Many of our current-day appliances require electricity to function. Although traditional wood-burning fireplaces don’t fall under that category, it is a valid question whether or not gas fireplaces will work without electricity.
You can run a gas fireplace when the power is out, as old gas fireplace models were manufactured to be ignited by a standing pilot light, which does not require external electricity. Newer models are made with an electronic ignition system but come with a backup igniter that functions on a battery, which does not require external electricity.
In this article, we’ll be going over what gas fireplaces will function without electricity, as well as whether or not a fireplace blower will work. We’re also briefly touching on how to re-ignite a pilot light so you can manually switch your gas fireplace on!
Can You Run A Gas Fireplace When The Power Is Out?
A gas fireplace is generally lit up using a standing pilot light, which does not require electricity. Some newer models have an electronic ignition system, which means they do require electricity. But they commonly come with a backup battery to allow the gas fireplace to still function, even when the power is out.
Gas fireplaces function by opening a gas valve. The gas is then ignited by either a spark or a standing pilot light to create a fire. But this process isn’t always the same. Older models use a standing pilot light, whereas many newer models use an electronic ignition system.
Gas Fireplaces With A Millivolt System
A standing pilot light is a pilot light that’s always burning. Since standing pilot lights are always burning, they don’t require any sort of electrical input in order to work.
In fact, pilot lights actually create their own electricity. It’s a complicated process, but in simple terms;
A pilot light heats one side of a thermopile (consisting of multiple thermocouples, sensors that measure temperature). Since one side is hotter than the other, the thermopile produces a tiny amount of electricity. This is measured in millivolts and is responsible for opening and closing the gas valve (this is called the millivolt ignition system).
Gas valves are always closed until the thermopile powers it enough to open it. Aside from opening the valve, the pilot light also produces a small flame that ignites the gas that is now released.
Basically, a pilot light has two functions:
- Opening the gas valve
- Igniting the gas
In short, a gas fireplace with a standing pilot light is an entirely self-sufficient system that works even when it’s not connected to an electric outlet.
Standing pilot lights are highly reliable, but they are somewhat wasteful. They’re always lit, even when you’re not using your fireplaces. This becomes especially wasteful during the summer, a season where most people don’t even use their fireplace.
Because of that, a new ignition system was created. One that only turns on when the fireplace is on.
Gas Fireplaces Using An Intermittent Pilot Ignition System
The electronic ignition system (also called Intermittent Pilot Ignition) produces a spark that lights up the pilot light. But as the name already gives away, this ignition system does require electricity.
Luckily, most of the gas fireplaces with the electronic ignition system come with some sort of backup battery. In the event of a power loss, the gas fireplace can still function on the backup battery.
In short, a gas fireplace with an Intermittent Pilot Ignition requires electricity to work, which means you cannot run it during a power outage. However, if you have backup batteries installed, you can run the fireplace on these batteries during a power outage.
Some states actually made this model mandatory due to the waste of the millivolt models. Intermittent Pilot Ignition models are typically a bit more expensive as well, and there’s a lot more that can go wrong with them. Fireplace enthusiasts typically prefer millivolt models over Intermittent Pilot Ignition models.
Aside from the ignition system, gas fireplaces also don’t require electricity for the venting process or any other mandatory process. The only real difference lies within the ignition system. Aside from that, a gas fireplace is fully functional and safe without electricity.
Does A Fireplace Blower Work Without Electricity?
Fireplace blowers require electricity to function correctly. They circulate air throughout a room, but the blower needs to be powered by electricity.
A fireplace blower is a simple device that helps push out the heat from a fireplace. It constantly blows the hot air out into a room, leading to the entire room heating much more efficiently.
This greatly helps with the heat output, as all the warm air that used to be right in front of the fireplace is now blown away into the room. This way, the fireplace will warm up a new ‘batch’ of air, which will also be blown away. And this process keeps repeating itself.
It’s a straightforward system that regularly functions with fans. These fans, however, do need to be powered by electricity. So if there’s a power outage, no matter what ignition system your gas fireplace has, the blowers will not work. Even with a millivolt system, which creates its own power, the blowers won’t work.
It’s called the millivolt system for a reason, as the thermopile creates just that; millivolts. And millivolts just aren’t enough to power the blowers.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that if your blowers stop working, your fireplace won’t be heating the room, but the heat will be more concentrated against the fire and the fireplace itself.
Do Gas Fireplaces Need To Be Plugged In?
Modern gas fireplaces typically need to be plugged in. Newer models make use of an electronic ignition system, a system that lights the fireplace by providing a spark through an electric supply. Many older models make use of a standing pilot light, which does not require electricity, thus is not required to be plugged in.
As explained earlier, there are currently two types of ignitions on the market. The models that use the Intermittent Pilot Ignition need to be plugged in, as they require electricity to light the pilot flame and ignite it.
Gas fireplaces that use the millivolt model can sustain themselves. The thermopile generates several millivolts when it detects changes in temperature. Since these models create their own source of power, there’s no need for the fireplace to be plugged in anywhere.
Do Ventless Gas Fireplaces Need Electricity?
Ventless gas fireplaces require electricity in order to work correctly. Generally, they require a standard electrical outlet, but they’re also equipped with a backup battery in case the power goes out. This way, even when the electricity is shut off, the fireplace would still work. An exception is ventless gas fireplaces using a Piezo Ignition.
Ventless gas fireplaces typically require electricity to work, but there is one exception to this. Some ventless gas fireplaces use a battery-assisted Piezo Ignition system. This basically allows you to re-ignite your pilot light (more on that in a bit!).
And after the pilot light is ignited, you can light up the fireplace like normal again.
How Do You Re-Light A Pilot Light?
A gas fireplace with electronic ignition can be turned on manually by simply pressing your remote’s ‘on’ button. This will open the valves and re-ignite the pilot light.
Turning on a gas fireplace is typically extremely easy, especially if you have an Intermittent Pilot Ignition system. You usually just need to press a button on the remote, and that’s it. Pressing the ‘on’ button will re-ignite the pilot light, and a few seconds later, the fire will follow.
If this doesn’t work, you just need to wait a few seconds and give it another go. This generally does the trick. If your pilot light still doesn’t ignite, it may be best to call a professional.
If you have a gas fireplace with a millivolt system, chances are you never even need to re-light the pilot light. The pilot light is always on with millivolt systems, and there really isn’t anything that will put it out.
But, in the off-case that you do need to re-light it, here’s how you do it if you have a battery-assisted Piezo Ignition system:
- Remove the glass door.
- Push the gas control knob in halfway and put it in the ‘pilot’ position.
- Push the gas control knob in all the way and push the igniter button at the same time.
- Continue this until the pilot lights.
- Keep holding the gas control knob for about 60 seconds.
- If the pilot light stays lit, continue to the next step. If not, repeat the process.
- Push the gas control knob in halfway and put it in the ‘on’ position.
- Reinstall the glass door.