Gas fireplaces differ to many other types of fireplace and stove in that there can be minimal setup requirements in order to light and start a gas fireplace fire.
However, the process of actually getting a gas fireplace to light can be a bit more complicated, especially when using older non-electronic ignition models, as the many control dials and buttons can seem overwhelming at first.
In order to light and start a gas fireplace:
- Ensure to have read the owner’s manual of your particular model of gas fireplace to understand where the controls are, and how they can be reached and operated.
- Check that the gas valve is open, if available.
- Remove the fireplace screen or firefront to access the area where the controls are located, which are typically found at the base of the unit.
- Ensure that the controls are set to the ‘Off’ position, if not already. Depending on what your manual states, you may need to wait a short while after turning a gas fireplace off before attempting to light.
- Turn the control dial from the ‘Off’ position to the ‘Pilot’ position, through any spark clicks. On some gas fireplaces this alone may start the pilot light. Other gas fireplaces may have a separate spark ignitor button that needs to be pressed alongside the dial. You may need to press the dial in to turn it and may also need to hold the dial depressed at the ‘Pilot’ position for a short while to ensure that the pilot stays alight.
- Check the pilot has lit, which can be found as part of the ignition system often within the burner assembly at the base of a gas fireplace.
- If the pilot doesn’t light, return the control dial to the off position and try again. You may need to wait a certain length of time in between tries in line with what is stated in the manual.
- Reattach or return the cover to the controls.
We’ve used our own natural vent gas fireplace insert to explain in more detail through the rest of this article how to light and start a gas fireplace.
This article provides high level guidance on how to light a gas fireplace, as a guide that should be used for reference only.
You must always follow the steps as outlined by the owner’s manual for your particular gas fireplace.
Be sure to have a working carbon monoxide detector nearby, and check that it’s working before lighting a gas fireplace.
How To Light A Gas Fireplace Pilot
The type of gas fireplace you have, including the make and model, can influence what set of controls the fireplace will have and how you can use them to light a fire.
Our own gas fireplace is an older insert version that has a standing pilot ignition rather than an intermittent pilot ignition and so we’ve shown how we light a fire using our own particular model of gas fireplace.
However, we’ve also covered how to light other types of gas fireplace that may have different controls to ours as we know not all gas fireplaces are operated the same.
Before lighting and starting any gas fireplace ensure that any vents or chimneys are free from obstruction, any dampers are wide open, any chimneys have been swept within the last year and that the gas fireplace has been looked at and/or serviced by a professional within the last year.
Each make and model of gas fireplace is designed and operated differently. Get a local professional to take you through how to use your own particular gas fireplace if you aren’t sure.
1. Check The Owner’s Manual
As each gas fireplace can be operated differently it’s important to first check for your particular model of fireplace:
- Where the controls are located
- How they can be accessed
- How they can be used to light the gas fireplace
You’ll be able to find out the above in the instruction manual for your fireplace.
Your gas fireplace should have come with a paper version of the owner’s manual. If it didn’t, you’ve lost it or have bought a house with a gas fireplace but can’t find the manual, you’ll need to look up an electronic copy of it online.
To determine what make and model of gas fireplace you have, look for a rating/data plate somewhere on the unit.
Our gas insert came pre-installed within the living room fireplace when the house was bought but the manual was nowhere to be found. We therefore looked behind the firefront (the part covering the controls) and found the data plate located to the left of the controls within the burner assembly.
We then used the information displayed on this plate to look up and find the right instructions for this particular model of gas fireplace, which were needed to help us understand what exactly we needed to do to be able to light it safely and effectively.
You can also contact the manufacturer using the information from the data plate if you’re unable to find the right electronic copy of the instruction manual.
Before lighting our gas fireplace for the first we read through the owner’s manual thoroughly so that we knew how to light the fireplace without trying to figure it out ourselves, including how the controls could be reached and what small little processes we needed to undertake to get the pilot to light (such as holding the control dial depressed in a certain position for a certain length of time).
2. Check The Gas Valve
Gas is the fuel used in a gas fireplace and so the fireplace will be supplied with gas from somewhere in the home, such as the house gas main.
A gas fireplace will typically have some form of shut-off valve to isolate the gas from the fireplace when it’s not in use.
For example, our gas fireplace has a shut-off valve located around the side of the surround and hearth.
A gas valve will need to be turned on (if it isn’t already) in order to be able to light a gas fireplace.
Our gas valve is shown in the pictures to be shut as these pictures were taken during summer when the fireplace wasn’t being used.
