Chimney AccessoriesYour fireplace is a crucial part of your home heating capability. But is your fireplace working the best it possibly can?

Many homeowners and fireplace users seldom realize that the fireplace and chimney that have served them well for years may now need maintenance or restoration – or even replacement. Luckily, modern fireplace construction and venting technology, along with innovations in fireplace maintenance and repair, have made keeping fireplaces in their peak condition both simple and affordable.

With winter coming, consider taking the following steps to maximize your fireplace and chimney’s heating potential.

Keep the Chimney Sealed, Not Just the Damper

Chimneys can “bleed” heat if cracks and fissures in their masonry or foundation are left unchecked. Warm air seeps out and cold air seeps inside, finding its way into the firebox and making it more difficult for a fire to heat the surrounding interior room. Moreover, cracks and fissures actually “feed” on themselves. As water seeps in and then expands as it turns to ice, the brick or masonry crumbles and the dilapidation spreads.

Experts recommend getting your chimney checked for cracks and holes at least once a year, either by yourself or by a chimney or foundation expert. The means of sealing your chimney will depend, of course, largely on the type of chimney your fireplace has. A variety of maintenance and repair accessories are available both in stores and online. For more serious repairs, hiring a bricklayer, carpenter, or other contractor will likely prove necessary.

To keep your home warm even when the fireplace is not in use, make sure the damper is closed whenever the fire is completely extinguished. Investing in a damper hook will make this task less time-consuming and physically awkward.

Improve Ventilation With a Chimney Cap

Chimney Pots

A copper chimney pot by European Copper

The tops of chimneys are favorite nesting spots for birds, but those same nests can block the chimney’s flue (the airway above the firebox), hampering ventilation and increasing the risk of fire and smoke inhalation for the house and its residents. At the same time, airborne debris from surrounding trees can blow into the chimney as well, presenting fire and ventilation hazards.

By installing a chiney pot or chimney cap atop your chimney, you’ll block birds and airborne debris without sacrificing ventilation. Many chimney caps also make beautiful additions to a home’s silhouette and exterior decorative plan. Chimney pots and caps range from simple to ornate in both appearance and decorative elements, so you have a wide range of appearance choices.

Watch Out For Creosote

Creosote is the gummy, toxic residue left behind when oils escaping from burning wood coalesce and gel alongside the chimney flue walls. Over time, creosote can literally choke off a chimney’s ventilating capability.

Clean out any creosote by hiring a professional chimney sweep or by carefully and thoroughly using any of the creosote-cleaning tools available at stores and online. As a guideline, The National Chimney Safety Institute of America advices cleaning whenever creosote buildup reaches 1/8 of an inch thick.

Check out our guide to keeping your chimney creosote free to learn more.

Install A Direct-Vent or Vent-Free Fireplace Insert

Fireplace Inserts

A fireplace insert

As their name somewhat suggests, fireplace inserts are self-contained fireplaces that fit inside the firebox (or bottom) of a fireplace. They offer great energy efficiency potential because their sealed construction allows them to lose much less heat than traditional wood burning fireplaces.

Fireplace inserts are available in wood-burning, gas (both natural gas and propane), electric, and pellet-burning configurations. They are usually either direct vent, meaning they shed exhaust by means of a stovepipe; or vent-free, meaning they are 100% efficient in burning their fuel.

Vent free fireplace inserts also carry the additional advantage of working inside fireplaces whose chimney was removed or whose flue has become significantly obstructed. The insert simply slides into the obstructed firebox.

For more information, please read our complete guide to fireplace inserts.

Convert To A Gas Log Fireplace

Natural gas and propane gas log sets offer a cleaner, lower-maintenance alternative to traditional wood burning fireplaces. Most gas logs are constructed from high-endurance ceramic, and should be installed either by a plumber or licensed gas technician.

Natural gas and propane gas logs each have distinct advantages and drawbacks. Propane gas logs burn almost three times hotter than natural gas logs. However, natural gas fireplaces can run off a home’s existing gas line, while propane tanks require both purchase and periodic refilling. For a complete explanation, please read our complete guide to gas logs.

