Gas Fireplaces: Safety Concerns and FAQs

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by RF Ohl
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Many people believe that because they have a gas fireplace in their home, they don’t need to worry about having it serviced. Unfortunately, that thought process is flawed and gas fireplaces that never get serviced can become a hazard in the house. Additionally, the efficiency levels of gas fireplaces over their lifespan can drop when they are not serviced.

This video discusses some of these issues as well as some frequently asked questions pertaining to your home’s fireplace.

Video Transcript:

Brett: Hey everybody this is Brett Lewis from L4 group and today I woke up and it’s cold outside. We’re getting to that time of the year it’s getting cold so we are going to be discussing fireplaces and specifically gas fireplaces. Joining us today is Steve Ohl, from RF Ohl and Steve operates a local company that sells and services fireplaces.

They also happened to service and sell heating and air conditioning equipment, deliver heating oil and propane equipment but we’ll get to that near the end of the video. But to start off hello Steve, how are you today?

Steve:  Good how are you?

Brett:  Awesome. So before we start with the fireplace questions why don’t you give our viewers just a little bit of the background on your hearth show room.

Steve: Sure. Started to hurt and patio show room in 1999.  We started selling things that customers started asking us for because we had been in business since 1984; we started hearing a lot of interesting Hurth and patio products. You know log sets, fireplaces, space heaters, different decorative appliances and even outdoor fireplaces things that were starting to become popular, basically what customers are asking us for. We have that, we have many different brands including Heat and Glow, valor, white mountain hearth, Empire, Rena, I’m sure I missing some there’s just so many more, but you know what the top of my head those that come to my mind and you know we just went with what the customers were asking us for and that’s, that’s how we basically got into selling and servicing hearth and patio products.

Brett: That’s awesome. So let’s jump into some of the frequently asked questions on fireplaces. I’m sure you got this one pretty frequently can I keep my entire home with a gas fireplace?

Steve: You know the short and simple answer is you probably could, depending on the size of the house, the layout and how the air flows. The reality is though is that you shouldn’t really try to heat your entire home with essentially what is sometimes a decorative piece or a space heater, you’re much better off with having a professional come in. Us we offer free estimates on heating systems and actually look at the lay out of the entire house and see what the best source to heat for your home because trying to push heat from one source out into the rest of the home if everybody’s ever had a wooden stove or a coal stove it’s so unbearably hot in just one room and they’re like yeah I heat my entire house with this but. The reason is it’s probably 100° in one house and 65 and the other, yet you can probably do it and keep your house from freezing but there will definitely be issues with hot and cold spots so we don’t recommend it but do people do it? Yes. But it’s up to everybody choice but my recommendation would be to get a free estimate from somebody to come take a look at it or hire a professional to come in and assess the situation.

Brett: That’s good advice I had a flashback while you were talking as a kid I grew up in a home that my dad had that great idea to heat the house with a wood fireplace, a wood-burning stove. I spent my summers chopping10 cords of wood every summer, chopping, stacking, letting it dry and then carrying it in during the winter time and you’re right that stove right smack in the middle of the home, really hot in that spot and but then in the out laying rooms really cold.

Steve:  I think every child in the 70s, I think that’s what we did to in the summers chopping wood and cutting wood and the woodstove just ate it. It’s crazy you put so much wood in that thing the modern days ones are so much more efficient still yeah you’d be sitting there in a T-shirt you to have to walk together in the room to get your jacket in the bedroom it was icicles in there.

Brett:  Now here’s another question I have for you. With gas fireplaces do you need a chimney?

Steve:  Do not need a chimney with a lot of the gas fireplaces, some you still can use through the chimney but many of the fireplaces today or what you call direct vent technology or even vent free, need any vent a couple different options and you can still use what they call a bend vent. The old-style venting. Not many companies make those anymore where they actually run a pipe up through the chimney don’t bring in fresh air. The new technology uses fresh air intake that’s a direct vent.

Brett: Installing a gas fireplace today has got to be a lot easier I assume?

Steve:  Yes definitely.

Brett: Cool. So what about the difference between a gas fireplace and a pellet stove?

Steve: Well a gas fireplace is pretty much what it says; it’s using some type of the gas whether it be natural or propane to burn as the main source. Where as a wood pallet is using a solid fuel like the wood pallet and even make corn stoves and you know different cherry pits and all different things that people run through as a solid fuel. A solid fuel could be wood or coal but that’s the main difference between a gas stove and a pellet stove just the source of the fuel. Is what it says it’s a wood pellet it looks like rabbit pellets if anybody has had it that’s what it looks like something like that.

Brett: So back to my earlier question about having a chimney pellet stove I’m assuming need some kind of chimney at that point?

Steve: Definitely, they can be as simple as out the wall style, it can be up above the roofline, but a lot of different variations for the venting for pallet wood stoves as well; they definitely have to be vented.

Brett: What about electricity? Do you need to have electrical power to either a gas stove or pellet stove?

Steve: Gas stoves do not always have to have power, unless you have a fan then you have to power the fan but many times the heating appliance will run without it now on the pellet stove you need to have power because they have to have a blower on there that helps the pallets burn igniting the igniter so you definitely need power with the pellet stove.

