter months. Will this cause any adverse effects with the heating system? I heard if the pilot light isn’t on, it might cause some damage with the heating sytem.

    • Patrick says:

      I have never heard of a pilot from a gas fireplace affecting a separate heating system. They should be completely independent of one another.

  38. David says:

    Excellent article. Good info… helpful answers to the follow-up questions!

  39. Mary says:

    All of this has been helpful.

    But–just to make sure–
    I ran the fireplace a couple of days ago for the first time after summer. Today I noticed that the room was hotter than usual. The glass on the fireplace had more “frost” on it (no–we haven’t cleaned it) and the glass is VERY hot to touch–mostly on the part where the frost is.
    Everything else seems to be working alright.
    Should I get a fireplace repair company to check it? We are going away and I have a real fear that something will happen while we are gone. Thank you

    • Patrick says:

      sorry for the delay. There should not be frost on the fireplace glass. I would have them check it out to make sure everything is Ok. If you hadn’t used the fireplace in a couple of days then the room should not have been overly hot from the unit. I would check to make sure the fireplace was not in a thermostat mode.

  40. Jennifer Aune says:

    Every year I turn the pilot light off for the summer. This year the fireplace has a lot of wasps and flies in it. So many that I need to clean the inside of the glass. I don’t remember this happening other years. Is there a way to keep the bugs out of my fireplace?

    • Patrick says:

      Small insects can find their way into the fireplace. Sometimes the pilot light and heat will keep them out, but there is nothing you can do for sure that i know of to stop them from getting in

  41. Martha Rosselott says:

    The other day while dusting, I noticed our insert fireplace the glass was very hot and had not used the fireplace in months, but had left the pilot light on. Why would the glass be hot and not having used the fireplace.

    • Patrick says:

      The pilot lights can generate a lot of heat and the glass is typically a ceramic glass which holds the heat very well. They can be warm or even hot to the touch depending on the unit. It sounds very normal.

  42. Linda Mercer says:

    I currently have a vent-free propane fireplace log but the smell of propane when the pilot is on bothers me quite a lot. Can I get a log set that does not have a pilot light?

    • Patrick says:

      You should not be able to smell propane when the pilot is on. I would have it checked for a small leak. There are some manufacturers that make either and IPI or electronic ignition gas log set. You will probably have to swap out both the burner and the logs.

      • Claire says:

        When our vent-less propane fireplace only has the pilot light burning, the smell of burned propane is strong enough to waft all through the house. I could understand it if the whole thing was lit up, but this is just the pilot burning. It’s not a raw propane smell; it’s a burned propane exhaust-type smell. Does that happen with all vent-less propane fireplaces?

        • Patrick says:

          That is one of the main reasons that we do not sell vent free fireplaces. The potential for odor. It could be that the fireplace just needs to be cleaned and serviced if it is just happening all of a sudden. You are better off talking with someone that deals with vent free fireplaces. They may be able to give you more information.

  43. Sam says:

    Is it ok to leave a gas fireplace on overnight or while at work for heat?

    • Patrick says:

      It should be as as it is a direct vent gas fireplace and as long as you follow the manufacturers instructions on clearances to combustible materials (ie dont leave a stack of newspapers directly in front of it)

  44. Sharon Perry says:

    We have a propane fireplace in our living room that we keep the pilot lit all the time. Problem is the pilot light keeps getting brighter and bigger until it won’t work any more. Lasts only about a month after having it serviced. Any ideas on what could cause this? We have stopped using it because of service calls to replace the pilot every time.

    • Patrick says:

      Not sure exactly what would cause that, unless the orifice in the pilot is the wrong size. It could be getting too hot and burning out the thermocouple. I would have the service people check to make sure the orifice is the right size.