Install A Wood Stove In a Second Location In Your Home

Wood StovesIt’s easy to think of wood stoves as smaller, self-contained fireplaces. Like fireplace inserts, they are available in either direct-vent or vent-free configurations. Depending on that exhaust method, they’re suitable for use in any room in the home, especially attics, basements, and upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms that are hard to heat through conventional HVAC systems.

Wood stoves come in many of the same fuel configurations as fireplace inserts: wood-burning, gas, electric, and pellet-burning. Like fireplace inserts, stoves also feature electronic controls, including electric thermostats and electronic displays, so they’re much more accurate in their heating than conventional fireplaces.

A second (or third, fourth, et cetera) heat source in your home helps your main fireplace by alleviating its heating tasks. The lessened wear and tear helps delay the need for maintenance. Read our guide to wood stoves, electric and gas, and pellet stoves elsewhere on this blog to learn more.

Invest In New Tools, Equipment, and Parts

Investing in new fireplace tools, a new fire grate, or safety accessories such as hearth pads and gates won’t increase your fireplace’s energy efficiency. However, they will make your fireplace easier to operate and more comfortable to enjoy. They’ll also help improve the fireplace’s safety, both to operate and enjoy.

 

Electric FireplacesThough they’re a more recent innovation than gas or wood-burning fireplaces, electric fireplaces are quickly catching on with homeowners who want the beauty and energy efficiency of traditional fireplaces but without the limitations those other models often carry.

One of the great advantages shared by virtually all electric fireplaces involves price. Generally speaking, they cost much less to install and operate than wood-burning or gas log fireplaces while needing very little maintenance and upkeep. Beyond cost, buyers will also find themselves enticed with a host of attractive features.

A Fireplace In Every Room

Electric fireplaces are self-contained and require no venting because, like space heaters, they produce no smoke or debris. Because they do not rely on smokestacks, chimneys, or pipes to draw their exhaust away from their setting, they’re often used in rooms where chimneys or venting pipes wouldn’t be possible – basements, upstairs bathrooms and bedrooms, and game rooms.

Electric fireplaces are also often used in place of traditional fireplaces and where fireplaces are no longer operational. These models, considered fireplace inserts, rest inside the fireboxes of chimneys whose flues are obstructed and demolished, restoring the beauty of the fireplace without needing the fireplace’s exhaust system.

Some model electric fireplaces combine a fireplace unit with another furniture amenity or convenience: for example, a fireplace built into an entertainment center or bookcase. Other models are compact enough to hang from a wall. Still others are built on rollers, and can be taken from room to room throughout the home. A product with a vast selection, there are actually dozens of different models available from several manufacturers.

Constant Innovation for Decades

Electric FireplacesThe electric fireplace isn’t a very recent innovation, but advances of the last few years have made them more cost-effective and realistic than ever before. The first electric fireplaces appeared in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until late in the following decade that models with truly realistic flame effects became available.

Today, many electric fireplaces combine LED light technology with electronic controls to produce “flames” that are practically indistinguishable from actual fire. Much like the lights of an automobile, these LED (or light-emitting diode) lights can be very finely-tuned while remaining long-lasting and energy efficient. Such sophistication presents a variety of options for the electric fireplace user.

Electronic Controls, Operation Bring Versatility

Electronic controls – standard on many electric fireplace models – bring two big advantages over most wood-burning and gas fireplaces. Because the electric fireplace is electronically controlled, owners can enjoy a greater degree of precision in selecting its warming output. Some models feature digital thermostats that allow choosing the exact degree of heat that’s desired. Users can also select the brightness of the flames or turn the flames off and let the fireplace function much as a space heater.

Another great advantage: electric fireplaces are as simple to turn on and off as any appliance. In fact, many come with remote controls for additional convenience and comfort.

