Several really stupid newbie questions about gas fireplaces

smom40October 13, 2006

So we move to this place and it has two fireplaces: one gas, one wood burning. In the massive crunch of the move, and then some seriously whacky life issues that started in the first few weeks after the move (and that continued for a year and a half), we got distracted and never asked 'how do we operate this gas thing?" (Insert jokes here.)

So last year we used the wood fireplace and ignored the other one.

This past summer, I was cleaning the rarely used room with the gas fireplace and noticed a hot draft while vacuuming around the hearth. Looked up into the fireplace and realized that it had a partially opened flue that would not completely close! (Insert confusion here.)

Are flues for gas fireplaces different? The 'flap' on the flue has some sort of metal bolt thing that is in the way of it completely closing. Is this normal? Is it meant to be always cracked open a bit?

We've never used this thing and I have to admit, I don't know how to use it. It has a metal 'key' to turn it on. I see a pilot light at the base that is operating. It has fake logs and decorative 'pebbles' of some sort. And a pull back screen, like a wood fireplace (which is sort of bizarre because it's fake, so why would it need something to block sparks?)

Since I don't know the first thing about gas, could someone give me an idiot primer on how to do this? Do we just turn the key up with the flue completely open? Or are there other precautions, things to think about?

And if when we are not using it, and IF the flue thing is normal, is it safe to obtain and use some sort of glass screen to block the draft? (Would that mean blocking the fireplace but opening the flue more, or is having it cracked like that, enought?) That room has a tendency to be warm in the summer and colder in the winter, and with heating/cooling costs so high, I'd like to figure out some way to deal with it.

And IF it is acceptable to block the thing with a glass screen, anyone know who sells them short and wide? The fireplace opening is rectangular, but the way that they designed the brick, you either have to have something like 27 inches tall and 45 inches wide, or find something huge to covered the entire decorative brick that is in an arch at the top.

And how often do these things need to be serviced and what does that entail?

Sorry for sounding like such a fool, but I'm not even sure where to start.

Btw, this home is about seven years old.

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I'm not going to address all of your questions about the "gas fireplace", but I will tell you that you do NOT have a "gas fireplace". What you DO have is a woodburning fireplace that has gas logs stuck in them. Many municipalites require that glass doors be installed and that the damper be blocked open when installing these. And most municipalites require a permit first.
A set of gas logs will soot up and will require maintenance. Also, they usually do not put off enough heat to make it an actual heater. They are mostly for ambience.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 9:47PM
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the damper should not have any opperation. Most of the time the plate is removed. If you suceed in closing it you will be dealing with co and co/2 gasses in your living space, that is if you are lucky enough to figure that out. Because code requires a damper or means to prevent drafts, openings in your insulation envelope glass doors are required to fullfill that need. In short they are required. No wonder that room is cold in winter. I agree with the other poster that gas log sets provide little heat but a fire look. If your town did it job correctly, and the home being only 7 years old, then the gas logs and there manufacturer should be listed along with lots of other info that went into your home. Once you know the manufacturer and model you should be able to down load the instructions manual and find the answers to your questions

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 10:05PM
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I may can help a little with the gas FP.
The bolt thing is there for the reason as you described. Its there to keep it the flue from closing completely.
This is normal. I had this on my FP at a previous home. My FP was wood burning, then I converted it to gas by installing a set of gas logs.
Its safe to only have the flue cracked when using a gas FP.

If you never intend to use this FP, its safe to remove it. Just remember to open the flue if you ever decide to burn a fire. The same as you would with the wood burning FP.

Also, I purchased glass doors for mine at a fireplace shop for around $40. Keep in mind this was wayyy back in 1991, and the cost varies by size, style etc. I would visit a FP shop to find doors to fit your box. Also, mine were not hard to install.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 10:18PM
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