When it comes round to lighting this gas fireplace for winter, we’ll need to open this valve to allow the gas to get to the fireplace.
You can typically tell whether a gas fireplace valve is open or closed by checking the direction of the handle.
If the handle is facing perpendicular (at a right angle) to the pipe then the valve is typically closed.
If the hand is facing parallel (the same way) as the pipe then the valve is typically open.
Gas fireplace valves may also commonly be located within the fireplace itself near to where the controls are found.
3. Access The Gas Fireplace Controls
In order to light and start a gas fireplace, the controls must be found and accessed.
The controls to operate a gas fireplace are typically found on the fireplace itself, often towards the base of the unit.
However, for looks purposes, gas fireplace controls are typically hidden away behind some sort of cover, which depending on the gas fireplace could be:
- A firefront
- A screen
Our particular model of gas fireplace has a firefront that hides the burner assembly (including the controls) behind.
As this part simply stands on the hearth separate to the gas fireplace unit it can easily be removed to access the controls on the fireplace.
The controls can then be found right in the middle of the burner assembly behind the firefront, with ease of access to light our gas fireplace.
4. Ensure The Controls Are Set To ‘Off’
Before lighting a gas fireplace you’ll need to ensure that the controls are set to the ‘Off’ position.
This can be particularly important for older models of gas fireplace (like ours) where you’ll need to turn a dial through a certain set of position before getting the pilot to light.
For example, the below shows the control dial for our gas fireplace slightly out of position (at the time of accessing the controls to take the photo).
We simply needed to depress the dial and turn it clockwise until it’s at the 12 o’clock position before attempting to light the fireplace.
If the controls weren’t set to off then turn them off before starting the lighting process.
5. Turn The Controls To The ‘Pilot’ Position
Turning the controls on a gas fireplace to the ‘Pilot’ position attempts to light the pilot flame, which once lit, depending on the model of gas fireplace, can then be left on throughout the duration of the fireplace’s use (such as through winter), to help start the main burner and flames on demand.
The owner’s manual for your individual gas fireplace will detail the exact process you need to follow for your own particular model of fireplace.
As an example, below are the steps that we follow to light our pilot in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Depress (push in) the control dial and turn anticlockwise through the ‘Spark’ position.
- Keep the dial depressed and held at the ‘Spark’ position for a few seconds (or longer if the fireplace hasn’t been used in a longer period of time to allow for the purging of air in the pipes).
- Turn the dial further anticlockwise to the ‘Pilot’ position located at 9 o’clock.
- Hold the dial depressed at the ‘Pilot’ position for around 10 seconds.
- Releasing the dial from a depressed state (but still in the ‘Pilot’ position) should allow the pilot to remain alight if the above procedures have been followed correctly.
An arrow, marking or other indicator will provide guidance on which setting on the controls it is currently set to.
Our gas fireplace has an arrow-like shape on the dial that points to the position on the controls. Other fireplaces may have setting positions on the dial itself with a marking on the unit to highlight which setting is currently selected.
From the ‘Off’ position located on the control dial of a gas fireplace, turn the dial (clockwise or anticlockwise depending on the model) through to the ‘Spark’ position (if it has one).
You may hear clicking sounds from the fireplace as part of this process.
The ‘Spark’ position may be highlighted on the controls on your gas fireplace by the word spark or by a spark symbol (as is with our fireplace).
Depending on how the controls on your gas fireplace work, you may need depress (push in) the control dial in order to turn it.
You may also need to hold the dial depressed within this ‘Spark’ position for a short while, or longer if the fireplace hasn’t been used for a longer period of time. Seek guidance from your manual.
The manual to our gas fireplace explains:
‘Push the control knob in fully and turn anti-clockwise through the spark position, keeping fully depressed, hold it there for a few seconds. If the fire has not been used for some time, hold this knob in this position for longer, to allow any air in the pipes to be purged.’Focal Point Fires
Once the spark process has been completed, if required, turn the dial further to the ‘Pilot’ position.
Much like the spark position, you may need to hold the dial in the ‘Pilot’ position for a certain length of time before releasing the dial.
Our guidance explains:
‘When the pilot lights after one of the sparks, keep the knob depressed in the nine o’clock position for approximately 10 seconds. Now release the knob and the pilot should stay alight.’Focal Point Fires
Many gas fireplaces will have a separate button for the spark.
If your gas fireplace has separate buttons/dials for the off/pilot/on positions and the spark ignition, follow the procedure outlined by the manufacturer within the manual.
This may include turning the dial to the ‘Pilot’ position, pushing the dial in and pressing the spark button to light the gas fireplace.