Clean, Efficient Care and Maintenance

Compared to wood-burning and gas models, electric fireplaces are virtually maintenance free. They require no cleaning beyond the normal housekeeping given to other furniture. And because they do not use actual flames, there is no ash, soot, or char residue left to clean and remove. For this reason, electric fireplaces make ideal home heating alternatives for the elderly, persons with respiratory problems, and for those wishing to avoid costly and time-consuming chimney and flue upkeep and repair.

A Range of Styles and Decoration Options

Electric FireplacesModern electric fireplaces run the gamut of style and decoration motifs, from the ultra-modern to a range of traditional and classical styles. Some models come with reinforced mantels, making them ideal pedestals for wide-screen televisions. Some also feature real wood, metal, and ceramic mantels that boast top-of-the-line artistry and craftsmanship.

When choosing an electric fireplace model, consider the decor of the fireplace as well as the space limitations or potential within the room(s.) Fireplace dimensions are found on product pages and inside instruction manuals, as are power requirements.

 Electric Fireplace Disadvantages

Though providing more in the way of beauty than space heaters, electric fireplaces are nonetheless more expensive. And while their vent-free operation allows them a greater degree of mobility than wood-burning or gas fireplaces, they still rely on electrical power – usually a three-pronged, 110-volt wall outlet (similar to a television screen.)

In general, electric fireplaces are not weather-proof, and should never be used outdoors. As with any electrical appliance, it’s vital to follow all safety precautions and to use qualified and/or licensed personnel for all maintenance and repair.

 

Fireplace Safety

Direct-vent fireplace inserts offer a low-maintenance fireplace alternative

Fireplaces are lovely to look at and an important source of warmth in any home they’re used. But the care and maintenance of the chimney, hearth, and firebox are responsibilities that require regular vigilance and attention. For seniors and others living with limited mobility, these tasks can become extremely difficult, even insurmountable. And when left alone, neglected or misused fireplaces can present life-risking danger.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that deaths from fires in the home are most common in people 65 years of age and older. Besides normal fireplace maintenance and care, seniors and their families should practice these additional safety practices to help avoid disaster and insure a healthy home atmosphere.

Insure Proper Screen Protection and Ventilation

Fireplaces should include screens, doors, or covers that protect the surrounding room from flying debris and ash. Hearths should stand nine to 18 inches off the floor to provide ample height clearance and to facilitate cleaning and refueling.

Experts recommend equipping seniors’ fireplaces with direct vent or self-enclosed fireplace inserts that will help keep smoke and fumes from drifting outside the firebox or chimney flue. Such fumes can damage seniors’ pulmonary systems and make breathing difficult. Seniors should avoid using wood-burning and gas fireplaces for these same reasons.

Direct vent fireplaces are gas-operated and use double-walled pipe to efficiently funnel exhaust through a wall or ceiling. They help to insure dramatically cleaner air outside the firebox than natural vent fireplace models. Direct-vent fireplaces also work better at trapping heat, thus improving energy efficiency. Besides direct vent models, electric and gel-burning fireplaces also make practical alternatives for anyone with respiratory difficulty

The chimney flue, or airway leading to the top, should be kept as clean as possible, with professional cleanings at least once a year but whenever necessary. Besides normal ash and debris, wood-burning fireplaces are subject to creosote deposits that result when burning oils and debris coalesce on the flue walls. Professional chimney cleaning prices vary, and a variety of DIY cleaners are also available. Still, seniors with limited mobility may prefer to hire professionals to clean their chimneys for them.

Keep Hearth, Mantel Clear of Flammable Materials

Fireplace Safety

A fireplace screen

Especially during the holidays, the fireplace hearth and mantel make irresistible areas to showcase decorations and ornaments. The urge is easy enough to understand: with everyone gathered in the living room or den to spend the holidays together, why not make the fireplace and hearth a stage for all kinds of decorative elements?
Yet cloth, Styrofoam, and other flammable materials can catch fire if struck by sparks or cinders that fly loose from the firebox. Embers and other burning debris can sometimes fly as far as three feet into the surrounding room.

