How Does a Gas Fireplace Work?
The ambiance of sitting around a crackling fire on a cold winter evening is something that most people want, and a gas fireplace is one way to make it happen. Luckily, they are much more efficient than traditional wood-burning fireplaces, so they can save you money on your heating bills and leave your furnace to do the hard work of keeping the rest of your home warm.
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How does a gas fireplace work?
The first step in understanding how a gas fireplace works is to understand the different parts of a typical unit. This will help you determine what components are needed to operate your new unit.
1. Venting Systems
Unlike wood-burning fireplaces, which use chimneys to vent waste products, gas-burning units rely on ventilation systems to carry gases out of the house. There are two main types of venting systems: direct vent and natural vent.
2. The pilot flame
When a fireplace is turned on, it requires a pilot flame to ignite the fuels being released by its burner. This pilot flame is usually a small flame or candle that burns continuously, though it can be replaced with an electronic ignition system.
3. Thermocouple and/or Thermopile
Most gas fireplaces contain a thermocouple or thermopile, which senses the temperature of the air around the burner and uses that to control the flow of gas. A thermostat is also often included, which regulates the amount of gas that flows to the burner based on the temperature of the room it’s located in.
4. A spark ignitor
A gas fireplace may also have a spark ignitor, which is used to ignite the pilot flame. This ignitor is typically a simple electrode that produces a spark when it comes in contact with the pilot flame.
5. A main valve
Most of the time, the pilot light in a gas fireplace is controlled by a switch or remote control. Once it’s on, gas can then flow through to the main valve and onto the burner.
6. A thermostat
Once the main valve is on, it can send a signal to the thermostat, which regulates the amount of gas that can flow to the burner.
7. A thermocouple and/or Thermopile
Having a thermocouple or thermopile in your fireplace is a great way to reduce energy costs by controlling the flow of gas. It’s also a safety feature, as it can shut down the burner if the temperature of the room it’s in exceeds a specified threshold.
8. A standing pilot
Traditionally, the standing pilot in a gas fireplace was the most efficient part of the system. However, a lack of a standing pilot can lead to wasted gas and higher fuel costs. That’s why many modern gas fireplaces are powered by an electronic ignition system.
These devices are either a separate button or on a control dial, which can be depressed to allow gas through to the spark ignitor that sits near the pilot flame. A small spark then lights the pilot flame, and once it’s burning, the flame heats a thermocouple or thermopile that will then send a signal back to the control module that tells it to turn on the main valve and light the burner.