How to Clean A Pilot Light on Gas Fireplace: Step-by-Step Guide

Every gas fireplace has something called a pilot assembly, and it usually consists of a pilot light, thermocouple, and thermopile. It is usually located behind the logs and is responsible for starting the fire. Over time, dust and soot will pile up on the pilot assembly. So, you have to clean them regularly, which you can do by yourself, and it won’t cost you anything. But, on the other hand, fixing a broken gas fireplace can cost upwards of $1,000. 

In this article, you’ll find out:

  • What you should know before you begin
  • Step-by-step guide on how to clean a pilot light on a gas fireplace
  • When and how to do maintenance 
  • FAQ on cleaning the pilot assembly

Time required: 30 minutes

Cost: Free

You’ll need a compressed air spray, a bucket, and a large, clean cloth. If you do not have a compressed air spray, an alternative would be a soft brush.

Optional to have: vacuum cleaner, face mask, microfiber cloth, glass cleaner, and a pair of gloves. 

What you should know before you begin

Follow the instructions that come with the fireplace

Always follow the instructions that come with your specific fireplace! Not following the instructions may cause a fire or explosion and may result in property damage, personal injury, or loss of life. Another reason is that every fireplace is designed differently, and has different ways of handling its components. So, this article will help you better understand how to clean the pilot light in your gas fireplace, but you still have to refer to your owner’s manual simultaneously. 

Smell all around for gas and leave the house if there is a gas leak

Also, before you begin, smell all around the fireplace and next to the floor for gas. If you smell a scent like a rotten egg, do not switch on any appliances or use your phone in the house. Then, leave the house immediately and call the fireplace’s manufacturer or the fire brigade. If you notice a smell like rotten egg near your fireplace, it means that there is a gas leak. While gas smells are normal for new fireplaces, gas leaks are a severe problem and must be handled by professionals.

Wear a face or dust mask or gloves (optional)

If you have a sensitive nose, you can wear a face mask to avoid breathing in dust and soot. The last thing you want is to clean your fireplace with a runny, itchy nose! Moreover, you could opt for a pair of gloves if you don’t want to dirty your hands. The logs inside your fireplace are usually brittle and covered in soot, which could leave unsightly marks around your home if you’re not careful. 

Step-by-step: How to clean pilot light on a gas fireplace

Step 1: Turn off the gas and fire switch

Turn off the pilot light via the fireplace wall switch.

Credit: Heatilator

If your gas and fire switch is located on the wall beside the fireplace, make sure that they are completely turned off. Then, look inside the fireplace and ensure that the pilot light is completely out. After that, wait for 5 minutes for any gas to leave the piping safely before you begin work. 

What if the switch/valve is located inside?

You must first remove the glass assembly (refer to Step 2) to access the fireplace controls. Then, following the instructions in the owner’s manual, gently remove the cover to the fireplace controls. 

Credit: The Family Handyman

You will see a valve on a pipe. If it is parallel (left-right) to the pipe, the gas is on. So, to turn it off, switch the valve so that it is perpendicular (top-bottom). Then, turn the pilot switch to “off.” The pilot switch is usually next to the gas valve. 

Step 2: Remove the glass assembly 

As each fireplace is designed differently, you have to follow the instruction in the product manual to remove the glass assembly. For example, some fireplaces involve screws, while others are designed with latches. Once you’ve removed the glass, place it on a big clean cloth. 

Note: Make sure to put the glass somewhere where you won’t accidentally bump into it!

Step 3: Take a photo of the logs to remember their position

Before that, make sure that there isn’t any gas smell in or near the fireplace! If there is, do not use your phone and leave the house immediately. A rotten egg smell near your fireplace indicates that there is a gas leak. It is a severe problem, and you should call your gas company or the fire department in the event of a gas leak. 

If not, then take a photo of the logs’ positioning. It’ll be useful for later when you reassemble everything. 

Step 4: Remove the logs 

Logs that are used for a long time will be brittle and have plenty of soot. So, be careful not to drop them and immediately put them in a bucket. Then, you should clean the logs by vacuuming them or spraying them with compressed air outside your house. This will ensure that the soot and dust will not spread all over your home. 