Seniors and their families should take care to keep their hearths clear of decorations if the fireplace is steadily used. Likewise, avoid decorations that hang in front of the firebox unless the firebox opening is reliably covered by a sturdy screen or cover. And yes, sadly, this includes holiday stockings hung from the chimney with care. Hang the stockings after the fire is thoroughly put out if complete screen coverage isn’t available.

To be completely safe, avoid storing firewood near the fireplace. Keep all decorative materials outside a three-foot perimeter from the fireplace, too, including curtains, drapes, furniture, and other decorative elements. For flooring, make sure rugs and carpet are fireproof. Many antique rugs are not, while more modern fire rugs and fire-resistant rugs are available.

Fireproof the Entire Home

Fireplace Safety

Smoke detectors work best when deployed throughout the home, especially around bedrooms and above relaxation areas. Detectors should be tested and their batteries replaced twice a year; families of seniors should help them with these tasks to avoid the danger of falling or tripping off stepladders. Fire safety officials recommend checking smoke detectors during both Daylight Savings Times but especially at the beginning of autumn.

Carbon monoxide detectors are an important safety precaution in any home using a B-vent (also called “natural vent”) fireplace. Clogged B-vent pipes and poorly drafting B-vent fireboxes can allow carbon monoxide to seep into the room, slowly causing illness as their fumes accumulate. Carbon monoxide is heavier than air, so the detectors should be placed near the floor for maximum effectiveness.

Children or families of the hearing-impaired can install smoke detectors and other alarms with flashing lights or other alternative means of communicating an alert.

Seniors with limited or impaired mobility or memory should also use remote-controlled alarm bracelets and pins that will enable them to call for help when emergencies happen.

Houses should have a clear evacuation path marked out, both from living and sleeping areas. Families of seniors with impaired mobility should speak with their local fire station, supplying any necessary information regarding the seniors’ home floorplan.

The U.S. Fire Administration publishes a free guide to comprehensive fire safety for people over 50. The guide is available at the USFA website.

Fireplace Renovation

From time to time, every home’s fireplace needs some fixing up. Whether from normal wear and tear or just the changing whims of style, your home’s fireplace is a great focus for your remodeling creativity.

Unify Your Fireplace and Room Designs

A big part of understanding how to best update or renovate your fireplace lies in understanding the room surrounding it. Take stock of your design scheme. Is it modern? Classic? Does it fit a particular motif? (Colonial, Southwest, Asian, et cetera.) If you’re renovating the room as well as the fireplace, you should consider making the fireplace one of the room’s main design “anchors.”

Though the classic image of the fireplace involves rustic or classic Americana design schemes, in fact the fireplace remains perfectly suitable for any decorative ambition. The most sweeping – that is to say the most readily apparent – changes will come when you alter the surround (the area around the fireplace’s opening), the mantel, and the interior portion of the chimney.

Re-stain or Resurface Your Chimney

In terms of fashion, brick chimneys and mantels are often the worst offenders when it comes to looking outdated. Bare, “natural finish” brick and heavy wooden mantels can weigh down otherwise careful room renovation plans, throwing the room’s design balance out of whack. Fortunately, they’re some of the easiest elements to change.

A fresh coat of white paint will brighten not just your brick chimney but help to brighten and enliven the entire room. Installing a larger surround that complements the room’s new color palette will also help minimize the brick’s presence in the finished room. Surrounds are also great ways to add texture and contrast: using a tile, metal, or ceramic model can give a room depth and nuance that ordinary paint sometimes cannot.

Upgrade to a Decorative Surround

Fireplace Renovation

Instead of constructing a surround out of materials, using a surround component provides a strong decorative voice that can serve as a centerpiece for the fireplace renovation as a whole. Surrounds also work powerfully as contrast to the chimneys behind them.

When replacing your surround, it’s also a good idea to go ahead and update your flashing (the filler between the fireplace insert and the surround or firebox edge) as well as your fireplace or insert’s decorative panels. Replacing all three components will give your fireplace the fully restored look that will complement the renovated room or chimney to its ultimate degree.

