To be more specific: Can you burn wood in a gas fireplace in a safe way? Is it possible to burn wood in a gas fireplace without injuring yourself or damaging your home? Great questions! We’ve got answers, and you’ll know soon enough whether your fireplace is capable of burning wood without blowing up. Let’s address the three hottest burning questions (pun fully intended) about wood and gas fireplaces, safety precautions, and when you shouldn’t try to burn wood in your fireplace.
Can I Burn Wood in My Gas Fireplace?
If you have a fireplace designed to work solely on gas, then no, it’s not ok to burn wood in the gas fireplace. These fireplaces are designed to function on gas alone, and they are by no means constructed to support the heat that comes from burning wood. As you will also see below in the section dedicated to hazards of burning wood in a gas-only fireplace, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and put the integrity of your home and even your own life in danger.
There are, however, two scenarios in which you can burn regular wood in a fireplace:
You can sometimes burn wood in a gas fireplace insert.
Gas fireplace inserts are designed to convert a former wood-burning fireplace into a gas-fueled one. They are ventilated through an existing chimney. If you want to burn wood in this type of fireplace, consider talking to an HVAC expert that can advise you on what modifications you need to make (for example, capping the gas line).
You can sometimes burn wood over gas logs.
If you have an artificial log set, you might be able to burn wood inside it. Again, it is still advisable to ask the opinion of a professional. You will most likely have to remove the fake log set and make room for the wood you’re looking to burn.
What about a wood-burning fireplace with a gas starter?
First of all, let’s clarify that there is a huge difference between a gas fireplace and a fireplace with a gas starter. A gas starter is a tube mounted underneath the fireplace’s grate. Using a little bit of natural gas, this system will create flames released through tiny holes inside the fireplace, which will help light up the wood inside. This is still a wood-burning fireplace and not a gas one, so of course, you can burn wood inside one.
The purpose of the gas starter is to provide the ignition; the flames are turned off when the wood catches fire. They are safe to use as long as you can provide proper maintenance. You will have to perform a checkup at the start of each season to ensure there isn’t any damage or anything that could cause gas leaks. You will also have to remove ashes from the fireplace. If you fail to do so, the ashes will obstruct proper air circulation, leading to smoke leaks inside the room.
There are two types of gas starters: those that operate manually and those that ignite the flame with the button’s push. If you have a manually-ignited gas starter, you can use a handle and butane lighter to power up the flames. Make sure that you turn on the lighter first and only then turn on the gas flow. You don’t want gas to build up in the fireplace and cause an explosion when you light up the flames.
What Happens if I Burn Wood in the Wrong Gas Fireplace?
We can’t underline the importance of avoiding burning wood in the wrong gas fireplace without talking about the horrific consequences of doing so. Four very severe issues may arise when this occurs.
You risk smoke and poison gas emissions.
As horrific as it may sound, this is very true. If your fireplace has a ventilation system that does not support wood burning, that means that the smoke ends up in your home. It is more than just a matter of ruining indoor air quality: it can put you at serious risk. Carbon monoxide will contaminate the air in your home as a result of burning fuel. The worst part is not just that this is lethal, but it is also odorless and colorless.
You risk starting a house fire.
Because the fireplace’s heat is so powerful, it extends to the walls around the fireplace. From there, there is only one small step to a big house fire.
You could destroy the fireplace.
When you burn wood inside a fireplace, the temperatures are way higher than burning propane or natural gas. These gas fireplaces aren’t designed to withstand so much heat, and their internal parts and components are at risk of being destroyed.
You face the risk of explosion.
Because your gas fireplace connects to an actual gas source or even a gas pipe, there is a huge risk that the elevated heat levels cause an explosion. It’s the same as trying to light a match or a lighter in a gas station.
To sum things up: never burn wood in a gas fireplace, especially if it’s a gas-only fireplace. There are some types of gas fireplaces that might allow wood burning, but you have to talk to a professional before trying to light up logs on your own. Some parts of the gas fireplace might have to be insulated before you proceed to switch to another type of fuel. You can convert a gas fireplace into a wood-burning one, but only after an expert has made all the modifications and you have proper ventilation and a chimney, so the smoke isn’t released in your own home.