Gas Fireplace Pilot Light

Do Gas Fireplaces Need Electricity?

In Gas Fireplaces by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

In order for the pilot light and flames to be started in a gas fireplace there needs to be an initial ignition of the pilot.

Many gas fireplaces, like our own natural vent gas fireplace, will use a spark ignition system to help the pilot to catch alight, but does this mean that gas fireplaces need electricity in order for this spark ignition system and other components to work?

Older models of gas fireplace that utilize continuous standing pilot lights may not require electricity. Newer models of gas fireplace that use an intermittent pilot ignition system will typically need an electrical supply but may have a backup system in case of power outages

Our relatively old model of gas fireplace was installed within an existing masonry fireplace and does not need to be connected to a power supply such as the home electrics to function, but this may not be the case for newer and more modern versions of gas fireplace.

We’ve therefore explained in more detail below using our own gas fireplace as an example:

  • Which types of gas fireplace will need electricity and why.
  • Whether a gas fireplace can be used when the power is out.

Do Gas Fireplaces Need Electricity?

Gas fireplaces are a form of fireplace that traditionally didn’t typically need a source of electricity in order to work.

Although gas fireplaces need a spark in order to start the pilot light and flames, in the majority of cases gas fireplaces traditionally had their own standalone ignition system that didn’t need an electrical supply.

The spark required to light the pilot of a gas fireplace is usually provided through a thermopile (which can also be referred to as a thermocouple) that’s integrated into the pilot light system.

A thermopile/thermocouple can generate its own small amounts of electricity in order to provide the spark for the pilot light to start.

As an example, our gas fireplace insert isn’t connected up to the home electrics but uses a thermocouple spark ignition system to start the pilot light.

Gas Fireplace Pilot Light
The pilot light on our particular gas fireplace doesn’t need an electrical supply to work

The spark can be generated, and the pilot flame started, by using the controls located at the underside front of this gas fireplace.

Turning this control through the spark ignition position to the pilot light position allows the pilot light to be started, all without the need for a source of electricity from the house.

Gas Fireplace Controls
Turning the controls through the spark (symbol) to the pilot helps to turn the gas fireplace on

Our gas fireplace is a natural vent gas fireplace meaning that fresh air is vented from the room and waste air is exhausted from the house through the chimney above the masonry fireplace in which this gas fireplace sits.

This particular gas fireplace isn’t connected to the home electrics, either through a standard electrical outlet plug or wired directly into the electrics, and is only connected up to the house gas mains.

Our gas fireplace also doesn’t have any form of blower to force warm air out into the room through convection but instead relies solely on radiating the heat out into the room to provide warmth.

However, our gas fireplace is an older model from the early 2000’s and although this particular gas fireplace doesn’t require a source of electricity, many modern gas fireplaces will require a connection to the home electrics.

Our gas fireplace uses a standing pilot light, which once lit using the thermocouple/thermopile, keeps burning to allow us to use the gas fireplace within an instant.

This method of having a pilot light on continuously can be seen wasteful, and so many modern models of gas fireplace incorporate an Intermittent Pilot Ignition (IPI) system where the home electrical supply is used to provide the spark that starts the pilot light as and when required.

An electrical supply to a gas fireplace using an IPI system helps that gas fireplace to provide the spark needed to start the fireplace time and time again, without the need to have a standing pilot light on even when the fireplace isn’t in use.

If you’re looking to buy a gas fireplace it’s therefore important to check with the seller or manufacturer of a particular gas fireplace whether the unit needs electricity or not (if you can’t easily find the answer).

If a gas fireplace does require an electrical supply, the appliance may come with a standard power cord but this may differ between each model of gas fireplace that needs electricity.

Gas fireplaces that need electricity should be installed in line with national or local codes and building regulations for your particular area of residence and per the manufacturer’s installation instructions. A gas fireplace may need to be electrically grounded, for instance.

Do Ventless Gas Fireplaces Need Electricity?

Ventless gas fireplaces typically require a source of electricity, usually using a standard electrical outlet supply. Ventless gas fireplaces, along with other types of gas fireplace, will also typically have a backup battery compartment in case of power outages.

Can You Run A Gas Fireplace When Power Is Out?

Traditional models of gas fireplace that aren’t connected to an electrical supply can still be used when the power is out. Many newer models of gas fireplace that need electricity have backup battery compartments that allow them to be used when power is out.

Our own gas fireplace is a natural vent model that uses a traditional vertical pilot light with integrated thermocouple to start the flames. This type of gas fireplace isn’t connected up the mains electrics and so there won’t be a problem running the fireplace if the power goes out.

This can be typical for many other traditional natural vent gas fireplaces. The spark is often generated within the gas fireplace itself without any electrical assistance, and the ‘standing’ pilot light that can be left on all the time means that a power outage wouldn’t be an issue.

A natural vent gas fireplace (that sits within an existing masonry fireplace and utilises the chimney for exhausting waste fumes) can therefore also be started and used when the power is out because mains electricity isn’t required to provide the spark.

Natural Vent Gas Fireplace With Chimney
Our natural vent gas fireplace doesn’t have an electricity supply and so can be used when the power is out

Many more modern types of gas fireplaces (compared to ours) will require plugging into the house electrics when the fireplace is installed.

This means that these newer types of gas fireplace use an electrical supply to provide the spark every time the fireplace is lit. This helps prevent gas from being wasted when the fireplace isn’t in use as it would be with a traditional standing pilot light, but it also means that the mains electricity can’t be used to provide the spark for a gas fireplace if the power goes out.

However, many modern gas fireplaces that require an electrical supply will also have a backup system in case of a power outage.

This is often in the form of a battery compartment where a few batteries of standard size can be inserted to help provide the spark for the pilot light while the power is out.

It’s usually recommended that the batteries are removed from a gas fireplace until needed again in another power cut.

Direct Vent Gas Fireplace
Many modern gas fireplaces may need an electricity supply but many can still be used when the power is out because of integrated battery backup systems to provide the spark

If a gas fireplace has a blower to help circulate warm air around a room then it’s likely that this can’t be used if the power goes out. However, gas fireplaces radiate heat as well as through convection with a blower and so a gas fireplace will still be able to provide heat in case of a power outage.

Whether a gas fireplace can be used or not during a power cut will differ between each model. Although many gas fireplaces provide backup solutions for when power is out, it’s always worth checking whether this is possible with a particular model of gas fireplace.

Further Reading

Are Gas Fireplaces Worth Buying?

Gas Fireplace Venting Requirements

Do Gas Fireplaces Have Real Flames And Give Off Heat?

Do Gas Fireplaces Need A Chimney?

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