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.


89 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.


    • 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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:


      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?

    • 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.

  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 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.

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