Replace Your Mantel

Mantels don’t have to be strictly contemporary. In fact, classic- and traditional-styled – even retro – mantels often make the most interesting visual elements. Remember, too, that mantels range in size from simple shelves to elaborate hand-carved wood or stone centerpieces.

Keep the mantel at the same size scale as the furniture surrounding the fireplace. If your end tables and coffee table are relatively small, the mantel should be small as well.

Install a Fireplace Insert For Greater Efficiency, Convenience

 

Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts are self-contained but fit comfortably within the firebox, or opening, of your existing fireplace. Some are direct vent, meaning they use a ventilation shaft, while others are entirely self-sealed. Besides the traditional wood-burning fireplace insert, there are also electric, propane, and natural gas burning models.

Inserts provide greater energy efficiency by more effectively containing the heat they produce when compared to traditional fireplaces. Heat is not lost through the chimney but redirected back out towards the room.

Install New Accessories For the Fireplace and Chimney

Don’t let this step’s place on the list fool you: the new accessories you select for your fireplace and chimney should be more than an afterthought. A new grate will make your firebox seem instantly alive (when installed after a thorough cleaning), and a new tending kit will likewise energize your hearth. For the chimney, a mirror above the mantel will make your room brighter but can also make it seem larger.

Finally, your fireplace can remain a place of light and warmth in the spring and summer by burning candles in the firebox and atop the mantle. Use different-sized candles within the firebox and hearth, and a simple string of tea lights on the mantle to create a charming mood, day or night. Warm weather, after all, is no reason not to enjoy a newly renovated fireplace.

Fireplace InsertsIn fifteen words or less, can you describe what a fireplace insert does?

It’s a tough definition. The name “fireplace insert” isn’t entirely descriptive of its renovation potential, or its unique ability to make old fireplaces fully functional again without the need for extensive reconstruction. They also tend to offer greater fuel efficiency than traditional, chimney based fireplaces thanks to their comparatively more modern design and construction.
In the simplest terms, fireplace inserts are fully self-contained fireplaces that are placed inside the firebox (the open area at the bottom of the chimney) of an existing fireplace. Several different manufacturers offer them in many different styles, and there are additional accessories and add-ons that help increase the beauty of their physical appearance.

Different Kinds of Inserts, Different Kinds of Fuel – Wood, Gas, and Electric

Fireplace inserts can be organized into three varieties according to fuel type. Though gas fireplace inserts are the most popular with the general public, electric and traditional wood burning fireplace inserts are also available from some manufacturers.

One of the chief advantages to the gas fireplace insert, in terms of fuel variety, lies in its versatility. Many natural gas fireplace inserts are also capable of operating on propane. Some gas fireplace insert models come with propane orifices already attached as a standard accessory; others rely on conversion kits to help them shift from using natural gas to propane.

Electrical fireplace inserts are prized for their economy and for their low-maintenance construction. Of course, traditionalists will insist on the classic wood-burning fireplace insert. As a means of giving a second life to an existing fireplace, the wood-burning fireplace insert does offer a one-step solution. When choosing which fireplace insert is the best option for your home, consider what fuel type works best for you, and what venting capabilities your home or fireplace already possesses.

How to Choose A Venting System

Fireplace InsertsIn most cases, fireplace inserts will use one of two venting systems, or ways to remove their exhaust. Direct vent fireplace inserts function much the same as traditional fireplaces, with exhaust funneled through the fireplace chimney. One advantage of the fireplace insert over the fireplace itself is that the combustion exhaust is kept sealed and away from the room air. This provides a cleaner, safer fire than conventional fireplaces can offer.

Vent free fireplace inserts are entirely self-contained. They produce no harmful byproducts, and burn cleaner than direct vent and conventional fireplace models. They also offer additional energy efficiency than direct vent fireplace inserts, since they are able to retain all the heat they produce rather than allow some heat attrition through the vent. Vent free fireplace inserts also provide the opportunity to make older fireplaces with non-functioning chimneys usable again. The insert simply fits inside the old firebox but does not use the chimney flue.

