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Gas fireplace safety

With multiple fireplace systems available today, residents should ensure safety. Most common fireplaces in use are wood burning, gas vented, and gas free fireplaces. Wood burning fireplaces must be properly maintained which usually requires an annual chimney cleaning. 

Many gas units provide the esthetics of a wood-burning unit without the hassle of buying or hauling wood. Even with gas units, if there is a damper on the unit it must be open when operating the fireplace. In the event you have a "vent free" system, then you an operate the unit with the damper closed. This would apply to older fireplaces being converted to gas with the use of vent free log sets. The newest models of vent free log sets can look as good as any vented log set.

When using a gas log or gas fireplace, it is always a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector in the home to alert you if the levels of carbon monoxide get too high. Assuring that the batteries in you carbon monoxide detector are fully charged is a must.

Gas logs should be cleaned and inspected before each season of use. It is very important the the logs are properly placed over the burner. Improperly placed logs will result in heavy accumulation of soot on the logs and firebox. Additionally improperly placed logs in a vent free unit could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Whenever you plan to purchase a log set to be inserted into an existing fireplace, you must determine if you have a vented box or non vented box. Inserting a vented log set in a vent free box creates a major hazard. Vented logs create high levels of carbon monoxide and can only be used in vented fireboxes. The damper in the vented firebox must always be open when a vented log set is in operation.

If you are planning to put a vented log set in your existing vented fireplace, you should first make sure your chimney is clean and free of any build up created by the previous burning of wood in the fireplace.

Sometime is very tight homes, it is necessary to crack a window open when lighting a fireplace. The draw from the chimney will pull air from the room and it is necessary to replace that air or you will have what is termed as "negative pressure" in the home. Think of it as sucking the air out of a balloon. Obviously your home will not collapse like the balloon but with the absence of air to replenish what is being removed, something has to give. In the case of a vented fireplace, the negative pressure in the home will result in air being pulled down the chimney - commonly know as "reversed draft". Homes experiencing negative pressure can be a real challenge to correct. In some cases it is necessary to add a make up air system to correct the situation.

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