  45. Stan says:

    Hi, I have a mendota, gas insert.do I need to leave the glass on? The room heats faster without it. Is it safe?Thank you, Stan

    • Patrick says:

      Yes you should leave the glass on it. Mendota does not make any vent free fireplaces that I know of so you should definitely keep the glass on. You could be betting an unsafe amount of carbon monoxide if you try to burn with the glass off. It is not safe with the glass off

  46. Dan Wolfe says:

    Will the pilot heat help to mitigate drafts from the partially open damper plate?

  47. Calvin Vande Kolk says:

    I have a flame on one side of pilot and not the other what must I do

    • Patrick says:

      First i would ask if it used to look different. Some pilots are only one direction, some two, three or four. If it looks different now, then it sounds like there is a blockage in the pilot. I would call a service company to come out and check.

  48. Jean says:

    The pilot light is on and there is a cold draft coming through the top and bottom vents. Can these vents be covered with the pilot on?

    • Patrick says:

      Jean,

      you really should not cover the vents with the pilot on. There is always the chance someone could accidentally turn the fireplace on which could cause a major problem. If you are going to do that i would turn the shutoff valve off, preventing any gas from entering the valve.

  49. Paula says:

    I just learned how to use my gas fireplace yesterday (just moved in) and the handyman lit the pilot. At one point this morning, the pilot flame was larger than it had been and I could also hear a slight hissing sound, perhaps the gas moving. I’ve turned off the pilot until I figure out whether this was normal?

    • Patrick says:

      The pilot should be consistent throughout. I would have someone check it out to make sure the connections are secure.

  50. George says:

    is there a electric damper I can install on my gas fireplace.

    • Patrick says:

      If it is a direct vent fireplace then i believe the answer is no. If it is a log set that is installed inside an existing wood burning fireplace then there is a company called Flue Sentinel that may be able to work in conjunction with the log set. It is an electronic damper that sits on top of hte fireplace chimney, so it will be visible from the street. Check out http://www.fluesentinel.com for more information.

  51. Alan says:

    I usually leave the pilot light on my gas fireplace on during the summer. Propane is expensive in New England. I believe that by keeping the pilot going during the summer, it keeps out moisture inside the fireplace and the vent pipes. If I shut the pilot light off during the summer, will the vent pipes rust out sooner because of moisture that will get in during damp weather ? In other words, will the fireplace and components actually last longer by keeping the pilot light on during the summer and keeping moisture out ? I use the fireplace about 6 times during the winter, that’s all. But it cost me $60.00/year tank rental and about $325.00/year for the propane gas. I just had it serviced this year and they said the fireplace is running fine. It’s costing me a lot of money and I hardly use it.

    • Patrick says:

      Alan,

      That is what I was talking about in the post. There are pro’s and cons to leaving the pilot on. However, I have not seen a vent rust out in any of the fireplaces we have installed and many are pilot-less, but I have seen pilots rust out for sure.

  52. russ says:

    Hi-
    I have an older gas log in a traditional style fireplace.
    Recently I took out the ‘logs’ cleaned them up (outdoors) and piled them in in a way that seemed ok. Let me add that this system has stuff on the bottom, fluffy stuff, sand and little black stones to mimic the look of a real fire. After I did this now when we use it there is the slightest gas smell that was not noticeable before I did this.
    Really, very faint- but noticeable…seems related to this adjusting of the stone logs.
    Any ideas or suggestions?
    (pilot has always been left on and don’t think it is an issue in this situation)

    • Patrick says:

      Russ,

      It could be the sand and ember material (fluffy stuff) is not done correctly and gas is escaping before it combusts. I would see if you can get the manual for the log set and make sure you set it up as specified by the manufacturer. there should be a metal tag connected to the valve on a metal chain which will give you the model number. You could also call the company you purchased it from to come out and service the unit. Also, the logs are supposed to be set up a very specific way, and can soot up if they are not installed correctly.

  53. Dwayne says:

    Should I leave on the pilot lights to all 3 of my units? I have the fireplace in the living room, a wall unit in the kitchen and one in the basement?

