If you have a gas fireplace, you likely enjoy staying cozy even if the electricity goes out. But newer fireplaces don't have that feature, instead relying on an electronic ignition system that needs electricity to operate. A battery backup kicks in if the power goes out to make sure it works. Owners of traditional gas fireplaces don't have to worry about that, though, since the flame comes from a standing pilot. This means that your family will be warm unless the pilot light goes out. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to adjust the pilot if necessary.
Before you can begin to troubleshoot, it's important to take a look at what can go wrong with standing pilot lights. A pilot light provides a flame that powers appliances like water heaters, furnaces and fireplaces. In order to continue to burn, though, a pilot light relies on a thermocouple, which sends an electric signal. If the pilot light is out, though, such a signal isn't sent. This catch-22 can cause issues with your fireplace.
Ideally, your pilot light should burn blue, but at times you'll find it's orange or yellow. You may also find the light burns too bright or dimly for your own personal tastes, which can also lead to increased soot buildup. In either case, adjusting the pilot light is fairly easy. You'll just need a screwdriver and a little patience, and you can fix the issue in a matter of minutes.
First, locate the controls on the bottom of a direct-vent fireplace. On some fireplaces, there will be a "Lo-Hi" button that allows you to adjust the flame upward or downward. On others, there will be a screw that you can easily adjust with a screwdriver. Turning the screw clockwise will lower the flame, while a counterclockwise motion will turn it up.
If the pilot light goes out completely, turn the pilot light control knob to the pilot position and push the knob in while lighting the pilot with a match or torch lighter. Continue to hold the knob in until you see that the pilot is staying lit. At that point, you can then turn the knob to the on position. If you continue to have issues getting a pilot light, you may need to go into more advanced troubleshooting to determine whether you have a faulty ignitor.
Gas logs provide both comfort and convenience, but occasionally you may experience a problem. Watch your pilot light carefully to make sure it remains blue in color and stays at a level you find appropriate. Once you know how to make basic adjustments, you'll be able to keep your fireplace functional throughout the winter.
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and freelance writer whose work has appeared on the websites of Pacific Standard, the New York Post, the Intuit Small Business Blog, and many others. She is the Simon & Schuster author of eight children’s novels, including the Piper Morgan series.