The procedure commonly followed for lighting a gas fireplace with a dial and separate spark ignitor button can be:
- Turn the dial from the ‘Off’ position to the ‘Pilot’ position. You may need to press the dial in to be able to turn it.
- Continuously press the ignition button to generate the sparks until the pilot lights. The dial may need to be depressed to allow gas to the pilot before using the spark button.
- The dial (at the pilot position) may need to be held down for a certain length of time after the pilot has lit to allow the pilot to stay alight, such as 30 seconds or 1 minute. Check your manual for guidance.
- Release the depressed dial and the pilot should stay on.
- Turn the dial from the ‘Pilot’ position to the ‘On’ position.
The videos below provide guidance on how you can light a gas fireplace that has a dials and ignition button as the controls.
As all gas fireplaces are designed and made differently, the controls and the process outlined above for lighting the pilot on a gas fireplace may not be exactly the same for your particular model of fireplace.
Always refer the owner’s manual for your version of gas fireplace or speak to a professional if unsure.
6. Check That The Pilot Has Lit
The pilot on a gas fireplace is typically more hidden away compared to the controls and so you may need to do some searching to find the ignition system in order to check whether the pilot has lit correctly or not.
On our gas fireplace, the pilot is located to the left of the controls within the burner assembly area.
The manual for our fireplace explains:
‘The pilot is visible through the left hand side of ceramic fuel matrix. When cold, the coals may be rotated for good viewing.’Focal Point Fires
We can therefore check whether our pilot flame has lit by looking down at it from above the coals.
Or we can look from below where the controls are located.
Check the manual to your own gas fireplace for guidance on how you can locate and check whether the pilot has successfully lit.
7. If Lighting Has Failed, Try Again
The pilot may not always light first time.
You may need to repeat the above process (or whatever is stated in your particular instruction manual) two or more times in order to get the pilot flame to stay lit.
If our pilot doesn’t light during ignition then the manual to our gas fireplace explains to try the ignition procedure again.
‘Continue turning anti-clockwise through the spark clicks to the nine o’clock position, ensuring the pilot has lit. If not, return the knob clockwise, and repeat.’Focal Point Fires
If a gas fireplace pilot goes out during use then you will also need to restart the ignition process, but potentially wait a short period of time before trying again.
For our particular model of gas fireplace, we’re asked to:
‘If the pilot is extinguished during use, wait three minutes before repeating the ignition procedure’.Focal Point Fires
Check the owner’s manual for your gas fireplace for specific guidance on how to restart the ignition process if it didn’t work first time.
8) Replace The Screen Or Cover
Once the gas fireplace has been lit, you can use the controls to start the main burner and adjust the size of the flames, and then replace the screen or cover to the fireplace.
For gas fireplaces with standing pilot flames (like ours), the pilot can be left on if you don’t currently want to use the fireplace and reattached the screen or cover.
For our gas fireplace we simply need to put the firefront back in front of the controls.
Lighting Gas Fireplace Pilot Light Troubleshooting
If a gas fireplace is failing to light, it may be due to one or more of the following reasons:
- The gas valve isn’t open or fully open
- The air has not been fully purged
- The pilot is blocked
- The thermocouple is faulty
- Poor gas flow
- The controls haven’t been depressed hard enough or for long enough
Have a professional take a look and/or service the gas fireplace if required if you’re unable to get it to light successfully.
How To Light A Gas Fireplace (With A Key)
Certain models of gas fireplace may require the use of a key in order to be able to light it.
To light a gas fireplace that requires the use of a key:
- Thoroughly read the owner’s manual for that particular gas fireplace to understand the correct lighting procedure.
- Locate the gas fireplace key.
- Remove the access cover to the controls.
- Insert the key into the gas fireplace (but don’t turn yet)
- Wear a heat-resistant glove and use a long lighter or match and place the lit end at the burner.
- Turn the gas key to allow gas into the fireplace.
- With the gas fireplace lit, replace any covers to the fireplace.
Long matches are very useful for lighting gas fireplaces that require a key. See our recommended long matches here.
How To Light A Gas Fireplace (With Electronic Ignition)
More modern fireplaces with improved technology can make the lighting procedure a much easier process.
Gas fireplaces with electronic ignition will typically have a way to light it in the form of a wall switch and/or a remote control.
Simply pressing the wall switch or correct button on a remote control can light a gas fireplace with electronic ignition in an instant.
The video below highlights this process along with maintenance and troubleshooting.
Parts Of A Gas Fireplace Explained