    • Patrick says:

      It doesn’t hurt to. It is just burning gas, so you are paying for the gas that is being spent.

  54. Dwayne says:

    Should I leave on the pilot lights to all 3 of my units? I have the fireplace in the living room, a wall unit in the kitchen and one in the basement? Also, do I press the knob down to turn it counter clockwise?

    • Patrick says:

      Different valves operate differently. There should be some markings on it to tell you which way to turn it. It should only go in one direction.

  55. James says:

    Next to the gas fireplace there’s a knob built into the floor with a turnkey that you use to turn the knob. The instructions tell me to turn that knob about half a turn counter clockwise, and then do the usual work to turn on and light the pilot. My question is, what the significance of that knob in the floor? It seems to be turned as far counterclockwise as it goes now. What does that mean? What would turning it clockwise do? Thanks!

    • Patrick says:

      Hi James. I have no idea what that is. It could be the shutoff for the gas. It is probably the safety shutoff. If it is already on, then the gas stops at the valve until you light the pilot/main burner. It sounds like it is for safety.

  56. George says:

    I leave my pilot iight on all year…never a smell in my basement..when I come downstairs I turn up the heat as needed ..get a nice flame going..toasty warm…recently though I have noticed a gas smell when I turn up the heat..faint.. but noticeable..if I had a leak wouldn’t I notice even when i didn’t turn it up.. because pilot light is always on?

    • Patrick says:

      Sometimes the line from the valve that lights the pilot is different than the line that lights the main burner. You could have a leak that only comes through once the main burner is lit. A fitting could have come loose so it is possible that is the problem. I would have someone come out and service the fireplace.

  57. Don Wang says:

    “So when you go to turn on your fireplace in the early fall or late summer, it will not work, and you will have to call you local installer to come service the unit. This will cost money.”

    Or I can just leave it off, and use my high-efficiency boiler furnace.

  58. Eric says:

    Great article, thanks for the info.

    I was wondering if in general I turn the pilot light off for the summer but switched it back on again for a day or two every month, would that help prevent the presence of spider webs, etc. from building up?

    • Patrick says:

      In theory it could, but it would only take a day or two for it to get in and spin a web, so it could be all about timing. There is no way to know for sure

  59. Cora says:

    I’m wondering what size propane tank I should get if I install a gas fireplace in my beach house. It’s a 24×24 room with a high pitched ceiling. I would only use it during the summer (ithe beach house is not winterized), and sleeping there in the summer is quite chilly. I might only use it 1-3 nights/week.
    In an earlier post you warned about not having a ventlesss fireplace in a bedroom or small space. Do I need to worry about that given the size of my room and that it is quite drafty?
    Thanks in advance,
    Cora

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Cora,

      I speak of codes in MA. Not sure of the size of tank you would need. I would talk to a local propane company about it. A 24×24 is not a small room, but I wouldn’t chance sleeping in a room with a ventless fireplace.

  60. Gerald says:

    If I turn the pilot off and a spider infestation results, how extensive/expensive is the repair?

    • Patrick says:

      We typically charge $200.00 for a service charge. The repair is usually fairly quick. They have to pull out the pilot hood and the blockage is usually right there. Sometimes it can be further down in the pilot tube which can take more time to clear out.

  61. Toni says:

    Hi….we have a home that’s 1 year old….a defective gas fireplace was installed first….never worked properly-so
    the guy came back and put in an Arista one….it works
    okay now….however, we came home the other day after
    being away for around 6 hours….and the fireplace
    had ignited itself….no one touched it at all!! This is a
    safety concern for sure. My husband immediately shut
    off the pilot light…but reading about the spiders, and we have lots in NC is also a concern. Jus wondering your opinion on this-they guy that installed it seems to think
    the fireplaces ignite on their own like this all the time????

