The joy of having a gas fireplace comes from not having to find dry wood, haul it home and chop it up. It's a quick way to bring a warm feeling to any room or living room.
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Most gas fireplaces have a standing pilot light, which is a small flame that burns even when you aren't using the fireplace. This makes the fireplace easy to start when it's cold outside, but when it warms up, it's a good idea to shut off the pilot to conserve gas. If you do, you have to restart it at the beginning of the next cold season. The procedure isn't exactly the same for all models; older ones don't have an electronic spark. Even if the procedure is slightly different, though, most of the steps are the same.
Remove the decorative cover of the fireplace to reveal the gas controls at the bottom of the unit, near the floor. You should see a gas shut-off valve. Turn the handle parallel to the direction of the gas pipes to turn on the gas. If you don't see the valve, it is probably behind the fireplace. Look for it there and turn it on. Pull the fixed glass assembly off of the fireplace. This is an important safety precaution that prevents the buildup of gas should the pilot be hard to light.
Turning it On
Locate the gas control knob. Just above it, you should see a red or black push button, which means that the unit has a piezoelectric spark mechanism. Press the button once or twice to verify that there is a spark at the end of the pilot tube. If you don't see a button, you must light the flame manually.
Turn the gas control until the "Pilot" setting lines up with the hash mark on the outer rim of the control. Push the button in while you push the starter. If the pilot doesn't light, wait 10 seconds and push again. Continue doing this until the pilot starts.
Now comes the part that makes the gas fireplace so convenient, lighting the flame that will hopefully stay on for as long as needed. Light the flame with a match or long-barreled lighter if there is no piezoelectric control. Hold the gas control button down while you hold the end of a lighted match or lighter at the end of the pilot tube. The pilot should start as soon as the flame is close enough.
Hold the pilot button down for about 20 seconds to give the thermocouple time to heat up, then release it. The pilot should stay lit. If it doesn't, relight it and hold in the button a little longer. Turn the button to the "On" position, then replace the fixed glass assembly and the decorative cover.
Keep in Mind
If the fireplace is new or the pilot hasn't been lit for a long time, there might be air in the pilot tube. This makes it hard to light, but it should come on after repeated attempts. If you find that you need to frequently light the pilot, the pilot tube may be blocked with debris so be sure to clean the end of the tube with a pin.
If the pilot is particularly hard to start, and you begin to smell gas, stop and wait for the gas to disperse before trying again. Lighting it while there's a strong gas smell could be dangerous so try ventilating the area for a little bit before trying to light the pilot again.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.