gas fireplace tips

Gas Fireplace Tips for Strata Owners

Understanding Gas Fireplace Safety Protocols

As the weather grows colder, many strata owners will be using their gas fireplaces for the first time this season. It’s a good time to review maintenance and tips to ensure your family and neighbours are safe.

Why Should Gas Fireplaces Be Serviced Annually?

Technical Safety BC, Fortis, and most manufacturers recommend that gas fireplaces be serviced every year. Regularly maintained appliances operate more efficiently and last longer. Servicing will identify any wear and tear issues and ensure there is no carbon monoxide escaping into your suite and building. Failure to service the appliance might invalidate its warranty.

Some strata corporations have bylaws that require annual inspection and service of gas fireplaces in suites. These bylaws often set an annual deadline and require the owner to provide a copy of the invoice as proof of completion. These records are helpful as it’s common for strata insurance companies to ask whether heating systems are being maintained before they renew the strata’s policy.

Who is Qualified to Service Gas Fireplaces?

Servicing and maintenance of gas appliances should only be carried out by a certified gas fitter, employed by a licensed gas contractor. You can check to see if a contractor is licenced using the contractor lookup tool on the Technical Safety BC website. You can also ask your gas fitter to show you their qualification wallet card for proof of certification.

What Does Servicing Include?

Your gas fitter will check the condition of your gas appliance and verify that the vent system, fans, rheostat, thermostats, remote control, etc., are in good working order. They will also:

  • Check for gas leaks, blockage, and soot
  • Check the burner, gas valve, gaskets, and pilot system
  • Check the air shutter and restrictor settings and pressure relief doors
  • Clean the blower, firebox chamber, logs, glass, and refresh ember materials
  • Keep the area clear of combustible materials or items that could be damaged from high heat
  • And more

Technical Safety BC notes several signs that indicate service is required immediately:

  • Pilot light outages and/or yellow or wavering burner flame
  • Continuous or intermittent odor
  • Booming noises upon start-up
  • Dying house plants
  • Condensation on the inside of the windows

Are There Rebates?

Fortis often offers rebates to encourage homeowners to maintain their gas appliances. Check www.fortisbc.com for rebates and deadlines.

Tip #1: Leave the Pilot Light On

Leave the pilot light on through the cooler months. This allows a smoother start up as the firebox and flu will remain warm. Relighting a pilot in a cold fireplace can take several tries (12-15 times if it is really cold). This isn’t a defect: modern gas fireplaces are designed to account for these cold starts. The air will slowly be warmed through multiple attempts to light the pilot, creating the necessary conditions for the pilot to remain lit and the burner to engage.

Tip #2: Install a Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, and toxic gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath and confusion. If you have any fuel or wood-burning appliances or fireplaces, it’s recommended that you install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home. When purchasing an alarm, look for a recognized Canadian certification mark from an organization that is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.

These marks, such as CSA, cUL, ULC or cETL, should appear directly on the product, not just on the packaging. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is low if appliances are maintained on a regular basis and are properly ventilated. However, improperly installed or poorly maintained appliances that use these fuels may create unsafe levels of CO.

Tip #3: Know What to Do If You Smell Gas

Natural gas or propane will emit a strong rotten egg odor as it escapes. If you smell gas, stop what you’re doing.

  • Don’t use your cellphone or landline, don’t smoke, light matches, operate electrical switches, or create any other source of ignition.
  • Open exterior doors and windows and exit the building immediately.
  • Once outside, call 9-1-1 and your local gas utility.

The FortisBC emergency line is 1-800-663-9911 (24 hours).

  • If you have a gas meter, shut off the gas supply.
  • If you don’t have access to the shut off, contact the appropriate person such as a caretaker, council member, or strata manager.
  • To quickly evacuate residents in a condo building you could use a pull station in a common area hallway to set off the fire alarm.

 

*Access to this original article is accessed here: https://www.visoa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/VISOA-Bulletin-November-2023.pdf