    • Patrick says:

      Does the fireplace have a remote control to operate it. Occasionally fireplaces can be turned on through other devices, such as neighbor garage door openers or even another fireplace in the neighborhood that uses a remote. The frequencies could be crossing. You should be able to change the frequency on the remote control either through physical dip switches or through a reprogram. Your instructions should show you how, or call up the company that installed it for you. We see it from time to time. Usually it works right away, but it could require two changes.

  62. Lindsey says:

    Hi, we shut the gas off in our fireplace for the summer months and a few hours later there was a sweet burning smell coming from the fireplace. Nothing is burning and the gas is shut off, just a smell.

    The smell sort of reminds me of the training smoke a fire department uses to teach children fire safety at school ( if that helps at all).

    • Patrick says:

      Once the gas is turned off, you shouldn’t get any smell from the fireplace. I hope the smell went away. If it was to persist you should call a local professional.

  63. Peter Damon says:

    I would just like to thank you for keeping this thread going for four years and answering everyone’s questions. I own a retail business in Middleboro (art gallery) that has a gas log fireplace. We have events which sometimes bring in many people during summer months and this year I just remembered that we’ve kept the pilot burning all summer and became suddenly concerned about safety issues or fire hazards that might result. This thread has done a lot to ease my concerns.

  64. Linda says:

    I bought this house a little over a year ago and was unable to get the propane stove turned on. Had a service technician come. He rearranged all the “logs”, did various things to it, installed a new thermostat and it has worked well ever since. I will add that the pilot light is quite large. He said it was OK to leave it on all year and I did b/c was afraid I wouldn’t be able to re-lite it in the fall. Today is extremely windy and we’re having 35 mph gusts and torrential rain for the last two days. Since earlier today I’m smelling gas. The tech told me there are three ways to turn off the gas and I’m tempted to do it, but also thinking that at least if the pilot is burning it means the gas is burning. What to do? Cannot call anyone until morning. Meanwhile, I’m cracking windows upstairs.

    • Patrick says:

      I hope everything worked out. The gas fireplaces do have many ways to turn off the gas, and if you ever smell gas you should turn off the shutoff. Just because the pilot is lit it doesn’t mean that there cannot be a small leak someplace. A fitting could have come loose.

  65. Lukie Z says:

    So I am following manufacturer’s instructions to light the fireplace. I turned off in June completly.

    Pilot lights fine and will stay lit. I turn the know to on and it stays on. Regardless of the wall switch. I feel I am doing something wrong. Any thoughts?

    • Patrick says:

      If you have a standing pilot unit, the pilot will stay lit all the time. Pilots are typically pretty big, so that does not sound alarming. I am really not sure what your question is. If it is about turning on the fireplace then there is one more step. One the pilot is on and the knob turned to the on position, then there is usually either a wall switch or remote control which you must turn on for the main burner to ignite.

      • Lukie Z says:

        so when i turn knob to “on” this causes the fireplace to stay lit, even with the wall switch in the off position.

        • Patrick says:

          Well the pilot should stay on, not the main burner. It sounds like you have a standing pilot unit, which would keep the pilot on when the fireplace is off.

  66. Kaye says:

    I have a ventless fireplace that the pilot is always on. If the pilot would happen to go out, will the propane continue to flow or is there an automatic shutoff valve that doesn’t allow for the propane to be released into the air when the pilot is not lite.

    This is my first propane ventless fireplace so I’m a novice with this type of fireplace. I’ve always had a natural gas/wood burning fireplace. Thank you

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Kaye,

      It depends on the valve it has. Most gas fireplaces have a safety pilot which stops the flow of gas if the pilot goes out, but without knowing the unit it is very tough to tell. If you want to know for sure you can look up the model information and ask the manufacturer.

  67. Amie says:

    Great article and comments thread…very informative – thanks!