Brett: So if someone is looking at potentially heating their home, in a power outage situation it would be possible with the gas depending on the type of fireplace that you have but with the pellet stove you’d have to have another source of electricity.

Steve: With a gas or propane stove they have many different styles some do need electricity but you can get ones with battery backups there’s different things. On the pallet side pretty much it would have to be like a standby generator type to power that so many customers have installed that. If you look right over my shoulder here you’ll see vent free heaters on the wall many customers have installed that as a backup, they’re only a couple hundred dollars so when the powers out they just go use those instead of the pellet stove.

Brett: Okay what about some safety issues, can you discuss whether it’s gas or pallet source propane or whatever. You talk about some safety tips and what homeowners should be considering when they’re operating the fireplace or stove.

Steve:  The number one thing is definitely have a professional look at it once a year because years ago, I’m going back a few years but people would install these things and have a general contractor come in and install it and they were just in their infancy many of the people who installed these things didn’t understand that they needed to be tuned up and checked out on a periodic basis or they just thought maybe I’ll just installed this and they don’t bother with the service call. That’s what happened for so many years everyone was told just put a gas appliance and you don’t have to check you don’t have to do anything it will be okay well, the reality is you do have to check it many of them have pallets on them they have igniters, things that can get dust and lint, pet hair or clog them up and make them burn inconsistently and setting those are all things you don’t want in your house.

So we would definitely recommend an annual tune-up done by a professional, the other thing is like a CO detector you want to make sure that you have a source for when you have an internal combustion inside your home you have a carbon monoxide detector just in case there is an issue, they also make propane and natural gas detectors if you would have a leak or anything like that they go off and there’s even combination units that you can get for carbon monoxide to and natural gas or propane. So those are some of the things, the other thing is if they are vented you might want to have somebody inspect the venting to make sure no birds build nests in the outside or a kid hit with a baseball bat never told his parents and they never noticed it, know we’ve had things like that. Check out on a vending products that would be the main thing.

You want to make sure that you’re not smoking in the house, you’re not burning candles, incense, heavy perfumes, could cleaning products while you’re operating the heaters because vent frees are basically taking the indoor Air and cycling through to burn so if you have particles in the air that’s how we smell the particles hit the flame they burn up and they create setting. Don’t want to operate that stove if you smoke or like candles like I mentioned all those kind of things. And vent free stoves are even more important to have serviced annually just because there is no event to dispel any of the stuff that it’s not burning properly there you can definitely have an issue, but you know they are perfectly safe both kinds, it’s just using them and respecting them for the way they were intended to be used.

Brett: That makes a lot of sense. I think about the particles in the air having basically sucked back in and burning up, that’s interesting.

Steve: Many people don’t understand that if there’s a smell that means there’s a small amount of particles in the air and that you are smelling, going into your nose that means it can be burned up. That’s usually the issue when people say they smell that something is happening with their fireplace we usually run down a list and one of them is usually candles or incense or perfumes. And 99% it’s like oh yeah I was burning some kind of plug-in candle or incense of some kind or perfume that’s usually the issue.

Brett:   Interesting. And so that wraps up the questions I had on the fireplaces and I’m glad that you expended on the safety because I think that’s really important. In addition to fireplaces now RF Ohl is involved in a lot of things, can you give us a rundown on what else you provide as far as products and services.

Steve:  Sure. We are a heating oil and propane delivery company, also on road diesel fuel and off-road diesel fuel, and kerosene. We have a full heating and air conditioning system repair and installation, The vision that does all the HVAC related items we install keep bumps, boilers, furnaces, for propane or natural gas and electric and we also have like I mentioned the earth and patio show room, where we sell fireplaces, space heaters, retractable awnings, barbecue grills, all kind of barbecue grill accessories, charcoal grills, outdoor fire pits, space heating for outdoors, so we have many different things that we do and that we service and we service about the 50 mile radius.

Brett:  That’s awesome. For people that want to get more information or contact you the web address is www.rfohl.com why don’t you give everybody your address and your phone number and any other contact info.

Steve: Sure. The address is 400 Interchange Rd. Lehighton, PA. That’s route 209 right next to Wen’s auto body you can’t miss us we’re right along the road. Our phone number is 610-377-1098 and you know go on our website we have Facebook and Twitter email if you’d like to email us is info@rfohl.com.

Brett:  Awesome. And one less thing to wrap up is just touch on your services area whether it’s someone who wants to buy a fireplace and have it installed or a heating system that needs to be serviced or oil delivery just touch on the mile radius or the counties that you service.

Steve:   We operate in a 50 mile radius of Lehighton PA approximately we cover 5 counties which is Northampton County, Lehigh County, Schuylkill County, Monroe County, Carbon county. We also touch on parts of Luzerne County and Berks County.  We cover 82 ZIP Codes so if you’re not sure where our location is you can always call us and will tell you if we service that area or not we cover the Lehigh Valley the Pocono’s pretty much north eastern PA.

Brett:  Awesome. Well Steve I want to say thanks for taking time out of your day today to talk about fireplaces and answering some questions just cussing some safety issues so thanks again.

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