A wall installed fireplace with a clean brake frame and brick layout

Is Your Gas Fireplace Safe?

The vast majority of today’s gas fireplaces and gas fireplace inserts are designed as a sealed system known as “direct vent”. Direct vent fireplaces bring 100% of the air needed for the fire from outside the home and exhaust all of the combustion by-products outside the home as well. The result is a balanced system that increases efficiency, provides optimal heat, conserves energy and ensures a clean healthy indoor air quality.

A direct vent gas fireplace or fireplace insert has a sealed piece of tempered or ceramic glass on the face of the fireplace. As a result of normal operation of these fireplace products, the glass front will become very hot. It is not unusual for the glass to reach sustained temperatures of over 475° Fahrenheit. These high temperatures on the glass will cause severe burns if touched. While it may be evident that the glass is hot when the fireplace or fireplace insert is on, the unforeseen danger is when it is off. It’s easy for someone to enter a room when the fireplace is off not knowing it was recently burning. This is especially true if it is controlled by a thermostat. The glass can remain dangerously hot for up to an hour after the fireplace or fireplace insert has been turned off.

As a result, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) has revised the standards to which these products are manufactured requiring that they be equipped with a safety barrier to keep consumers from coming in contact with the glass. All direct vent gas fireplaces and fireplace inserts with a glass temperature exceeding 172° Fahrenheit manufactured on or after January 1st 2015 must comply with these revised standards.

That’s great for the future but what about your gas fireplace or insert now? One manufacturer has been providing safety screens on all of their direct vent products since 2003 and others have started providing safety screens as an option. If your fireplace came equipped with a safety barrier screen, don’t take it off. If it didn’t, there are some options available that can help.

One choice is to purchase a standing screen to place in front of your fireplace. These screens come in a variety of styles and sizes and are available at most retail hearth stores. Another option is to place a barrier in front of your fireplace or insert. These are products that are like a fence or gate and are usually made of multiple hinged steel frames so they stand on their own in front of the fireplace or insert. Standing screens and barriers can help but because of their portable nature they can be moved away from the glass and there goes your safety. The best protection remains a factory installed barrier. That’s why it is now in the process of becoming mandatory.

While anyone can inadvertently come in contact with a hot glass front, children and the elderly are most susceptible. Educate everyone in your home about the danger of hot glass and never leave a child unattended in a room with an unprotected fireplace.

Besides the safety that factory equipped barrier screens provide there are other benefits as well. For instance, barrier screens help to cut the reflective glare from the glass and actually enhance the beauty of the flame. It also adds realism to a gas fireplace. Most burn systems in gas fireplaces and inserts are designed and engineered to imitate a wood burning fire as closely as possible. If you think about it, all wood burning fireplaces have some sort of screen on the front to protect from popping sparks and embers. The barrier screen on a gas fireplace or insert simply adds to the realism.

Be sure to keep the factory installed barrier screen on your gas fireplace or insert and if it didn’t come with one, contact the manufacturer of your fireplace or insert to see if one is available.