FAQs and Tips

Here are some of our most Frequently Asked Questions:

Tips for Selecting the Ideal Fireplace

  1. Decide on the fireplace's main purpose: heat efficiency, aesthetics, or a combination of both.
  2. Avoid choosing a fireplace with the intention of heating more than one room. This will result in an overheated main room, forcing you to keep the gas fireplace off much of the time.
  3. If you are looking for heat efficiency, consider a thermostatically-controlled self-modulated fireplace. This way, the fireplace will automatically turn up and down while regulating the room to the temperature you desire.
  4. Review the trim options with the sales person to determine which trim will suit your decor. There are often more options available that are not seen in the showroom.
  5. View the fireplace while the flames are turned off. It's important that you are sure you like how the unit looks when it's not fired up.
  6. Avoid choosing a heating insert that relies on a fan to push the hot air out into the room. The best fireplaces are efficient without a fan. Using one does help with circulation but will only marginally improve the heat output, and there will be some noise. If you do have a fan, make sure you have a separate control for it so you can turn it up, down or off as needed.
  7. When choosing a decorative log set, choose one that easily fits into the fireplace area and leaves some breathing room. Ample space around the log looks better and ensures that the valve will not overheat.
  8. Determine how you want to operate your gas fireplace. Options include wall switches, remote controls, thermostats and manual operation.
  9. If a gas fireplace is not an option, consider an electric fireplace. They are available in a variety of sizes, styles and trim options. They require no venting, so you can install them anywhere in the home.
  10. Find a fireplace retailer who will also arrange installation. How the fireplace is installed can impact its overall efficiency operation and durability.
  11. Determine how you want to operate your gas fireplace. Options include wall switches, remote controls, thermostats and manual operation.

Remote Instructions

Image of the F40/50 remote Image of the Advance series remote
Image of the GD80 Proflame remote Image of the GTMF remote

Getting Your Fireplace Ready For Use

All fireplace types (wood, gas, electric, etc.) should undergo annual maintenance by a professional. For a gas fireplace, maintenance tasks include checking fan, pilots, and burners. Wood fireplaces require an inspection and chimney cleaning to remove creosote, which can build up and cause chimney fires. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Homeowners should also take a few proactive steps on their own to ensure greater heating efficiency and safety, and to prolong the life of the unit. Here are some tips:

Gas fireplaces:

  • Vacuum the firebox and heat exchanger regularly (when the fireplace is cold) to keep efficiency and air quality high.
  • Use a soft brush to remove dust or spider webs from gas logs. Make sure to position logs properly after cleaning to avoid sooting.
  • Use glass cleaner made for gas fireplaces to clean the glass front - never use oven cleaner or abrasives.
  • Consult a professional to clean the pilot assembly, purge trapped air from the gas supply line, and then test-fire the fireplace.

Wood Burning fireplaces:

  • Check the chimney or vent before the season's first fire to see if birds or animals have built nests in it, or if leaves or other debris have accumulated.
  • Clean out the firebox at least every week when using the fireplace regularly, but leave an inch of ash in the bottom to act as insulation. NOTE: Never use a vacuum to clean out the firebox as coals can stay hot for several days after extinguishing a fire.
  • Before removing ash, open the damper so loose ash is drawn up the chimney rather than out into the room.
  • Remove all ash during the months the fireplace is not in use.
  • Burn only seasoned or hard wood in the fireplace. This will help minimize creosote buildup in the chimney. Burning small, controlled, hot fires rather than smoldering fires will also help keep creosote under control.
  • Install a carbon-monoxide alarm in the same room as the fireplace and another one near bedrooms.

Electric fireplaces:

  • Clean the firebox and control compartment with a brush and vacuum.
  • Never use glass cleaner to clean the back of the glass, use only mild soap and water. Remove dust particles from glass by simply buffing lightly with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Replace the light bulbs every two to three years or when the flame and/or ember bed is dark on one side.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions or consult a professional on cleaning the heater system to extend the fan's life.

Glossary & Terms

ANSI: American National Standards Institute. The organization responsible for coordinating the federal national standards system, consisting of 900 companies and 200 trade, technical, professional, labor and consumer organizations.

