Can You Burn Wood in a Gas Fireplace?

Fireplace

A fireplace is just a structure meant to contain a fire. As such, while fireplaces are associated with wood-burning, there are a wide range of fireplaces that use a wide range of other fuels. Examples include but are not limited to coal fireplaces, fireplaces, and gas fireplaces. There are electric fireplaces as well. However, those aren’t true fireplaces. Instead, those are electric heaters that imitate the look of true fireplaces. In any case, some people might be curious whether a fireplace meant for one kind of fuel can use another kind of fuel. For instance, said individuals might wonder whether gas fireplaces can burn wood. If so, people should know that might not be the best question to ask. After all, it is possible to start wood-burning fires in a lot of places. Instead, the better question is whether it is a good idea to burn wood in a gas fireplace, in which case, the answer tends to be some variation on “No.”

The gist of it is that most gas fireplaces aren’t built with wood-burning in mind. As such, if someone chooses to burn wood in a gas fireplace anyways, chances are very good that they will experience trouble of one kind or another. For example, gas fireplaces don’t have the ventilation needed to accommodate wood-burning. Thanks to this, burning wood in a gas fireplace can cause a building to become filled with smoke, which is problematic for a number of reasons. One, smoke is dirty, meaning that interested individuals might have to do some extra clean-up afterwards. Two, smoke is bad for human health, with an excellent example being how breathing in smoke increases both people’s chances of getting lung cancer and people’s chances of getting heart disease. Three, smoke means that this might not be an issue because people won’t live long enough for those medical issues to come up. After all, one of the byproducts of wood-burning is carbon monoxide, which can kill people by replacing the oxygen carried by their red blood cells with itself. Even worse, it is infamous for being an odorless and colorless gas, meaning that people don’t get much warning of its presence beyond symptoms such as nausea, confusion, dizziness, weakness, and a dull headache. Indeed, a lot of people either die or suffer irreversible damage from carbon monoxide poisoning before they are aware of what is going on, particularly if they are either sleeping or intoxicated.

Moving on, burning wood in a gas fireplace can lead to some serious property damage as well. This is because wood fires burn hotter than gas fires, so much so that they can exceed the range of temperatures that gas fireplaces are built to withstand. When that happens, interested individuals should know that a wide range of bad things can happen. For example, the wood-burning fire can heat up the walls around the gas fireplace, thus making it very easy for them to go up in flames. Similarly, the wood-burning fire can heat up the gas fireplace itself, thus causing damage to its various components. Even worse, this is something that can cause explosions. After all, gas fireplaces run on gas, meaning that they have some kind of gas connection by definition. High temperatures from an excessively hot fire in a gas fireplace that was never meant to accommodate such is exactly the kind of scenario that could cause a gas explosion. Something that won’t be good for either the building or anyone and anything caught within the vicinity of the explosion to say the least.

Having said that, it might be possible for a gas fireplace to be converted back into a wood fireplace. Indeed, a lot of gas fireplaces were converted into gas fireplaces from wood fireplaces through the use of gas fireplace inserts, meaning that the option exists to revert that change. Interested individuals should know that this isn’t something that they should try to handle on their own. The previous paragraphs should make it very clear that a lot of things can go wrong when fire is involved. As such, it is best for interested individuals to get the conversion done by a HVAC specialist with the relevant expertise and experience. By doing so, they will maximize the chances of everything going right, thus enabling them to get what they want without running into serious complications along the way. If they try to do these jobs on their own, well, suffice to say that their odds are nowhere near as good unless they also have the relevant expertise and experience.

Besides these, interested individuals should know that gas fireplaces are very much not the same as wood fireplaces that have a gas starter. Wood fireplaces with gas starters are still very much wood fireplaces in the sense that they burn wood. What makes them different from standard wood fireplaces is the gas starter, which is a metal pipe with holes situated throughout it in an even manner. It is placed beneath the log, thus making it very easy for interested individuals to light up the log by just making use of the gas starter rather than make use of more traditional fire-starting methods. Unsurprisingly, gas starters are reliant on a gas connection. As such, they can work even if the power is out, which can prove to be useful during certain times of the year. Of course, gas starters have a lot of rules for ensuring safe use. Something that interested individuals should definitely make use of if they plan on using these mechanisms. For example, they are meant for starting fires and only for starting fires, so it isn’t a good idea to use them to keep fires going afterwards. Similarly, people should only turn on the gas when they are ready to light the fire and double-check to make sure that they have turned off the gas afterwards. Otherwise, well, suffice to say that it isn’t a good idea to leave gas just flowing in. These are but some of the rules, so interested individuals need to make sure that they know all of the others because fire is always something that should be treated with the appropriate respect.

How Can You Take Care of Your Gas Fireplace?

