A 5-Minute Read On Fireplace Safety

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“A house with no fireplace is a house without a heart.” – Gladys Taber (Author)

Any time there’s a fireplace in a room, it seems to be the focal point. In addition to being the centerpieces of ambiance in our homes, they also warm our toes and our hearts. Each type of fireplace, though, comes with its own advantages, disadvantages, and safety tips to ensure you and/or your family can cozy up safely.

Electric Fireplaces

An electric fireplace is essentially an electric heater acting as a coal- or wood-burning fireplace. Aside from their simplicity, a huge benefit of electric fireplaces is that they are incredibly safe. The flames are artificial, the unit is cool to the touch (except for the vent), and no dangerous smoke or fumes are produced. Since this type of fireplace does not actually burn wood to produce heat, it is low maintenance and easy to clean.

Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces look and act like real wood fires. They produce a small amount of smoke that requires venting, but the fire is produced by gas. A gas-burning fire is more manageable than a wood-burning fire because you can control the amount of gas being used to ignite the flame. If you want more heat, all it takes is a simple adjustment. The second you would like the fire to stop, simply turn off the gas.

Gas fireplaces come in two options: gas logs or gas inserts.

Gas Log Fireplaces

Gas logs offer all of the ambiance and warmth of a real, wood-burning fire but without the mess! Gas logs are typically made up of a ceramic material but can be fashioned to look like any type of wood from oak to driftwood or more. This type of gas fireplace is a great option for several reasons:

  • They require less effort than wood-burning fires because you won’t have to lug around heavy bundles of wood.
  • There is no dust or soot produced, so clean-up and maintenance are much easier.
  • No wood needs to be chopped!

Gas Inserts

Gas inserts are extremely popular but often mistaken for a regular fireplace. Gas inserts are exactly what they sound like – an insert that is installed into an already-existing fireplace. It requires very little, if any, construction because it is made to fit into any opening. Inserts are designed to replace wood fireplaces for a cleaner alternative.

Gas Fireplace Safety

To operate a gas fireplace safely, be sure it has a protective mesh screen over the glass. Glass retains heat and the screen creates a barrier to help prevent skin from coming into contact with the hot glass. The screen can also retain heat, so you’ll still want to avoid touching it while your fireplace is on. To add an extra layer of protection, you can add a double glass heat barrier with two panes of glass and a ventilation layer in between.

Gas fireplaces are safer than the wood-burning version, but you’ll still want to make sure children play away from the clearance zone (the area that is unsafe for flammable or easily damaged materials), schedule yearly maintenance, and make sure your safety screen is affixed securely to the unit.

In addition, a safety pilot is absolutely necessary as it will eliminate the hazard of gas still seeping into your home after the flame is turned off. Always have gas logs installed by a trained professional to ensure they are code compliant.

While a carbon monoxide detector is a good idea in all homes, it is a must if you have a gas log fireplace. CO is produced by vented gas logs and will go up your chimney, but if your flue is not opened or your chimney is blocked, your home could be filling up with this toxic gas. With vent-free gas logs, an Oxygen Depletion Sensor is recommended that automatically shuts your gas logs off if the oxygen content of the air gets too low.

Wood Fireplaces

We can all admit that it’s hard to replicate the beautiful ambiance that a wood fire creates. The atmosphere, the warmth, the sound, and the smell are all things that people love about natural wood fires. The benefits are the unbeatable cost, as you only have to pay for the logs when you want to use it. Or you can buy chopped fireplace wood in bulk and store it in the garage for a long-lasting supply. You also do not need to depend on electricity for its use. Use a wood fireplace when the power goes out for lighting, to keep warm, and maybe even cooking!

Enjoy your wood fireplace safely by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Only burn dry, cured firewood (not scraps, painted wood, or treated wood). This includes logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for 8-12 months. Cover the pile on top, but leave the sides open for airflow.
  • Close the damper when not using the fireplace. This will prevent warm indoor air from rushing up the chimney.
  • Make sure you have a chimney cap to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney and reduce downdrafts.
  • Have your chimney cleaned twice a year if you burn more than a 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long amount of wood.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors near your fireplace and in bedrooms.
  • Build your fire slowly adding more wood as it heats. Keep the damper completely open to increase draw in the early stages and prevent smoke from lingering and creosote from developing.

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