Step 5: Clean the pilot assembly

After you’ve removed the logs, you will see the exposed pilot assembly. A pilot assembly usually consists of the pilot light, thermocouple, and thermopile. Depending on the brand of your fireplace, it may or may not have all of the aforementioned components. 

Cleaning with compressed air spray: Spray the pilot light until all the soot and dust are gone. 

Cleaning with a soft brush: If you don’t have a compressed air spray, use a soft brush/detail brush to brush off all the soot and dust. 

Note: Avoid using anything too abrasive or too rough, or you might damage the pilot light. 

Optional: With a vacuum cleaner, vacuum any debris, dirt, soot, or dust from the firebox floor. Then, with a microfiber cloth, wipe clean the insides of the firebox. You can also clean the glass cover with a glass cleaner and microfiber cloth before you reassemble it.  

Step 6: Reassemble back everything in reverse order

Firstly, install back the burner cover. Then, carefully return the logs in their previous position by referring to the photo you took earlier. The logs are brittle, so be careful not to chip or break them. If applicable, reassemble the fireplace controls cover. Then, reinstall the glass cover by following the instruction manual that comes with your fireplace. 

Note: Some fireplaces have extra parts that are not listed here. Be sure to reassemble them back too!

Step 7: Test if the pilot light works

Follow your fireplace’s specific lighting instructions by following the owner’s manual. Usually, this involves flipping on a wall switch or turning on the gas valve in the fireplace controls. If the fireplace still doesn’t light up, call the manufacturer. There could be other underlying issues that require professional assistance.

Video guide on cleaning the pilot light in a gas fireplace

When and how to maintain your gas fireplace?

Pilot assembly: Clean them monthly by spraying them with a compressed air spray. Soot build-up will cause issues with lighting up the fire. 

Logs and lava rocks: Clean them whenever you clean the pilot assembly (monthly). Spray the logs with compressed air and rinse the rocks with cold water. Also, ensure that the rocks are arid before returning them to the firebox. 

Glass: Clean them whenever you clean the pilot assembly (monthly) with a glass cleaner and microfiber cloth. 

Firebox: Clean them whenever you clean the pilot assembly (monthly) with a dry microfiber cloth. 

FAQ

Why won’t my pilot light stay lit on my fireplace?

A common reason is that your thermocouple has deposit buildup, which was not cleaned. With fine-grit sandpaper, lightly rub the thermocouple until it is shiny. If the pilot light still won’t stay lit, call the manufacturer or replace the thermocouple. 

How much does it cost to replace the pilot light on a gas fireplace?

Replacing the pilot light and other components will cost you on average $100 – $250. This does not include labor cost which could be double or even triple the initial cost. 

Is it OK to leave the gas fireplace on overnight?

You are not recommended to leave the gas fireplace overnight as it may put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, some fireplaces are designed to be left on indefinitely (though not recommended). To be safe, ensure that the fireplace and proper ventilation are installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

How long can you safely run a gas fireplace? 

It depends on the type, brand, and model of your gas fireplace. For example, a ventless gas fireplace should not be left running for more than a few hours. On the other hand, a direct vent gas fireplace can run indefinitely or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. 

Key Takeaways:

Before you begin cleaning your gas fireplace, always check if there is a gas leak by smelling near and next to the floor. If you smell something like a rotten egg, do not turn on any appliances in the house, leave outside immediately, and call the manufacturer/fire brigade. Overall, you should clean the pilot light every month. Leaving soot and other deposit buildups will damage the pilot assembly, resulting in costly repairs. 

How to clean the pilot light on a gas fireplace: 

  1. Turn off the gas and light switch
  2. Remove the glass assembly
  3. Take a photo of the logs’ position
  4. Remove the logs
  5. Clean the pilot assembly with a compressed air spray
  6. Reassemble everything in reverse order
  7. Test the pilot light

Written by Jason Beischel

Jason Beischel is a Remodeler by profession and is always ready for the challenge and surprise that the next remodeling job throws at him. And given his extensive knowledge in real estate, contracting, and interior design, he provides actionable DIY tips online and has consolidated extensive excerpts with details on how to go about the various home repair activities. Enthusiasts will also access information on the best products that they can use in the process. Jason leads a team of renovators, he loves traveling and does not shy away from challenging opportunities that present away from familiar ground. According to Jason, every human deserves a comfortable home from where they can build their future.

July 8, 2021

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