Using gas fireplaces in the right way is important for preventing damage. However, it should be remembered that maintenance can do a great deal to keep them in working condition as well. Some of this maintenance can be done by interested individuals on their own. The rest should be entrusted to reliable and reputable professionals with the right skillset. For starters, gas fireplaces don’t need as much cleaning as their wood-burning counterparts. After all, they aren’t burning wood. Instead, they are burning gas. As a result, gas fireplaces just don’t leave behind the kind of soot that their wood-burning counterparts do, thus making them very low maintenance. Still, they can benefit from somewhat less regular cleaning, which is something that interested individuals can do on their own if they want to. Generally speaking, this process involves double-checking that the gas has been turned off, disassembling the gas fireplace, removing unwanted substances using a combination of brush, cloth, and even vacuum, inspecting the various components for signs of potential issues, and then putting everything back together. If people aren’t sure how to put everything back together, one easy way to know which step is which would be taking photos during every step of the dissembly. As for signs of potential issues, anything serious should be checked out by the professionals for the greatest peace of mind.

Besides this, annual inspections of gas fireplaces are also a good idea because there are signs of potential issues that interested individuals might miss. Certified inspectors will check everything from the gas connection to the ventilation offered by the chimney to make sure that there are no problems with the system. If there are, they are in a good position to recommend repairs as well as other solutions, thus enabling the gas fireplace to restore its full function as soon as possible. For that matter, if people aren’t interested in cleaning their gas fireplace on their own, there is always the option of calling in the professionals to do it for them, particularly since said individuals can do a better job anyways.

Of course, there are times when interested individuals should call in professionals to check out their gas fireplaces even when the regularly scheduled time hasn’t arrived yet. For example, if they smell gas when they shouldn’t be, they should be turning off the gas, ventilating the room, and contacting either the gas company or local emergency services for assistance. Meanwhile, if they notice that something about the gas fireplace isn’t working right, they should be calling in the professionals to check out everything to see if something has gone wrong. On top of this, if someone hasn’t used their gas fireplace in a long time, they should contact a HVAC company to check it out rather than just assume that it will function perfectly. In this even more than in most other things, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Why Do Fireplaces Have Such a Strong Connection to Wood Anyways?

On a final note, some people might be curious why fireplaces have such a strong connection to wood. After all, it is very common for non-wood-burning fireplaces to have fake logs included in them, which is rather strange if one thinks about it. However, if interested individuals are curious, this is very much a reflection of long-standing practices. It isn’t clear when humans started using fire in a controlled manner. However, this seems to be one of those things that predated our particular species because there is evidence of early humans using fire in a controlled manner about 1.7 to 2.0 million years ago, which is well before the emergence of modern humans about just 300,000 years ago. Naturally, this means that the predecessors to fireplaces have been around for a very long time as well. Something that makes sense because our ancestors didn’t like choking on smoke anymore than we do.

Of course, fires had to be fueled in some way. In the past as in the present, people fueled fires using a wide range of materials. Out of those, wood was by far the most common when compared with the other materials that see use in the present. Hydrocarbons were known to the ancients but hydrocarbons wouldn’t have seen the same kind of use, both because they couldn’t be processed and because they couldn’t be transported with the same ease. Meanwhile, coal actually did see a fair amount of use in places where people had convenient access to coal. However, the great switch-over from wood to coal didn’t happen until much later, not least because they also couldn’t be transported with the same ease. As for charcoal, well, it existed but it wasn’t used for common, everyday purposes for a number of reasons. One, charcoal production was both laborious and time-consuming, so much so that charcoal producers literally spent most of their time living apart from society because they needed to keep a watchful eye on their charcoal piles. Two, pre-modern charcoal was a very crumbly sort of stuff rather than compacted bricks, meaning that it wasn’t exactly something that could be transported over great distances. Combined, these characteristics meant that while charcoal was very useful for pre-modern societies, it wasn’t going to see a lot of use for common, everyday purposes because that made no economic sense.

Instead, wood was the primary fuel for fires for a very long time, so much so that it developed a powerful association with fireplaces as well as other places meant to accommodate fires that hasn’t gone away even in modern times. The human demand for wood was so great that it reshaped the very world around us. In particular, it is worth mentioning coppicing and pollarding, both of which are silvicultural practices meant to produce more and more fuel for human use. In the first case, young trees are cut down to almost ground level. After which, they are permitted to regrow for a few years before they are cut down once again. Something that can happen for a very long time because the practice keeps the tree at the juvenile stage in their lifecycle, meaning that they won’t die from old age. In the second case, young trees have their upper branches removed, which would enable further harvests when those upper branches came in once more. Pollarding had different pros and cons from coppicing, which included keeping the useful parts out of convenient grazing distance for livestock. In any case, both silvicultural practices saw extensive use, thus contributing to the last association of wood with fireplaces in the popular consciousness.

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