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Can You Burn Wood in a Gas Fireplace?

fireplace

Imagine it is winter, and you are sitting by the gas fireplace late in the evening, reading your favorite book and sipping some coffee. As you turn the next page, the fire suddenly goes out because the gas line is empty. What should you do, considering you have loads of firewood at your disposal? You must have guessed it wrong; you can’t burn any form of wood in a gas fireplace because it’s neither safe nor effective.

In this article, we will explore why you shouldn’t light wood products in a gas fireplace. Hang on as we also explain the extreme dangers associated with doing so and how you can convert a gas fireplace into a wood-burning one if need be.

wood dividerWhat Is a Gas Fireplace?

Almost like an ordinary wood fireplace, a gas-burning fireplace is an aesthetically-designed source of heat that is connected to a propane or natural gas feeder line. The log set is designed to look like natural wood that burns in the fireplace. It also has a unique ventilation system that doesn’t consist of a chimney, meaning you can’t burn wood because the smoke and vapors won’t vent outside at all.

The following are the various types of gas fireplaces:
  • Built-in fireplace: This type is installed in the house during construction or renovation. It burns both propane and natural gas, and unlike older models that used matchsticks, it comes with electric ignition.
  • Gas fireplace insert: If you are wondering what an insert is, it is a metal housing that has a log set and a gas burner that was previously modernized from a wood-burning fireplace and converted to a gas one. The existing chimney is used for venting purposes, meaning there’s a possibility of burning wood on them. While we will discuss this in the sections that follow, it’s important to contact an HVAC professional first to make the necessary adjustments before burning wood on an insert fireplace.
  • Logset: This type of fireplace has an artificial heat-resistant log set of ceramic or cement that is placed in the same place a wood fireplace existed. The artificial ‘logs’ produce a flame using gas fuel for aesthetic purposes rather than heating. Like the insert fireplace, logset vents through the old chimney.
fire wood in a brick fireplace
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

Hazards of Burning Wood in a Gas Fireplace

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of not burning wood in gas fireplaces without mentioning the dangers associated with it. The following are the severe issues you are likely to encounter:

1. Excess Smoke and Poisonous Gas

Your gas fireplace is designed to burn gas fuel only, thanks to its unique ventilation system. You can guess where the smoke will go if you burn wood in it: inside your house, disturbing the quality of the indoor air.

The colorless and odorless byproduct of burning fuel (carbon monoxide) will not only affect your body’s internal tissues but also threaten your life.


2. Explosion

a brick fireplace in an old home
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

Remember your gas fireplace is connected to a feeder gas line. Do you wonder what might happen if the smoke and heat enter through the fuel inlet pipe? An explosion along the gas line becomes imminent.


3. Risk of a House Fire

This is perhaps the biggest risk of burning wood in a gas fireplace. Because the resulting fireplace heat can be so powerful, it can radiate into the walls around it and put your entire house only one step from being engulfed in fire.


4. Risk of Damaging the Fireplace

fireplace in the living room
Image Credit: joseclaudioguima, Pixabay

Because propane and natural gas always burn at lower temperatures, burning wood in a gas fireplace will certainly cause more heat and potentially destroy the lining and internal components of the fireplace.

divider 4Can You Convert Your Gas Fireplace to a Wood-Burning Fireplace

If your gas fireplace was originally wood-burning, then it’s possible to convert it back. This means you can add some arrangements to your gas fireplace insert or logset to burn wood in them, as we had mentioned earlier. However, there are some key things you should note:

  • Only an expert should examine and guarantee its safety.
  • You can’t burn wood without making necessary adjustments to the gas fireplace.
  • It will require more maintenance.

So, what are these adjustments you must make?

How to Convert a Gas Fireplace to a Wood-Burning Fireplace

It’s worth noting that you should contact a professional to help you convert your fireplace to ensure safety. Don’t do it by yourself because you’ll be risking your safety and that of your family.

