A gas fireplace is an important source of warmth for any home, especially during cold winter weather. But you may be wondering how to turn on your fireplace if it has a wall switch, or whether your gas fireplace can function during a blackout/power outage. We answer these questions and more in this article- including reasons as to why your gas stove may fail to turn on.
Can I turn on my gas fireplace without power?
Depending on the type of gas fireplace you have- you may or may not be able to turn it on without power. For instance, gas fireplaces that feature blowers/fans can’t function during power outages, as electricity is needed to operate the blowers. Other types of fireplaces/stoves that can’t be turned on without power include electric fireplaces and power-vented fireplaces.
Meanwhile, if the gas fireplace features a standing/vertical pilot, you can still ignite the pilot flame and main burner flame even without power. That’s because such fireplaces boast a millivolt ignition system whereby once you press the piezo igniter, a spark is generated and the pilot flame heats up the thermopile/thermocouple sensors. When heated, these sensors create between 20-30 millivolts, which is enough to keep the gas valve that allows for gas flow to the pilot assembly open.
Also, if your fireplace features an energy-saving, alternating pilot ignition system, power is usually required to spark the pilot flame. Fortunately, most fireplace models with this system also include battery backups for sparking the pilot flame during power outages. However, since the longevity of these batteries can be affected by the high temperatures of the fireplace, you should only use them during blackouts and remove them once power is back.
Finally, if you have a remote-controlled hearth or one that’s operated through a wall switch, you can turn still turn it on during a power outage. Simply access the control box behind the stove or under the fireplace and select the ‘ON’ option.
How to turn on a gas fireplace with a wall switch
To light a gas hearth with a wall switch, first access the control box under the fireplace and set the main switch that controls the gas valve to the ‘AUTO’ position. Second, turn on the gas lever. Next, activate the pilot flame by turning the pilot knob from the ‘ON’ to the ‘PILOT’ position. Then, while still holding down the pilot knob in the ‘PILOT’ position, press the piezo ignition trigger repeatedly until the pilot flame turns on. Holding down the knob allows the thermocouple to warm up and register that the pilot flame is on.
Once the pilot flame is on, you can release your hold on the pilot switch, and then rotate it from the ‘PILOT’ position to the ‘ON’ position. This will keep the flame alive indefinitely. At this point, you can then turn your wall switch on and the fireplace will be fully turned on. Once the fireplace is on, you can adjust the level of the flame using the adjustment knob on the control panel.
You should only press your wall switch once and wait for a moment for flames to appear on the hearth. Repeatedly turning on your wall switch could cause the fireplace to be locked out. If the fireplace still doesn’t light up after turning on the wall switch a second or third time, there could be a mechanical fault and you should call in a technician to solve the issue.
How do you turn off a gas fireplace with a wall switch?
It’s important to turn off your fireplace before leaving your house or setting off to bed. This not only saves you energy expenses but also keeps you safe by eliminating chances of carbon monoxide poisoning. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn off a gas fireplace that has a wall switch connected to it. All you have to do is turn the switch to the ‘OFF’ position. If your gas fireplace features a control box, you’ll want to manually turn the pilot knob off, while also turning the gas valve to close it.
How does a gas fireplace with a switch work?
Gas hearths that feature a wall switch can usually be turned on and off by simply pushing the switch. Once the pilot flame is turned on using the piezo igniter, it heats the thermocouple/ thermopile sensor, causing the sensor to generate electric voltage. It is this voltage that’s then channeled to the wall switch. When the wall switch is set to the ‘ON’ position, the millivolts are sent back to the fireplace unit to trigger the gas-valve switch to open it and let gas in.
Why won’t my gas fireplace turn on?
If your gas hearth isn’t turning on even when electricity is available, it could be due to any of the following reasons:
Issues with the Propane Tanks or Natural Gas Supply Line
One of the main reasons gas fireplaces fail to turn on is simply because the homeowner hasn’t turned on the gas valve, hence no gas is being delivered to the pilot assembly or fireplace. It could also be that your propane gas tank is empty and needs to be replaced. Meanwhile- if your home is fitted with natural gas supply- it could be that your utility company has cut off gas supply to your home. If you suspect that this is the case, contact the company to fix the issue.
A Clogged Pilot Hole
If the pilot light orifice is clogged with soot and dirt, the pilot light may fail to light. And since the pilot flame is responsible for lighting the gas into a flame as it’s delivered into the fireplace, the hearth won’t light as well.
The pilot flame may also be blown out by cold drafts and interruptions to the gas flow. If you’ve cleaned your pilot flame orifice and successfully lit the pilot flame, but the fireplace still won’t light; it’s likely that the problem is elsewhere- such as in the wiring or the thermocouple/thermopile.
Faulty Thermocouple/ Thermopile/ Wiring
The thermocouple is a temperature sensor that warms up as you hold down the pilot knob, consequently generating adequate electric voltage to light up the gas being delivered into the pilot assembly. If you have a faulty thermocouple, or one that’s loosely screwed in, your fireplace may fail to turn on. The thermopile- meanwhile- is a more modern version of the thermocouple found in newer fireplace models. It can also trigger fireplace ignition failure if the wiring attached to it is faulty.
Sometimes, your hearth may fail to ignite due to a poorly-set thermostat, whereby the temperature of the room is higher than that of the thermostat. To fix this issue, reset the thermostat to room temperature.
Tripped Circuit Breakers
When there’s an overflow of current running through your electrical wiring, the circuit breakers cut off power supply to avoid overheating- a process referred to as ‘tripping’. To correct this issue, reset any tripped circuit breakers within the breaker box.
If you have a hearth with battery backup but are still unable to ignite it during power outages, it could be that the batteries are old/dead. You can replace the batteries with new ones to see if that will fix the problem. Most fireplaces run on four AA-size batteries or two D-cell batteries.