  68. Kathy M says:

    With a recent storm with wind driven rain the rain leaking in the closed chimney put out the pilot light on my gas logs. Luckily I was having them replaced the next week. The technician implied that if gas logs burner got wet it should be replaced. With the new set I can turn off the pilot with the remote. My question is, if I know there will be a rain situation like that again can I put out the pilot and then cover the log area with a metal “sheet” or even aluminum foil to keep the logs and burner dry?

    • Patrick says:

      Kathy, YOu may wan to have someone come out to inspect where the leak is coming from. If there is too much water the log set and burner will rust out and should be replaced. I would recommend fixing the problem rather than just trying to protect the logs with aluminum foil

  69. Angelo Tjoumas says:

    How many hours at a time can I burn my gas log fireplace? Will burning it longer than six hours at one time affect anything?

    • Patrick says:

      Angelo,

      It is diffucult to say without knowing your unit, but most fireplaces you can run without any issues for long periods of time. If it is a direct vent i think you should be fine. I cannot speak to vent free though, I do not know it too well. If you are worried about it I would read the instruction manual to see if the manufacturer has anything written about it.

  70. Dee says:

    Our problem is that even on the lowest setting, the flames on our gas logs are too high and gets the family room in the basement so hot that you can’t stay for very long even with a fan running to redirect the heat to other rooms. Fortunately, it does a great job when the power goes out but it would be nice to be able use the family room with the fireplace going. It seems to be using more propane than our previous gas log set on the lowest setting.
    Have you heard of this problem and is there a solution short of replacing it again? Is this part adjustable?
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with your readers.

    • Patrick says:

      Dee,

      Some gas logs have adjustable flame heights. It sounds like even on low yours is doing a great job of heating. I am assuming there is an adjustable flame height that you have all the way down. If that is the case, then there is not much more you can do short of replacing the log with something that offers less heat (BTU). I would also imagine that this is a vent free unit then. Most vented gas logs will not provide that type of heat. Different logs burners have different BTU’s so you may want to think about downgrading to something will a lower BTU or one that has a larger turn down, so that you can enjoy the flame on a lower setting.

  71. John Beirl in Ashland, WI says:

    My propane fireplace will light and the unit will heat up my cabin. By thermostat, when the cabin heats up to temp, it will then go to pilot. When the cabin cools, the thermostat will then call for more heat and my fireplace flares-up in a small explosion. It’s kind of scary. Any ideas on where I should start to troubleshoot?

    • Patrick says:

      John,

      I would have that fireplace serviced asap. Fireplaces should start without a bang. They should be relatively quiet on startup. Propane by nature is a heavy gas so it sounds like there is something delaying the pilot flame from igniting the main burner. It could be that the ember material is either too thin or too thick around the pilot, or that there is a clog in the main part of the burner nearest the pilot, so the gas is building up and then igniting with a bang. If this continues to go on and on then you may run into problems like the glass cracking. I would get it looked at by a professional right away.

  72. Jean says:

    What a great website! So my gas fireplace works just fine but is it normal for there to be some constant noise when the pilot remains on but the fireplace switch is off? It’s comparable to the sound when one of my gas range burners is on, or a bit louder. I don’t think there was a smell, but I got nervous that there was any noise since friends have told me their fireplaces are silent when only the pilot is on. Thanks!

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Jean,

      If you have an open gas log set where you can reach right into the fireplace and touch the logs, it is not uncommon to hear the pilot. They are pretty powerful. It should be perfectly safe. There are small adjustments that can be made to the pilot, but it may not change the noise very much.

  73. Ricky Jackson says:

    Hello.I mistakenly left my pilot light to my propane fireplace running for two days. How much of an extra charge should I expect on my bill when I receive it.

  74. Rebecca says:

    I was using my propane fireplace this evening and then when I turned it off, the pilot went out also. Do I need to light it back up or can I leave it off for the night?