  • Remove the gas inserts: The first step is the riskiest. You’ll have to remove the inserts with a crescent wrench before changing the appearance of the fireplace. After that, you should fully clean the fireplace and prepare it for reassembly.
  • Convert the gas lines: Your next step will be to stop the flow of gas to the fireplace. On that note, you must completely cap off the gas line. This step requires no amateur or guesser because it can be dangerous if not done perfectly.
  • Check the ventilation: You must confirm whether your ventilation can handle the smoke and heat of burning wood, which is almost double what gas-burning fireplaces produce. Poorly ventilated fireplaces will fill your living room with smoke; therefore, it’s essential to have a professional check the setup.

After a professional has completed the three steps above, you can start burning wood on your new fireplace without the fear of fire, explosion, smoke, or damaging the fireplace.

burning woods in a fireplace
Image Credit: JerzyGorecki, Pixabay

Tips for Safe Disposal of Gas Fireplaces

Perhaps you don’t need your old fireplace anymore because you are installing a new advanced one. If that’s the case, this section will provide you with safety tips to help you dispose of it appropriately while considering how risky the process is.

  • Get a professional to disconnect it: The most crucial part of disposing of a gas fireplace is disconnecting it from the main gas connection. Being extremely dangerous, we recommend hiring a registered gas engineer to help you carry out the disconnection process.
  • Block the flue with a chimney balloon: Depending on the type of fireplace you want to install, you might have to remove the chimney or block it using Chimella or a chimney balloon. This is essential if you are replacing your gas fireplace with either an electric or built-in type of fireplace.
  • Dispose of ashes appropriately: You must carefully dispose of ashes from the gas fireplace before throwing it away. Ensure the ashes are no longer hot to avoid burning your hands. You should put on a pair of gloves as well.
  • Use your local waste center: In your locality, there’s probably a household waste collection center that’s run by the local authorities. They are used for the disposal of household items such as fridges, pieces of furniture, and yes, even gas fireplaces. Alternatively, you can contact your local metal scrap dealer, and they’ll ferry it away after paying you a bit of money.

Other Items You Shouldn’t Burn in a Gas Fireplace

Other than wood, many people endanger their safety by burning other materials in gas fireplaces. Protect yourself and your family from chimney fires and harmful chemicals by avoiding burning these items in your gas fireplace:

Cardboards

Cardboards look ideal for starting a gas fire. However, it contains ink and chemicals that, when burned and released into the air, could cause serious breathing problems.

fireplace in the living room
Image Credit: joseclaudioguima, Pixabay

Plastics

People burn plastics daily to save money or for convenience. Still, they produce harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide that are dangerous when breathed in. One of the products of plastic burning, dioxin, can have serious health impacts that mothers can even transfer to newborns during pregnancy. Instead of burning plastics, consider taking them to a recycling center.

Fire Accelerants

You don’t need fire accelerants such as grill fluid or gasoline to kick start your gas fireplace – the burning fuel is flammable enough. While it may seem so reasonable to use them, fire accelerants cause the resulting flame to burn at temperatures so high that it may damage the fireplace.

The fire can also flare up the chimney, igniting creosote and soot in the vent outlet. Generally, fire accelerators should be used outdoors only.

installing fireplace
Image Credit: Dagmara_K, Shutterstock

Paper or Boxes with Colored Print

Like cardboard, some boxes such as cereal boxes, wrapping paper, magazines, and pizza boxes are treated with chemicals that could be dangerous when burned. They also have a high surface-to-mass ratio, meaning they can burn much more quickly and produce tall flames that might ignite the creosote inside the flue.

Christmas Tree

You might be tempted to dispose of a Christmas tree in the fireplace when the holidays are over. You shouldn’t because, besides burning poorly, it will leave dangerous resins in the chimney and elevate the risk of chimney fires.

wood dividerConclusion

To sum everything up, you should never contemplate burning wood in a gas fireplace because there’s not enough venting. While some gas fireplaces might allow wood burning, you must seek the services of a professional gas fireplace installer first to help you convert them into a wood fireplace. They will remove the gas inserts, cap off the gas lines, and ensure proper ventilation.

You can get away with burning wood in a gas fireplace, but it is safe to say you are only beckoning a fire accident. Find a pro instead of risking your home or your safety.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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