B-Vent Appliance: Gas fireplace that draws air from inside the home through ports in the firebox itself. (Also called Natural Draft/Vent.)

BTU: British Thermal Unit; a measurement of heat.

Blower: An electric, motor driven fan used to circulate air at an increased pace and velocity through the fireplace convection air chamber.

Burner: Device for the final delivery of gas to the combustion zone.

Certified Chimney Sweep: Licensed professional trained in the proper inspection and cleaning of fireplaces and chimneys.

CFM: Cubic Feet per Minute; amount of air that a blower will move. NOTE: A blower should be tapered to a particular unit. If the amount of air movement is not balanced to the size of the unit it can become noisy.

Chase: Structure built around and enclosing portions of chimney exterior to the house.

Chimney Portion of the venting system, through which flue gases are vented to the outdoors, and by which penetrated combustible surfaces are protected.

Clearance: Distance required by manufacturers and building codes between stove, connector pipe or chimney and any combustible materials.

Cord: Stack of wood logs which measures 4 x 4 x 8 feet (128 cubic feet).

Creosote: Deposits of condensed wood smoke in the chimney and connector pipe resulting from incomplete combustion; can ignite and cause a chimney fire.

Damper: Device used to reduce or close the opening between the firebox and flue.

Direct-vent: Fireplace in which air exchange occurs from the back or sides of the fireplace or stove.

Efficiency: Percentage of heat that goes into the room instead of up the chimney.

Electric Igniter Device to ignite the burner or pilot; requires electrical currents, but not a match.

Emissions Unburned gases and particles as a result of incomplete combustion.

EPA Regulations: Government regulations of wood-burning appliances; mandate that products sold after July 1, 1992, emit no more than 4.1 grams of particulate matter per hour for catalytic-equipped units and no more than 7.5 grams for non-catalytic-equipped units.

Fireback: Protective, heat-resistant insert for the rear interior of the fireplace.

Firebox Chamber of the fireplace that contains the fire.

Fireplace Insert: Heating unit that fits into an existing fireplace (masonry or factory-built); burns wood, gas or wood pellets and offers superior efficiency.

Flue: Pipe or channel for moving smoke from the fireplace to the chimney.

Freestanding Stove: Heating appliance normally on legs or a pedestal.

Furnace: Central heating appliance that supplies hot air, through ducts, to the house.

Gas Logs: Open flame appliance with ceramic or ceramic fiber logs placed over a burner to provide dramatic realism of a traditional flame. Manufactured log sets have a burner that uses either natural gas or propane.

Glass Doors: Doors attached to a fireplace to close off the opening of the hearth from the home to prevent heat from escaping up the chimney and prevent cold air from entering the home when the fireplace is not being used.

Grate: Metal frame used to hold and contain burning fuel in a fireplace.

Hearth Floor of the fireplace, which usually extends away from the wall.

Heat exchanger Device within the fireplace that exchanges cold air in the room with heat generated from the firebox.

Heat Shield: Noncombustible protector used around appliances, smoke pipes or chimneys to protect combustibles from heat sources.

Kindling: Thin, dry wood used to start a fire.

KWH: Kilowatt per hour (equals 1000 watts per hour; energy measurement for electricity.

Liquified Petroleum Gas: Colorless, odorless, and non-toxic gas separated from wet natural gas, light crude oil, and oil refinery gases; composed predominantly of hydrocarbons or mixtures thereof (propane, propylene, normal butane or isobutane and butylenes).

Liquid Propane Liquefied petroleum gas, available in cylinders, for home use.

Mantel: Protruding shelf above the fireplace.

MCF: One thousand cubic feet.

Metal Liner: Liner place inside existing chimney (usually masonry) to reduce the diameter of the flue for rapid exit of smoke and combustion gases; used primarily with fireplace inserts but also used when an existing chimney is unlimited or deteriorating.

Millivolt: Ignition system that uses a small electromagnet in the gas valve and a pilot light. The electromagnet allows gas to flow to the pilot light only until the switch is flipped. The system utilizes a small generator called a thermocouple that, when heated by the pilot light, provides enough power to hold the valve open while in use. If there is a power outage while the fireplace is in use, it will not lose power.