Installing a Fireplace Insert – Models and Accessories

Fireplace insert models are much like motorcycles, cars, or other heavy machinery. There’s a wide selection of accessories to fit most models, and getting your fireplace insert up to top functioning capacity – and appearance – will likely involve investing in some optional extras.

Surround kits are sold to help frame your fireplace insert within the firebox, giving it a seamless, “built-in” appearance. Surround kits may include flashings, which close the gap between the fireplace insert edge and the edge of the firebox, and fronts, which fit over the fireplace insert and work to conceal that gap.

Other optional fireplace insert accessories include decorative panels that fit inside the insert itself, safety screens, and operable front doors. Such accessories vary by manufacturer and model, so it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right accessories at the time of purchase to avoid the hassle of returns and exchanges.

Gas FireplacesMarch 20 marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, meaning the days and nights of enjoying your gas-burning fireplaces are nearing a close for another year. Your spring cleaning plans should definitely include your gas fireplace, as keeping it clean and in top running condition helps add years to its life while helping make sure you, your family and pets are at their safest in your home.

Clean All Vents and Check All Valves

A licensed gas technician should inspect your fireplaces’s vents at least once a year, ideally at the beginning and end of each cold weather season. The technician will check for any stoppages, cracks or other malfunctions that can lead to the fireplace not working properly.

The fireplace’s valves should also be checked and inspected, Some fireplace owners may wish to turn the gas line off with the coming of warm weather, extinguishing the pilot light; in more humid summer climates, keeping the pilot light burning low will help to keep humidity from accumulating inside the firebox.

Cleaning Out The Firebox

Although the gas-burning logs, coals, or stones can be removed from the gas fireplace, they should never be rearranged from their factory-set conditions. Altering their configuration can cause malfunction and – in some cases – a possible gas leak. If this happens, consult a gas technician for help in resetting them.

Gas logs, stones, and coals can all be cleaned by scrubbing them outside with a soft-bristled brush. Vacuum the firebox, making sure to use nozzle attachments to thoroughly clean any nooks or crannies in which trash or dust has accumulated. As the spring and summer seasons stretch on, additional vacuuming will likely become necessary to remove dust, pet hair, and other contaminants that can pose a danger when the gas fireplace is re-ignited come winter.

Gas Fireplaces

A gas key with a Victorian motif

Pet- and Child-Proof The Firebox

Gas fireplaces sitting idle for weeks or months can sometimes become a source of curiosity to small children and pets. Make sure the firebox is closed off using a screen or cover, as pets and small children can shake lose or damage pipes and valves by climbing inside the firebox.

Wood Fireplace

Even though the wood-burning fireplace remains the most elegant and traditional form of home heating, it also needs regular supervision and care to remain working in peak condition.

Chimney Maintenance and Repair

Brick, stone, and masonry chimneys are subject to cracks and fissures that develop after prolonged exposure to the elements. In particular, water that seeps into cracks expands when it freezes in chilly weather, creating ice crystals that further weaken the masonry’s integrity. Repairing all such gaps and ruptures helps keep the fireplace working at maximum efficiency.

The tops of chimneys, especially those covered by a hood or bonnet, are a favorite nesting spot for birds and even other forms of wildlife. Using a chimney cap will prevent animals from making their way inside the chimney and creating nests and other structures that can block smoke rising through the flue.

Storms and high winds can also hurl debris into the flue. Fireplace experts recommend cleaning the flue once a year or hiring a professional chimney cleaning company to make sure the flue and top are clean and clear.

Avoiding the Dangers of Creosote

Creosote is a gummy corrosive by-product of burning wood that is left behind when burning oils and gasses mix together along the flue walls. It actually helps create more of itself, as accumulating creosote layers trap more oils and gasses that in turn coalesce into more creosote.

A significant fire hazard that severely hinders proper ventilation, creosote also gives off a noxious odor when exposed to humidity. According to the National Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys should be cleaned as soon as creosote buildup reaches 1/8 inch thickness. Factory-built fireplaces should get cleaned whenever creosote buildup becomes readily apparent.

