How do I use a gas fireplace?
November 19, 2006 6:12 PM   Subscribe

OK. We've been in a house in San Diego for a few years. It has a fireplace with some kind of gas jet in it. The gas is controlled by what looks like a big key in the wall next to it. We've never really used this because, well, it's San Diego. Seems a little silly. But this weekend I got to thinking that it might be something interesting to have running while we eat our Thanksgiving sushi. So ... how in the heck do we use this thing? I can turn on the gas and light it, and we get a "fire." But it's not particularly pleasant or romantic. Is this even the correct usage?? Or are we supposed to put some kind of logs or something in there? Thanks.
posted by mpemulis to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Crap. One of these days I'll figure out how to format questions here. Sorry about putting it all on the front page there. :-(
posted by mpemulis at 6:13 PM on November 19, 2006

Yeah, they sell ceramic logs and fake ash to put in gas fireplaces, so it looks "realistic." You can also get some real wood, and use the gas to help light it.
posted by cosmonaught at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2006

What a lot of people do is to pick up a ceramic "log" which they put in the flame inside a normal iron fireplace rack. It will heat up and glow, and make it look a lot nicer.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2006

what do you mean by ypu get "a fire"?
Do you have a metal pipe at the bottom of the fireplace with holes punched it in that emit blue flame?
I had something like this at my house and replaced it with a gas log. It didn't put out a ton of heat, but did put out some and looked pretty nice for the three days out of the year where it was cold enough to pretend we needed a fire in Austin TX.
posted by j at 6:23 PM on November 19, 2006

Just a note that in our fireplace, the gas is meant as a starter for actual log fires. We also have the key to turn on the starter, but that just allows us to light the logs easily.
posted by GaelFC at 6:24 PM on November 19, 2006

Didn't mean to sound so critical with my quoted "realistic." It really can look pretty nice, and... realistic even.
posted by cosmonaught at 6:24 PM on November 19, 2006

I am no authority on fireplaces. But I moved from Florida to a colder climate and was new to fireplaces 10 years ago. Sounds like you have gas starter for a wood-burning fireplace. You really should have your chimney inspected before you do anything, to eliminate the possibility of a chimney fire, and of course they can tell you exactly what you have. You probably need a few logs in there, and then you light the starter to get it going and add logs to keep it going. Also, make sure your damper is open.
posted by kgn2507 at 6:28 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I second having your fireplace and chimney inspected before use. Who knows how well the previous owners maintained it and what critters have built combustible nests in your chimney?

It's a great way to smoke up your house or burn it to the ground...
posted by wfrgms at 6:39 PM on November 19, 2006

Some folks pile broken tempered glass over the gas pipe,
makes a very romantic fire, like flaming crystals. Be creative,
but make sure the damper is open.
posted by hortense at 6:54 PM on November 19, 2006

Another vote for getting the whole system checked before you use it. A lot of people neglect getting a fireplace chiminey cleaned, and you do NOT want a chiminey fire!
posted by HuronBob at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2006

OK. Thanks for the responses. The house is less than 5 years old, so the fireplace should be in OK shape. But yeah, I guess I should have it checked.

I'm going to look into these ceramic logs.

The whole thing is kinda dumb. I'd frankly rather have no fireplace and just have the wall space. I don't even own a jacket here, so I'm not sure why we have a fireplace.

Thanks again.
posted by mpemulis at 7:03 PM on November 19, 2006

Important! If you are going to use it with actual logs, please check that there is an actual flue first! Some of these are false fireplaces that simply vent into the room (like your gas stove does) and don't actually have chimneys!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:15 PM on November 19, 2006

Also, if you feel at all iffy about the health of the gas pipe, call PG&E; they'll come out and inspect it (free, I think), and possibly even teach you how to use the fireplace properly.
posted by rtha at 8:20 PM on November 19, 2006

You really should have your chimney inspected before you do anything, to eliminate the possibility of a chimney fire

Definitely -- google "chimney fire" to scare yourself into having it checked (assuming, as pollomacho points out, that there is a chimney to check).
posted by advil at 8:44 PM on November 19, 2006

If you have just a straight pipe with some holes drilled in it, it is intended, as others explained, as a starter for a real log fire. If you don't have it already you need a log grate that straddles the starter pipe. You pile a few logs on the grate, fire up the starter, and then shut off the gas after 10 minutes or so. Make sure you open your flue first or you will fill your room with smoke. The flue is usually controlled by a lever on the top inside the fireplace.
posted by JackFlash at 10:09 PM on November 19, 2006

Yeah - that's exacty what it is - straight pipe with holes in it. And there's a grate on top of it. Just seems kinda weird to me though - starting a fire with a match never seemed like a problem needing a solution.

Gotta think about the options I guess ... which might mean that I end up being lazy and doing nothing....

Thanks again.
posted by mpemulis at 10:55 PM on November 19, 2006

about the flue: also remember to OPEN it. IME a poker hook will engage its lever thingy.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:32 AM on November 20, 2006

Are you sure the "key" is the control? Very often a gas fireplace has an emergency shutoff on the outside, and there is a constant pilot on the gas logs. You may have to restart the pilot.
posted by megatherium at 4:47 AM on November 20, 2006

If you're not happy about having the fireplace overall, there are also some pretty fireplace candleabras out there to spruce the place up.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:27 AM on November 20, 2006

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