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      I would really need to know what kind of fireplace you have to answer that correctly. I think it may be ok though

  75. Alice Blackson says:

    I have a 4 year old home: a gas fireplace with a “mesh curtain”,no glass doors. I use it on very cold days, 3-4 months a year. I turn pilot off after each use, too afraid my home might catch fire!! After reading your replies,is it still safe to always leave the pilot on with just that mesh “curtain”, and use the switch?
    When in use during day,if it gets too hot, I use the switch to turn it off, then back on again when it cools off. Your thoughts on that. Thank you!

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Alice,

      Most gas fireplaces that are designed to have a standing pilot should be safe enough to leave the pilot going. But it is up to you as to whether or not you feel safe. You may be able to get a set of glass doors for the fireplace as well, if that would make you feel better about leaving it on, but you would have to remember to open the glass doors when your used the fireplace or you could damage the unit. You would need to check the manual for the gas fireplace first to see if that is an option. Other than that, it is up to you.

  76. Joan Proctor says:

    Our pilot light on our gas fireplace went out, we turned the knob on the bottom to off. Is there anything else we should go. The switch on the wall near the fire place was on off.

    • Patrick says:

      Joan

      That should be fine. There is sometimes a gas shutoff you can turn off too. YOu could also try relighting the pilot by following the instructions on the unit.

  77. Jerome G says:

    Hi! Great source of info! I leave the pilot on all year long. I have recently notice that pilot flame is half blue / half yellow. Is it normal? Should the flame be blue? Could the wind outside affect the colour of the pilot?

    • Patrick says:

      Jerome,

      Most pilots are blue toward the base and yellow at the tips. It sounds very normal. Most of the time the fire in the fireplace will be blueish near the bottom too.

  78. Linda says:

    The pilot light is out on my gas fireplace. The knob is turned to the off position and the key on the floor next to the fireplace is also turned to the off position. I’ll call someone in the morning to come out and turn on the pilot and check everything. Is it safe to be in the house over night like this with the pilot out?

  79. Karen says:

    I have a natural gas fireplace (w/wall switch and a gas water heater. Used the fireplace on Christmas day for about 5 hours (no usage any other time of the year). Gas usage bill for Nov 3-Dec 4 – 87 units, 197 therms used; Dec 4-Jan 4 = 163 units, 208 therms used (I noticed the overlap). Is it possible the fireplace could use 84 more units than the previous month with only 5 hours of use for the total month?

    Thank you much for your feedback.
    I

    • Patrick says:

      Not that seams way off. It would have to be something else. The biggest gas fireplaces I know of would only be able to add maybe 1 therm per hour.

  80. darcy says:

    I have a propane gas firplace vented. I seem to be using a lot of propane. The flame is really really large. I know that seems odd because most people want a big flame. My concern is does the size of the flame make me use more propane. Thanks

    • Patrick says:

      Darcy,

      I really cannot let you know without knowing what the fireplace is. If it is a gas log into a real fireplace, they can use a lot of gas, some as much as a gallon/hour.

  81. Angela Hall says:

    One thing that really stood out to me while reading this article was that you need to make sure that everything is installed correctly because you do not want your carbon monoxide to leak. My husband and I are definitely thinking about putting in a fireplace into our new home, but we definitely want to make sure that the lines are installed properly. Thanks again!

  82. Elizabeth Trimmer says:

    My apartment has a vented natural gas fireplace. I kept getting a white film on my furniture and even on silverware and ziplock baggies just brought home. I cleaned everything with water and then turned on fireplace for 6 hours…white film came back. There is no glass on fireplace and flames are the correct color. My eyes and skin are burning…what kind of chemical could this be? Carbon monoxide detector is new and not going off, apt. Mgr. said its construction dust…my neighbors don’t have it. Where could I get this white film analyzed?

    • Patrick says:

      Elizabeth,

      It sounds like something is wrong there. I would have a professional come out and take a look at it. It could be a lot of things. If the unit is new, it could be the initial burn off. If it is older, the door may be not latched properly. I would call a professional company come out and take a look at it.

