Converting a wood-burning fireplace to gas is a great home improvement project, but before you get started, you need to get a handle on what’s safe–and what’s not. After all, switching up your fireplace isn’t quite as simple as screwing in a light bulb. There are many factors that go into choosing the right gas logs for your home, installing and using them properly.
1. Gas logs aren’t safe to install in gas fireplaces
We know it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. Gas logs are designed to help homeowners convert their traditional wood-burning fireplaces into gas-burning fireplaces, not to supplement or renovate existing gas fireplaces.
A manufactured gas fireplace likely isn’t designed to handle the amount of heat or exhaust produced by aftermarket gas logs, like the top-of-the-line ones we sell here at Hansen Wholesale. Placing these logs inside a gas fireplace can cause the materials to melt or crack, which can create a fire hazard. It can also leak gas into your living room, which can be fatal.
2. Ensure your carbon monoxide detectors are working
With a wood-burning fireplace, it’s obvious when you’re having chimney trouble. You end up with a living room full of smoke. With a gas fireplace, however, the signs are invisible. Carbon monoxide poisoning, however, is very real and very fatal.
If you haven’t already done so, you should install carbon monoxide detectors in the same room as your converted fireplace and throughout your house. Test them twice a year—we do it when we change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time.
3. Ensure children can’t reach any open flames
Gas logs aren’t wood, but the flames in a gas fireplace are real flames. While they won’t send sparks out into the room or create a mess on your hearth, there are occasional chips of ceramic due to rapid expansion that can become projectiles, so you do need to take precautions to protect your loved ones. A fireplace screen of some sort is required when you burn your gas logs. We recommend fireplace glass doors with mesh behind the glass so you can burn your fire with the doors open and close them when your fire is off. With vented logs, this will keep cold air from coming into your home because you must prop your damper open permanently when you install your logs.
4. Firelace doors and gas logs
If you have glass doors on your fireplace, never burn your gas logs with the doors closed. Doing so causes the burner to produce excessive amounts of soot and carbon monoxide. Even more, the heat build-up can melt components in your gas valve and create a potential for explosion.
5. If your chimney is not safe for a wood fire, it’s not safe for a gas fire
If you’ve been told by an inspector, contractor or chimney sweep that your chimney isn’t safe to burn wood, do not use it for a gas fire. Your gas logs will produce heat and exhaust. If your chimney is not properly insulated or sealed, you could light your house on fire. If your chimney leaks gases, you could asphyxiate yourself.
6. You cannot install any kind of gas log in a wood-burning stove
You’re unlikely to find a gas log system that is small enough to fit inside a wood stove. Even if you can, though, don’t be tempted to install it. The chimneys connected to wood stoves are not wide enough to handle the exhaust produced by gas logs. The gas logs also cannot handle the heat build-up inside stove.
7. Ventless gas logs can deplete the oxygen in your home
Don’t freak out! Ventless gas logs are safe, so long as you use them properly. After no more than an hour of burning a ventless gas log system, you need to crack a window or two to replenish the oxygen in your home. Otherwise, you’re in danger of starving yourself and your family of oxygen, which is never a good thing.
For this reason, ventless gas logs are not permitted in some states, including California, and certain cities. Check with your local building department to see what types of conversions are legal in your area. In fact, before you convert any fireplace to gas, you should check your city’s building codes. Many locales will require permits to ensure safe gas log installation.
For all of us at Hansen Wholesale, safety is a priority. We want you to enjoy a toasty gas fireplace this winter just as much as we do. Before you make the switch, talk to one of our gas log experts. They can answer all your shopping questions, from how to measure your fireplace for a set of gas logs to how to choose the right gas log system for your house.