Q: My gas log fireplace worked just fine last winter, but I couldn’t light the pilot light this fall. There’s no brand name on the log so I don’t know where or whom to call for instructions. Can you help?
A: There are different types of gas logs, and it would have helped to know which type you have. There are vented gas logs and unvented or “vent free” logs. Both types of logs may or may not have a remote control feature. Usually, either type of log can be fueled by natural or propane gas (depending on the gas valve that is installed).
Your problem may be as simple as having an empty propane supply tank. If you have a chimney or flue for the fireplace it is more likely you have a vented gas log, although a vent free gas log can be used as long as the damper is fully closed. Because of health concerns, possible carbon monoxide poisoning and fire hazards, do not install a vented gas log in a non-venting fireplace or other enclosure.
There are many in the industry who even resist using the vent free gas logs in any enclosed space. All of the by-products of combustion of the natural or propane gas will be trapped in the room with the vent free gas logs. Some people complain of the odors while others complain of headaches and other health problems. However, vent free gas logs tend to be more efficient.
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If you have a remote control, first make sure the batteries have been replaced in the control units. Next make sure the gas is turned on to the log. There should be a shutoff valve near the fireplace. I have found the shutoff valves inside the fireplace, under the fireplace or in a cabinet next to the fireplace.
With the gas on, push in and hold the pilot valve while igniting the pilot light. Once the pilot is lit, hold the pilot valve in for 60 seconds. This allows the pilot flame to heat the thermocouple attached to the log. After 60 seconds release the pilot valve and turn the log’s operating valve “on” making sure you are clear of the log. If the pilot does not stay on, you may have a defective thermocouple.
Some thermocouples can be easily replaced; just make sure to purchase the correct length and fitting of the replacement thermocouple. If the pilot light flickers and then goes out, the gas pressure may be low. Have a plumber check the gas pressure to your home or even at the gas log. You can also try cleaning the pilot tube using a can of compressed air used for dusting.
Note: you MUST make sure the gas is off and there are no flames present prior to using an aerosol duster. Spray air around and into the end of the pilot tube opening and at the small air intake on the side of the pilot tube. If the pilot still fails, contact a qualified service technician to repair the gas log.