  83. Kay Miller says:

    Hello my husband and I just bought a brand new house in another state. We won’t be moving quite yet so I haven’t had the gas in our home turned on yet. We have a gas fireplace that has a pilot light that stays lit. Because we haven’t had the gas on since the day we got the keys. My husband is afraid that when I do have it turned on and we are not there at the time. That the gas will build up in the fireplace and our home. I wouldn’t think until the switch was flipped on that no had would leak. What do you think we should do? Thank you!

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Kay,
      Most gas fireplaces have a safety pilot, meaning that if the flame pulls away from the pilot sensor for even a half second it stops the flow of gas through the gas valve. So if gas was turned off in the house, the pilot would drop out, triggering the safety and stopping the gas flow, and then would not be allowed to flow through the valve until someone tried to relight it by turning the pilot knob into a very specific position and depressing it. I cannot speak for all systems but this is typically how they work. I think you should be fine.

  84. Michael says:

    We get a small odor of propane when turning switch on (pilot is already on). Just for 30 to 60 seconds, then no more odor. Is this just a normal mechanism till the flame catches up the entire way around the feeder tube, which only takes seconds.

    • Patrick says:

      Michael, it is hard to say. my guess is that you have an open flame fireplace so there is no glass between you and the burner. It could be from what you say, although you may want someone to check it out. Ideally you should not be smelling anything.

  85. Jim says:

    Just had a natural gas vent free log set (Empire VFSM) installed in my old wood-burning fireplace. It sounds like it is ok to leave the pilot light on with both the glass doors and flue closed. Is that right? Thanks

    • Patrick says:

      It should be fine to leave the pilot on, but the doors must be open when the fireplace is on. If not you could overheat the gas valve and damage it.

  86. Burt Silver says:

    It’s good to know about the pilot light when it comes to a fireplace and all the pros and cons of keeping it on or off. I’ve been thinking of getting a new house that has a gas fireplace in it. I’m trying to educate myself on how to use one and all benefits of it. Thanks for the tips.

  87. Lori Walker says:

    Help me decide!!! I am replacing a wood burning insert with natural gas insert in a small home in Pacific Northwest. I’ve had three contractors bid the job. Two quote IPI systems saying “nobody installs standing pilots anymore.” The 3rd guy is kinda old-school and went on and on about the benefits of a standing pilot (although he did not mention spiders). He said it’s better to keep the box and flue warm, as it will reduce condensation, which is bad for the igniter in the IPI systems. Also, he mentioned that “if you have a high flame the night before and the box cools overnight, when you turn the system on the next day, you can get a backdraft and the system will shut down.” I have not found such a thing in all my searching. I am not worried about saving money on the gas a pilot uses, but the MV system is cheaper. But, the house is small, and I don’t want a pilot heating it at night. It seems that IPI is the obvious modern choice, but I’m wondering if the claims about standing pilots being “healthier” for the box/flue are correct. We don’t get THAT cold in PNW. Thank you!!!!

    • Patrick says:

      Lori, the nice thing about IPI (or at least all the models I deal with) is that it stands for Intermittent Pilot Ignition, meaning that you can switch between standing pilot or electronic ignition. If you go with an IPI model, you can just leave the pilot on in the cold months, if you so choose. We recommend it for people here in Massachusetts. Fireplaces tend to work better when the pilot is on all the time. It is sort of like priming the engine. I have never heard of backdraft on a direct vent unit, but there certainly can be problems getting units to fire up in cold weather from a “cold” start (no pilot). You tend to have more additional features with the IPI units, but there is nothing wrong with MV. But with MV the only way to turn the pilot on and off is by doing it manually at the gas valve. Most IPI we deal with have the ability to control the pilot from the remote control if it is a Proflame 2 system, which is what we see a lot. I don’t know if MV is healthier, but you will probably have less trouble getting it going in the cold weather.

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