National Fireplace Month: How Wood-burning Fireplace and Gas Fireplace Safety Differ

How safety differs for wood-burning fireplaces and gas fireplaces

It’s October, when sunlit days offer dazzling arrays of brilliant fall foliage, and crisp, cool evenings remind us that soon, we will be enjoying one of winter’s most cherished pastimes – gathering with loved ones around the warmth of a glowing hearth.

After hundreds of years gracing our homes with warmth and ambiance, the fireplace finally got the recognition it deserves when October was declared National Fireplace Month by the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association a few years ago. Fireplaces remain a priority amenity for many homeowners, as 61 percent of North American homes have a fireplace, stove or insert (per a 2016 HPBA consumer survey).

In recognition of National Fireplace Month, we are promoting a key consideration when relishing the glow of a hearth – fireplace safety. The two most popular types of fireplaces are gas fireplaces and wood-burning fireplaces. While some safety measures are similar for both, like ensuring your home is outfitted with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, there are a few key differences.

Safety for Wood-Burning Fireplaces
About 47 percent of hearths, including fireplaces, burn wood. People love wood-burning fireplaces for many reasons – the satisfaction of building fires, and the crackling sounds and rich, natural scents of wood. Wood-burning fireplaces require interaction, and there are several ways to ensure it’s a safe experience for everyone.

  • Building and Enjoying Fires
    • Be picky about the wood you burn. To avoid smoke and minimize creosote build-up in your chimney, make sure it’s dry and seasoned properly. And be sure your fireplace has a safety barrier screen or curtain to prevent embers from leaving the firebox.
    • Fully understand how your fireplace works. The flue (or damper) must be open before starting fires, or you will have a house full of smoke. Keep it open until the fire is diminished and all embers are completely burned.
    • Don’t leave the house or go to bed with a fire still burning. If you leave the room and have small children, have someone watch them or take them with you.
  • Fireplace Up Keep
    • Remove ash from the firebox between fires. When ash forms a thick layer, it can restrict airflow and cause smoke.
    • Have your chimney swept annually to avoid creosote build-up, which can lead to dangerous chimney fires.

Safety for Gas Fireplaces
Of all hearth products, approximately 37 percent are fueled by gas. Gas is convenient, doesn’t require much interaction or maintenance, and the fuel is currently quite inexpensive. There are a few important safety precautions to keep top of mind.

  • All gas fireplaces should have a safety barrier screen on the glass, as it can get very hot. Screens reduce the risk of serious burns by preventing skin from coming into direct contact with the glass. Heat & Glo gas fireplaces and inserts are outfitted with factory-provided protective safety screen barriers. If your fireplace is missing the barrier, click on “Safety Barrier Screen Request” on this page.
  • All parts of a fireplace can get hot, so keep children and pets a safe distance away.
  • Fireplaces remain hot even after they are turned off, so continue to use caution until it’s completely cooled.

Fireplaces have earned prominence as one of the most requested home amenities today. Remember to always enjoy fires safely! More information about gas fireplace safety is available here.

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