Gas log fireplaces are among the best ways you can heat your home in the cold months of the year. Not only do they offer outstanding heat and look just like the real thing, but they are also far more efficient than traditional wood fireplaces, are greener and less polluting, are cleaner and require less maintenance overall.
If you’ve recently installed a gas fireplace in your home, you’ve made the right choice. They tend to be relatively low maintenance, while adding all the hominess and comfort that a traditional hearth adds. Modern gas logs are even designed to look a lot like the real thing and can even be had with glowing embers, realistic crackling and even the scent of actual burning wood.
Still, while they are lower maintenance than traditional wood-burning options, gas log fireplace care and maintenance is essential. You will have to upkeep your fireplace with basic, regular cleaning and care to be sure that it continues to deliver the best, most efficient performance for many years to come.
Installing a gas fireplace can really take your home heating and comfort to the next level. Not only do these eliminate the hassle and filth of transporting and burning wood, but they are safe to operate and super easy to install. They also require a lot less maintenance than wood-burning systems.
There’s no chimney to clean, no creosote deposits to worry about and no flue to maintain. They’re clean burning and eco-friendly, as well as highly efficient, providing a lot more of their heat as energy directly into the room, as opposed to wood fireplaces which vent most of their heat to the outside. If you perform some basic cleaning and regular upkeep, your gas log fireplace will safely and efficiently heat your home for years.
Gas fireplace maintenance essentially consists of three categories. These include safety inspections, cleaning the firebox itself and cleaning your gas log set. A safety inspection is something that requires a professional to do properly and should be done annually. You can ask your HVAC technician to conduct the inspection when they do your annual furnace maintenance. This inspection ensures that you don’t have any leaks and that your burners and gas pressure are all at the proper levels. It’s essential to operating your system safely.
Cleaning your gas log system and firebox are things you can do yourself. All that is required is some green cleaner, a handheld vacuum, a toothbrush and lint-free, microfiber cleaning cloths. In the end, it’s not much different than cleaning any other appliance in your home.
While many people colloquially use the term “gas logs” to refer to a gas fireplace, the two are actually different things. The gas logs are a part of your fireplace, not the whole thing. They are generally made of either a ceramic composite or a cement material. It’s essential to keep them clean because they will gather dust in the off season when they’re not being used, and they can become fouled with corrosion from the constant heat they are placed under during the cold season.
It’s vital to get this dust and corrosion off the logs, as they can interfere with the working of your fireplace and can even, in the case of dust, present a fire danger. To clean your logs, you’ll need to remove them. First, shut off the pilot light, and if possible, shut off the gas to your fireplace. Make sure the logs are completely cool before handling them. Then, disassemble the logs — most simply stack on top of one another with tabs and slots keeping them in place, so it’s a matter of lifting the top ones off first and working your way to the bottom.
Lay out your logs on a newspaper, old bedsheet or other protective surface that you don’t mind getting dirty. Next, inspect the logs for any damage or corrosion. If you find damage, it might be time to replace your logs or look into having them repaired by a professional.
When your logs are removed and laid out, use a brush to clean them of any soot or corrosion you find. Usually, this just requires a nylon scrub brush, small paint brush or toothbrush. A handheld vacuum can also help to clean soot off of a log, especially if it has a soft brush attachment. In general, you want to avoid harsh cleaners and brushes that are too stiff, as these can damage the logs.
After you give the logs a good brushing, use a clean, lint-free and soft cleaning cloth to wipe the logs down thoroughly. Only use cleaners if your specific logs are approved for them, and stick with those cleaners that are approved for use with your system. You can, if need be, dampen your rag with water to help wipe the logs clean, or use a wet toothbrush (soft-bristled) to get into small crevices.
After you’ve cleaned the logs off, let them dry (assuming you used water or a gentle cleaner), while you clean the rest of the fireplace. If you have lava rocks, it’s a good idea to remove and clean these with an approach similar to cleaning your logs. Be careful when vacuuming lava rocks that the vacuum doesn’t suck up the rock!
With the lava rocks removed, use your vacuum to thoroughly sweep out the rest of the fireplace, removing built-up dust, soot, cobwebs and the like from the interior and around the burners and pilot light nozzle. If your control system is beneath the fireplace, vacuum this out as well — you’ll be amazed at how much dust builds up there over the course of a year.
After vacuuming, wipe the rest of the firebox clean using an eco-friendly green cleaner. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for any kinds of cleaners that are approved (or expressly not approved) for use in your firebox. Use a soft, lint free, microfiber cloth or a very soft brush. Again, avoid harsh, stiff brushes that could damage the inside of the box.
Next, clean the glass covering (if any) on the front of your fireplace. Never use regular glass cleaners with bleach or ammonia, as these can negatively react with carbon deposits that accumulate on the glass and can be dangerous. Use only approved glass cleaners, as mentioned in your owner’s manual. If you’re not sure about approved cleaners, contact your local fireplace installation company for advice.
Cleaning the outside of the fireplace isn’t much different than cleaning and dusting any part of your home. Again, be careful to used approved, gentle cleaners. If you have really tough buildup, water with mild dish soap can often get rid of the tough stuff.
