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gas fireplace during winter

3 Reasons Your Gas Fireplace Smells: And Which Ones Need Urgent Attention

In Calgary, when winter arrives, we all look for different ways to keep warm and cozy. The thermostat gets turned up (then turned up again!). You bring out the warm blankets from the closet. But something is missing. Of course… the comforting flame of your gas fireplace!

So, you go to ignite it for the first time in 6 to 8 months. That beautiful glow appears, and you can feel the embrace of warmth. But the peaceful moment is ruined, because your senses are overwhelmed by an unexpected odour.

There are three types of unpleasant smells you may notice coming from your gas fireplace. One is harmless. The others require attention. Here’s what you need to know, and do if you smell anything suspicious.

1. There’s a ‘plastic smell’ when I light my fireplace for the first time in a while

Don’t worry. This ‘burnt plastic’ smell is harmless – and short-lived. It’s caused by the accumulation of dust, debris, hair, skin cells and pet dander behind the glass of your gas fireplace. As they are exposed to heat, they emit an unpleasant smell.

This is a common occurrence when you start using a direct-vent gas fireplace for the first time in months. Because this style of fireplace is enclosed, the smell is more noticeable. It also occurs when you turn on a newly installed gas fireplace for the first time.

2. I smell gas! (Immediately turn off your fireplace)

As you’re turning on your gas fireplace, you may momentarily notice a faint gas smell. This is to be expected and should go away once you press the ignitor to light the flame.

If you ever smell gas after the pilot light is on or when the unit is not in use – immediately turn off the gas valve feeding the fireplace. Then, open nearby doors and windows to let the fumes escape.

If the smell persists, you should call your local utility provider so that they can identify the source of the leak.

Natural gas can pose a serious danger. If there is a leak or buildup of gas, it can be prone to ignition – and potentially result in a fire or explosion. 

3. My home smells almost smoky when I use my gas fireplace

Gas fireplaces don’t produce smoke, like a wood-burning fireplace. But when gas is ignited, it does produce exhaust emission

Your fireplace is designed to allow the exhaust to escape up the chimney or flue, and safely out of your home.

If your chimney or flue becomes clogged or obstructed, the gas may remain inside your home. This can be dangerous, as the exhaust contains carbon monoxide – a harmful and odourless gas.

To prevent this from happening, it is important that your fireplace is properly installed and vented.

As a further precaution to protect you and your family, its recommended that you get the following maintenance work done by a professional on an annual basis:

– Get your gas fireplace inspected to check for leaks and make sure all components are working properly.
– Have your chimney cleaned to prevent the buildup of debris and residue, and to remove any blockages. This will also help prevent the ‘plastic smell’ from dust and debris.

Home Safety Tip: Always have a working carbon monoxide detector in the same room as your gas fireplace – or any gas appliance. It will warn you the second a leak is detected.

Stay warm. Stay safe.

There’s nothing nicer than turning on the fireplace on a cold winter’s night. It sets the perfect mood: whether it’s for a family game night or an intimate glass of wine. Keeping your fireplace in top working order will allow you to relax and enjoy these magical moments worry-free.