How to Start a Gas Fireplace for Comfy Evenings at Home

Follow these essential safety tips before lighting a fire.

A glowing fireplace brings warmth and a cozy ambience to chilly evenings. Building a fire with wood and kindling requires a certain level of skill, but gas-powered fireplaces make it easy to spark a toasty fire—and no poking or tending is required. Shielded by glass, gas fires can heat an entire room without emitting smoke or leaving messy ashes behind.

Gas fireplaces are typically lit using a pilot light. This small flame stays on continuously, so you can light a fire whenever you like. Although the specific steps for how to start a gas fireplace will depend on your exact model, most are ignited using a control panel, key, wall switch, or remote. We've outlined some of the most common methods below, as well as what to do if your fireplace won't start.

Before attempting to light your fireplace, refer to the owner's manual for information on how the unit operates. It's also important to follow the proper safety precautions. Keep all flammable objects at least three feet away from the fireplace, and to avoid burns, don't touch the glass shield. Ensure your carbon monoxide detectors are working, and have your gas fireplace inspected annually. If you start to smell gas when you're trying to light your fireplace, turn off the gas supply, leave the house, and call an expert.

woman sitting by the fire with a glass of wine
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How to Light a Gas Fireplace with the Control Panel

Many modern gas fireplaces feature a control panel that allows you to ignite and manage the flames. These controls are often hidden behind a front screen or decorative panel that you can open or remove for access. Follow these steps for using the control panel.

  • Step 1: Remove the screen or cover to access the control panel. In many cases, you can simply pull off the cover.
  • Step 2: Locate the control knob that reads "on," "off," and "pilot." If the fireplace was on, but has gone out, turn the knob to the off position and wait at least five minutes to allow any lingering gas to disperse.
  • Step 3: If your fireplace includes a gas shutoff valve, make sure it's open. The knob or switch should be parallel to the gas line.
  • Step 4: Twist the control knob to the pilot position and push in the knob to start the flow of gas.
  • Step 5: Press the ignition switch, which is typically a red button, about once every second until the fireplace lights. It may take several pushes to ignite, depending on how long it's been since you last lit the fireplace.
  • Step 6: Continue holding down the control knob for at least 30 seconds to ensure the flame stays lit.
  • Step 7: Release the knob. If the flame stays lit, move the knob to the on position and replace the fireplace cover.

How to Start a Gas Fireplace with a Key

Some gas fireplaces use a metal key to turn on the gas flow and start the flames. Use these instructions for starting with a key.

  • Step 1: Remove the outer cover of the fireplace to access the burner.
  • Step 2: Locate the metal keyhole near the fireplace. This small, round slot could be located on the floor in front of the fireplace, or on the surrounding wall.
  • Step 3: Insert the key into the keyhole until it locks in place.
  • Step 4: Ignite a long lighter and place it next to the pilot burner.
  • Step 5: Turn the key counterclockwise to start the flow of gas and light the pilot.
  • Step 6: Rotate the key in the keyhole to adjust the height of the flames.

How to Turn On a Gas Fireplace with a Wall Switch or Remote

Some gas fireplaces use electricity to ignite and adjust the flames. If your unit is operated by a wall switch or remote, you should be able to simply push the button or flip the switch to the "on" position to get it to start. Note that gas fireplaces with an electric ignition typically will not work if the power is out.

What to Do if Your Gas Fireplace Won't Start

Several issues could contribute to a gas fireplace not lighting. First, check that the pilot is lit. Strong drafts or interruptions in the gas flow can cause the pilot light to go out, making it difficult to start the flames. In this case, you'll simply need to relight the pilot manually. Check to see whether the gas valve is open and gas is reaching the fireplace. A lack of power might also create problems. If the unit is operated by a remote, test whether the batteries are working properly. A tripped breaker could prevent a fireplace with an electric ignition from lighting. If you've checked these possibilities and your fireplace still won't light, call an expert to have your unit inspected for larger issues.

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