Cleaning the Firebox, Doors and Screens, and Fireplace Tools

Wood Fireplaces

A fireplace cap

The firebox, or area “inside” the fireplace that contains the fire, can be cleaned using warm soapy water or cleansers recommended by the fireplace manufacturer. Experts additionally recommend using a manufacturer-recommended creosote remover and wire brush to remove deposits inside the firebox, while screens and doors can be cleaned with regular household solutions. Brass fireplace tools can be cleaned without scratching using Worcestershire sauce and a dry rag.

Finally, use an ash vacuum to remove soot, debris, and creosote from the firebox and hearth. The ash vacuum’s higher filtration capacity will make sure no particulate matter escapes into the surrounding room.

Gas FireplacesGas fireplaces offer their users a unique combination: the elegant, traditional charm of a wood-burning fireplace as well as the convenience and technology of electric models. However, gas-burning fireplaces share many of the same maintenance and care requirements as both wood-burning and electric fireplaces. Owners need to take regular precautions to keep their units in top operating condition.

When to Get Your Gas Fireplace Inspected

Owners of gas fireplaces that use vents should have their units inspected at least once a year by a licensed gas technician, who will ascertain any malfunction or defect.

Before returning the unit to regular use, experts recommend checking the gas fireplace’s firebox, gas logs and gas lines for any damage or excessive wear and tear. During spring and summer, the gas line’s main valve can be shut off and its ignition key removed, and the pilot light can also be extinguished. On the other hand, some experts recommend leaving the pilot light burning to reduce humidity inside the firebox.

Vents should always remain clean of debris or other non-fireplace materials.

Preventative Care and Cleaning

Logs, coals, or stones in a gas fireplace should never be rearranged as this can present a serious risk of malfunction. Consult a licensed gas technician for help in restoring the logs, coals or stones to their original configuration.

When cleaning, take the parts outside and use cleansers recommended by the manufacturer as well as soft-bristled brush. Clean the firebox by vacuuming dust and other debris from the floor and walls. Clean the glass front panels with an ammonia-free window cleaner.

Never burn any additional materials inside the gas fireplace. This can present an additional fire hazard as well as risk clogging the gas vents with burned-up debris.

Getting Additional Help

Many gas fireplace manufacturers, as well as retailers, offer expert and certified help in answering cleaning and maintenance questions and concerns. In many cases the information is available free of charge to consumers.

Electric Fireplace

Electrical fireplaces offer a much cleaner and low-effort alternative to wood-burning and gas fireplaces, but still share many of the same potential maintenance and care concerns for their owners. Nevertheless, they’re quickly becoming the fireplace of choice for those looking for a modern approach to the most traditional of home heating methods.

Installation

Possibly the greatest advantage of the electric fireplace is its versatility around the house – because they are so low maintenance and produce no debris or soot, they’re easily and cleanly used in every room in the home, including the bathroom (imagine a fireplace above a garden tub), the bedroom, and even the kitchen. Some electric fireplaces are also included inside larger entertainment centers that contain space for televisions and other home electronics.

Maintenance

Electric fireplace owners should regularly inspect their units, to make sure the wiring and components are working properly and in good repair. Though the electric fireplace’s wiring and parts are hard to reach for pets and rodents, some animals may still be able to reach and chew through the wires. Contact the manufacturer or a licensed electrician to assist in repairs if and when this happens.

During the spring and summer, you may wish to unplug the electric fireplace as a safety precaution, and to store the plug out of reach of pets and children.

Cleaning

Both the interior and exterior of the fireplace requires regular cleaning and dusting, but it’s okay to use normal household cleaners and tools. “A can of compressed air or small vacuum will easily clean out any unit’s internals,” says certified fireplace expert Collin Champagne. “If your unit has internal bearings, you can keep these clean with a drop or two of machine oil.”

Owners should also replace the light bulb as recommended by the manufacturer – typically, every two to three years.

Getting help

Besides the instructions packaged with electrical fireplace units, there are any number of resources available by phone, online and by mail from the manufacturer and from fireplace retailers, some of whom employ certified fireplace experts to answer their customers’ questions.