Should The Pilot Light Always Be On In A Gas Fireplace?

Many homeowners are always concerned about conserving the energy of the fireplace on their utility bills. So, they are confused about their usage of the pilot light. Many of them ask a common question – should the pilot light always be on in a gas fireplace?  

Actually, you need to turn off the pilot light when you don’t want any further heat production. But you need to leave your pilot on so that there is no clogging in the light system.

Scroll down the article to know more about when to shut off the pilot and when to keep it on!

Reasons To Turn Off Your Gas Fireplace Pilot Light 

The reasons vary from person to person. However, there are some common causes why should you turn off the pilot –

  • If you want to save energy and money, you should turn off the pilot.
  • When the pilot is off, there will be nothing to get worried about. The glass door on your fireplace will not be warm to the touch.
  • The constant use can be hard on your pocket. Most Gas Fireplaces’ pilot lights use about 900-1100 BTU/hr. For a natural gas home, you pay for your gas by the Therm. A Therm = 100,000 BTU. So, if your pilot uses 1,000 BTU/hr and it is running for 24 hours a day, and 30 days a month, that comes out to be about 720,000 BTU. 

Reasons To Turn On The Gas Fireplace Pilot Light

Now, let’s see the reasons on why you should keep the light on –

  • There are still trace amounts of gas molecules in the burner and pilot tubes even when the pilot is turned off. The gas companies add a chemical named Mercaptan to the gas to give a lovely odor.

    Spiders are attracted to the smell of the Mercaptan and will sometimes build webs in the pilot and burner tubes when the flow of gas is off.

    So, when you go to turn on your fireplace in the early fall or late summer, it will not work, and you will have to call your local installer to come service the unit. This will cost money.
  • If the pilot is left on for a long time, without turning on the main burner of the fireplace, a white sulfur-based film can develop on the inside of the glass. The sulfur is a by-product of the burning pilot and it can build up over time on the glass. If it is left uncleaned could possibly etch itself into the glass. 

What To Do When The Pilot Light Goes Out?

Since the pilot light controls the lighting, it is located at the front of the unit for easy access. To figure out the issue –

  • You need to locate the light assembly and the gas valve with ‘on’, ‘off’, and ‘pilot’ settings. 
  • Then, rotate the valve to the ‘off’ position and wait for a few minutes.
  • Rotate the valve to the pilot position 
  • Hold a lighter to the pilot opening while pushing the pilot reset button.
  • Keep pressing the button until the flame is burning.
  • Release and turn the gas valve to the ‘on’ position. 

However, if the flame could not remain lit, rotate the valve to the off position and call for service.

Is The Pilot Light Too High On Gas Fireplace?

Sometimes the pilot light on your gas fireplace can be too high. The flame will be orange or yellow when too high. It can also seem too bright or dim. If this happens, it won’t reach the sensors and hence cannot ignite the system. This bright light is low in temperature.

That’s why it cannot provide enough heat for the thermocouple to be active. However, this should not cause any damage to the system but create issues with the ignition and increased soot build-up. So, if the light is too high, adjust it simply by button or adjusting the screw.

So, Is It Safe To Keep The Pilot Light On The Gas Fireplace?

Although, it is not that frightening; we recommend keeping the pilot light on the gas fireplace off when you are not using the fireplace.

If you keep the pilot light on, the gas will produce continuously.

Yes, the amount is not much but it will just be a waste. If it runs on natural gas, you’ll have to spend about $7-$10 every month for this unnecessary use and it can even reach $20 if the fuel is propane.

In the summer, when you don’t use your fireplace that much, opened pilot light may cause carbon mono oxide emission which is also harmful to nature.

And if you don’t use your fireplace but keep the pilot light on, it can occur explosion.

But this is very rare. So, be cautious before keeping your pilot light on when you are not using your gas fireplace. Just use the knob as directed and keep the pilot light off.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How big should the pilot light be on a gas fireplace?

For a perfect gas fireplace, the pilot flame should burn blue with a yellow tip. There are sensors placed to the sides of the light. The flame should reach them and they should ignite the system properly.

The flame should be strong enough to cover ½ inch at the end of the thermocouple tip. If the flame becomes too strong, it will create noise and make the ignition process improper.

How Do You Turn Off The Pilot Light On A Gas Fireplace?

The process is quite straightforward. You need to just follow the steps –
1. Open the front of the unit to access the pilot
2. Turn the pilot light valve to the off position.

What is the purpose of the key which comes with the older gas fireplaces?

The metal key of the some older gas fireplaces units is inserted into a keyhole which turns on the gas flow to start the fire.

What are the regular problems and their solutions regarding fireplaces?

1. Clean your burner plate to remove carbon residue
2. Replace your thermocouple if the pilot light won’t stay lit.
3. Change out the thermopile if the fireplace won’t ignite. 


If the warm weather is quickly approaching and you are getting ready to head outside though, you can’t help but stop and ask yourself “should the pilot light always be on in a gas fireplace?” 

After going through the article, I guess you have got your answer. 

While it does cost more to keep your pilot light on all the time, it can also have some benefits to your system.

By keeping gas flowing through the pipes and valves continuously, you will prevent insects from setting up shop inside the unit. 

Keeping the pilot light running also prevents moisture build-up in the pipes. 

So, the choice is yours!

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