Mortar: Material used to bond stone, brick or tiles in masonry; normally made using lime and/or sand mixed with cement either on site or in the factory.

Natural Gas: Clean-burning fossil fuel transported to homes via an extensive pipeline network.

Orifice: Opening in a cap, spud, or other device whereby the flow of gas is limited and/ or controlled and through which the gas is discharged to either a pilot burner or main burner.

Pellets: Small balls or blocks made of 100% wood sawdust with no additives.

Pilot light: Small gas flame that ignites the main burner to produce fire in a gas fireplace.

Seasoned: Wood that has been allowed to dry before burning. Wood burns much more efficiently when its moisture content has been reduced. Seasoning generally takes six to 12 months.

Standing pilot light: Pilot light which is available at all times.

Standing safety pilot: Manual or remote controlled gas valve which shuts off the gas supply if the pilot light is extinguished.

Spillage: Describes process whereby fireplaces with vented systems such as a chimney or direct vent become blocked and combustion by-products cannot be vented outside and therefore 'spill' back into room. NOTE: This can be dangerous, particularly with wood burning fireplaces, as carbon monoxide may be one of the by-products leaking back into the home.

Surround: Area surrounding top and sides of fireplace; it usually includes the mantel and hearth.

Therm: Unit of heat equal to 100,000 British thermal units (BTUs); used as a measurement for natural gas.

Thermocouple: Device consisting of two pieces of dissimilar metals joined together at one end (hot junction). When heated, produces DC voltage. Used to power thermoelectric gas valves.

Top Vent: Fireplace in which air exchange occurs through the top of the fireplace or stove.

Unvented or Vent-Free Appliance: Appliance that draws combustion air from inside the home. The appliance is designed to burn so efficiently that it eliminates the need for venting. (Also called Ventless.)

Variable setting control: Control feature of gas fireplaces which allows you to manually adjust the heat output of your fireplace by controlling the fireplace's gas consumption rate.

Zero-Clearance Fireplace: Factory-built fireplace that is constructed so that it can be placed safely with close clearances to combustible materials.

1. What should I consider when choosing a fireplace to heat my home?

  • Direct Vented Fireplaces can be installed almost anywhere in your home as they don't require a pre-existing chimney to vent them. They can be built into a combustible surrounding.
  • The size of the fireplace and the amount of space it will take up in your room
  • On the main floor, the overall appearance may be more important than high output.
  • Basements are normally colder and therefore heat output and appearance are both important.
Back to top

2. Should we leave our pilot light on?

It is advisable in colder weather to keep the pilot on so that some heat is maintained in the vent system. This facilitates the start-up of your fireplace in colder months. In warmer months, if you are not using the fireplace, you can turn the pilot light off.

Back to top

3. Can we change our fireplace from a standing pilot system to electronic ignition?

Most gas fireplaces operate with a standing pilot system, much like many furnaces and hot water heaters. Retrofitting existing units with electronic ignitions would require replacement of the valve and pilot system. With most fireplaces, this is not possible due to design restrictions.

Back to top

4. Can I replace my direct vent fireplace with another manufacturer's and hook up to the existing vent system?

Many direct vent fireplace manufacturers make their own vent systems. Their units are only approved with these systems. You have to ensure that the new unit matches up with the existing vent system and approvals are possible.

Back to top

5. Can I replace the trim or log set from one manufacturer for another's?

Fireplace components are generally not universal or interchangeable - especially finishing items such as trims and log sets, which distinguish one manufacturer from another.

Back to top

6. Can I set my fireplace on a timer?

Most fireplaces can have a wired or remote control unit installed with a timer feature.

Back to top

7. Can we install drywall up to the fireplace?

Check the specifications of the fireplace you are installing for clearance to combustibles. Drywall is considered a combustible. Note that drywall finishes will often crack in high heat situations.

Back to top

8. Can we turn down the heat from the fireplace and still have the flames?

The general rule is: more gas, more flames, more heat. A few direct vent zero clearance fireplaces have heat dumps (or heat take offs). Otherwise, you cannot have the flame without heat. This will vary depending upon the efficiency of the fireplace.

