You may have heard the term “pilot light” while looking into fireplaces. A pilot light is the part of a fireplace that helps get a fire started. But does an electric fireplace need one to start?
Electric fireplaces don’t use a pilot light because there is no live flame. A pilot light’s function is to ignite a flame in gas fireplaces. There is a pilot light variant that requires electricity to ignite, but that is not related to electric fireplaces. Pilot lights are solely used in gas fireplaces.
This article will answer some common questions relating to pilot lights and fireplaces. To start, let’s discuss electric fireplaces and why they don’t have a pilot light.
Do Electric Fireplaces Have A Pilot Light?
Electric fireplaces don’t have a pilot light because they use electricity as their “fuel” source. Since they use electricity, they don’t need a pilot light to ignite. Conversely, gas fireplaces do need a pilot light. The tiny flame constantly burns a little gas and allows the gas fireplace to ignite when the gas valve opens.
Electric fireplaces don’t have an actual flame. Instead, it uses lights, mirrors, and screens to create the illusion of a flame.
Alongside this ‘flame’, you can sometimes find heaters. These heaters ensure that the fireplace still pushes out warmth and heat into the home. However, not every electric fireplace has this feature. That’s also part of the reason why most electric fireplaces can be safely placed on top of carpets and other combustible materials.
But to better understand everything about pilot lights, let’s cover some basic questions.
What is a pilot light?
A pilot light is a small, usually blue, gas flame that remains burning. When signaled by an “on” switch, all the fireplace’s gas lines are opened, and the pilot light ignites the other flames, creating a fire.
How does a pilot light work?
The pilot light continuously burns a small amount of gas from a narrow tube. The small pilot flame not only ignites the fireplace but keeps the thermocouple warm. The thermocouple is a little piece of metal that generates energy based on temperature differences.
This is a pretty complicated process, but it can be explained in some simple terms:
By heating up the thermocouple, the fireplace creates its own energy source. The generated energy is responsible for opening and closing the gas valves. Since the fireplace creates its own energy source, you can even run it during power outages.
But since electric fireplaces don’t use gas and therefore don’t have a pilot light, how do they generate heat? Read on to find out.
How do electric fireplaces work?
Electric fireplaces are powered through a wall outlet or the home’s wiring system. The electric fireplace generates its heat by using one of these methods: hot coils or radiant heat.
- The coil method uses internal metal coils or ribbons that become extremely hot when electricity runs through them. A fan pulls in room air and warms that air over the hot metal. Finally, the heated air is pushed out of the unit and into the room.
- The radiant heat method doesn’t use coils but instead uses light technology to heat a room. Infrared light emits from the unit and warms anything it touches.
Alternatively, there are electric fireplaces that don’t emit any heat. They are there purely for the aesthetics they add to a home.
Do All Fireplaces Have A Pilot Light?
A pilot light is only found in gas fireplaces. A pilot light serves as an ignition source for a gas fireplace. Therefore, other fireplaces (i.e., wood burning, coal, and electric) don’t use a pilot light, as there’s no need to ignite the fireplace. Instead, you burn your wood or simply click the ‘on’ button on your electric fireplace.
A pilot light is an integral part of gas fireplaces that lights the fire. This feature offers you the ability to have a warm flame instantly without the work of chopping, lighting, and maintaining a wood-burning fire.
Because the pilot light is on continuously, it can consume a large amount of gas over time. At least, that’s the case with standing pilot lights. Electronic ignition systems have been developed to combat the wasteful nature of standing pilot lights.
An electric ignition system basically lights up the pilot light only when the fireplace is in use. When you press the ‘on’ button on your remote, the electronic ignition system first fires up the pilot light and then opens the gas valves.
Where Is The Pilot Light On My Fireplace?
The pilot light is located at the bottom of the gas fireplace, usually below the faux logs. You will see a small blue flame that engulfs a piece of metal called a thermocouple. If you don’t see the pilot light where it should be, check whether or not the gas is connected to your fireplace.
Sometimes a pilot light doesn’t operate as it should. Because gas lines are risky to work with, it is best to follow the owner’s manual and seek a professional’s help if you don’t know what you are doing.
Some reasons that the pilot light may not be working are as follows:
- The pilot light has blown out.
A draft can blow out a pilot light. If this happens often, you may need to check the seal on your vents. Most units have a safety feature that closes the gas line when the pilot light goes to prevent gas buildup inside your home.
- The thermocouple needs replacing.
A thermocouple that is old, broken, or has deteriorated will cause dysfunction and automatically close the gas line. When the gas line is closed, the pilot light will go out. Sometimes this issue can happen when the thermocouple needs cleaning or if the pilot light is too small.
- The gas is not on.
As mentioned above, the pilot light won’t work if the gas is not turned on. Your user manual will show you where to find the control panel, where you can turn the gas on and off.
How Do Electronic Ignition Pilot Lights Work?
An electronic ignition fireplace uses a circuit board to control when gas lines are opened and the ignition is sparked. When the fireplace is off, the gas lines are completely closed. You turn the gas fireplace on with a remote or button that sends a signal to the circuit board to start the fireplace.
When triggered, the circuit board opens the gas lines to release a small amount of gas. Then the circuit board tells the electronic ignition to create a spark. Subsequently, this spark causes the gas to combust and the fireplace lights. You will promptly have a fire as all of this happens within a few short seconds.