One part of your fireplace that you should not neglect is the burner assembly. After you’ve taken care of the logs and the fireplace itself, it’s time to take a good look at the burner and pilot light system. As with the rest of the fireplace, first run your vacuum across it to remove dust and dirt buildup that have collected. If you encounter debris that doesn’t easily come up, use a soft cleaning brush to rub it loose.
If there are still areas that are difficult to clean, use an approved cleaner. Generally speaking, water will be safe, and often, natural cleansers like white vinegar can be used. Before using any sort of chemical, regardless of how natural it is, consult your fireplace owner’s manual or contact your vendor for advice. Using the wrong cleaner can damage the inner workings of the fireplace or even interact badly, to the extent of creating dangerous fumes the next time you light up the fireplace.
Cleaning your burner assembly should also include blowing it out with a can of compressed air. You can find these in most office supply stores. Simply insert the nozzle into the spray can, and blow out all of the holes to make sure they are free from debris and that gas can flow through them to keep the fire burning freely.
Your pilot light assembly must also be kept clean for it to function properly. If the pilot light tube is clogged, it could trigger the safety systems on your fireplace to shut down the system, or the pilot light may not work at all. In order to clean the pilot light assembly, first ensure that everything is shut off and the interior is cool. If you do this as part of your routine cleaning, this will already be done.
Next, check your thermocouple for corrosion or damage. If necessary, remove it with an adjustable wrench so you can inspect it and, if necessary, clean it with a wire brush or steel wool. In the worst cases, you may need to take it to a hardware store for replacement. Usually, however, this won’t be necessary.
Next, vacuum your pilot tube out. Simply place your vacuum hose over the assembly and let it run. You can also blow it out with compressed air by using short, quick bursts, passing it over the tube at an angle to help loosen clogs. Don’t blow the air directly into the tube, as this can push any clogs further in, exacerbating an existing issue.
If you still encounter clogs in the system, trace where the assembly travels to the tube. You can then, if necessary, disconnect the tube from the pilot orifice by turning it counterclockwise to unscrew it and run a stiff wire through the opening to dislodge clogs. Next, blow compressed air through it to remove loose materials. After this, you can screw the assembly back in, reattach the thermocouple and double check that all your connections are secure.
If you’re not confident in handling these issues yourself, you should contact an authorized repair technician or have your HVAC tech take care of it when they perform your annual safety inspection.
While an annual safety inspection by an expert is essential, part of your routine maintenance should include inspecting your fireplace for damage yourself. Look at everything from the gasket to the gas lines and the front glass. Visually check for cracks. Pay attention to the scent of gas or for the hissing sound that could indicate a leak. If you have a vented gas log system, check your exterior vent to be sure that there isn’t any debris like leaves, branches, animal nests or similar obstructions that could keep the unit from venting properly.
Part of your routine upkeep should also include changing the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. By tying this process to your fireplace care, you’ll be sure never to forget this vital aspect of safety and security. While there’s never been a case of carbon monoxide poisoning tied to gas fireplace use, it never hurts to be safe, and every home should have a carbon monoxide detector installed in a room that has a fireplace, as well as in each bedroom.
The best way to keep your fireplace in great working order is to perform regular fireplace maintenance. That is, set a schedule and stick to it. Whether it’s every year, twice a year or quarterly, getting on a schedule can keep your fireplace clean and in good working order for years to come. Not sticking to a schedule, on the other hand, can carry high costs — you could end up replacing your entire fireplace, or you could even experience dangerous hazards like clogged gas lines.
If nothing else, it’s important to get into the habit of good fireplace cleaning and maintenance. This will help you get your fireplace ready for the fall and winter and ensure that you’re safely and efficiently heating your home through the coldest months of the year.
Fireplace cleaning and regular gas log fireplace maintenance are essential to keeping your system running great for many years. Eventually, however, even the best systems wear down and need to be replaced. The expected lifespan of your system depends on a number of factors. Concrete logs, especially cheap ones, can crack, fade or disintegrate in a couple of years. Ceramic logs look a little less realistic (though modern versions have closed that gap enormously), but they tend to last a decade or more, depending on the specific kind of ceramic composite from which they are made.
Again, a lot of maintenance can be done easily by you — even changing a thermocouple isn’t difficult, once you get over the concern of how to do it and dig in. Changing out individual parts of your fireplace can extend its life by quite a bit. Still, when the time comes, it can be just as easy to install a brand new set of gas logs.
If you need help with gas log fireplace cleaning, care, replacement or any aspect of fireplace maintenance, Emberside is here to help. We offer a complete line of high-quality gas log fireplace inserts and accessories, with complete educational articles and videos on all topics regarding fireplace care and installation.
Our goal is to get the best products into your hands and make it as easy as possible to get you up and running fast. We offer the highest quality products on the market today, and our family-owned and operated company has been in the business for over four decades, providing expert care, advice and education.
Take some time to look over our blog and articles on fireplace installation, care and maintenance, then check over our product line to get started on your choice of outstanding gas log fireplace options today.