Back to top

9. If we install a fire pit or a built-in exterior fireplace, how much heat can we expect on our deck or patio?

Do not expect to heat your exterior space with a fire pit or exterior fireplace. The radiant heat will, however, take the chill off in the immediate surroundings and add a pleasant aesthetic experience to your exterior space.

Back to top

10. Can I change the log set in my zero clearance fireplace or firepla ce insert?

The logs installed in gas fireplaces cannot be altered. The set-up of the logs is specific to the way the burner has been tested and operates. Also, if you alter the logs, the warranty will likely be void.

Back to top

11. My wood burning fireplace smokes. Will a gas log set solve this issue?

By installing an open gas log set into a wood-burning fireplace, you are essentially changing fuels. If your wood-burning fireplace smokes under certain conditions, it is likely that a log set will spill some of its combustion by-products into the room under the same conditions. You have several options:

  a: Install an efficient gas insert with a single or double liner vent system

  b: Install a chimney top powered draft inducer

  c: Install a set of doors that remain partially closed while the fireplace is in use.
     (You can test for the door option by restricting the opening and seeing what happens.)

The best option, however, is to install an efficient wood or gas insert. Both of these require liners in the chimney and operate with closed glass.

Back to top

12. Can I put a TV above a fireplace?

The short answer is yes. However, depending on the fireplace, care must be taken to provide adequate clearance. Each fireplace has tested clearance specifications for combustibles in the area above the unit. We also recommend insulating the framing in the wall above the fireplace to prevent heat from traveling up through the wall, as well as installing deflection to direct heat away from the face of the TV. Another consideration is whether or not you want to watch a television that is half way up the wall.

Back to top

13. Will putting doors on an open fireplace increase its efficiency?

No. The real benefit of having doors is to keep the warm room air from going up the chimney when the fireplace is off.

Back to top

14. What are the regulations for installing a gas fireplace in a bathroom?

If the bathroom has a door, the fireplace must have a direct vent-balanced flue system (no open B vents). The fireplace must operate on a timer or thermostat and must be 18" from the tub or shower. The glass on the fireplace should be ceramic.

Back to top

15. What are the regulations for installing a gas fireplaces in a bedroom?

Any type of gas fireplace can be installed in a bedroom, as long as it can be controlled by a thermostat and there is adequate fresh air.

Back to top

16. I am looking to replace my existing open gas or wood burning fireplace with a more efficient sealed gas unit. How can I do this without affecting my finishes?

Most times, you will not be able to remove your existing fireplace without affecting your surrounding finishes. There are, however, small efficient inserts available that are specifically designed to fit into existing fireplaces. There is also the option of partially cutting out your existing fireplace and installing an efficient insert with a zero clearance kit.

Back to top

17. There is a white film on the inside of the glass. Why is it there and how do I remove it?

The film is generally caused by the mineral residue left over from burning off the gas. There are specific cleaners made for cleaning fireplace glass. Do not use ammonia based products as they might cause damage or etching to the glass. To remove and clean your glass check your owner's manual, call a service technician or visit our Tips page.

Back to top

18. If the power goes out, will my fireplace still work?

Yes - most fireplaces installed today have a standing pilot system which generates millivolts of electricity to operate the fireplace, meaning no external power is required. Electronic ignitions are seldom installed. Of course if you have a fan, it will not work in a power outage.

Back to top

19. Are a fan and thermostat included in the cost of a gas fireplace installation? Can they be installed after the fireplace has been installed?

It is not standard on most fireplaces to have a fan. Fans are generally added options ranging in price, depending upon the model, from $150 to $300. Some units come with built-in modulating flame/heat controls.

Wall mounted calibrated thermostats are extra and cost $40 and up, depending on the features and the installation required. It is possible to add fans and thermostats after the initial installation of the fireplace.

Back to top

20. Are wood fireplaces allowed to be put into new homes?

Yes, as long as the fireplace is built or installed to code.

Back to top

Find our store


Fires Alive

163 Lansdowne St E
Peterborough
ON K9J 7P7
Canada

Tel: (705) 743 1836

Store hours:

Mon - Fri: 10am - 6pm
Sat: 9am - 4pm
Sun: Closed

Customer Reviews

" The team did a fabulous job, the decorative surround looks great. "
- Dale & Jewel