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Convert a Wood Burning Fireplace to Propane

Date: June 25, 2019

Propane fireplace

Are you tired of setting up and maintaining a wood burning fireplace but still want to enjoy the warmth of a glowing fire? Or perhaps you have a wood burning fireplace that you never use anymore because it’s in a state of disrepair.

Many people who faced these situations have converted their old wood burning fireplaces to new, efficient and safe propane gas burning fireplaces. Why not consider doing that yourself? If you start the ball rolling now, you’ll be able to enjoy your brand new fireplace in time for the holiday season.

But first, you may be wondering how much propane does a fireplace use. The simple answer is, a propane fireplace uses about one gallon of propane per 100,000 BTU. So, if you have a propane fireplace that is rated 50,000 BTU, you can expect to use one gallon of propane every two hours. Consider the expense and labor of operating your wood fireplace and you may find that you have a much better deal with propane.

The beauty of propane hearths

Today’s propane hearths bring you the cozy comfort of a wood fireplace without most of the drawbacks – and with some benefits that a wood fireplace could never provide. Propane hearths are available as built-in fireplaces, freestanding stoves, and sealed fireplace inserts that can be installed directly in your existing mantle. With that kind of flexibility, you can enjoy the benefits of a propane fireplace whether or not you have an existing fireplace feature. Consider these advantages:

  • Convenience – With a propane fireplace, you will have the beautiful glow of a hearth at your fingertips any time you want it. Most of today’s propane fireplaces are equipped with thermostats, too, so you control the flame intensity and heat output from the comfort of your chair.
  • Efficiency – A propane fireplace operates at about 80 percent efficiency –that’s about four or five times more efficient than a wood-burning fireplace.
  • Versatility – A propane fireplace isn’t just an attractive centerpiece for your living room – it’s also a power outage-proof space heater. It’s so powerful, in fact, that you can turn down your thermostat a few degrees when it’s on, making it a kind of zone heating solution for your Arizona home.
  • Health impact – Wood smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles (also called fine particulate matter). These microscopic particles can wreak havoc on your respiratory system, cause heart attacks, and more. With propane, you avoid these health risks.
  • Environmental impact – Burning wood produces about 28 pounds of smog-producing particulate emissions (soot and ash) per MMBtus of heat output; propane produces less than one percent of that total. Trade wood for propane and you will be shrinking the carbon footprint of your Arizona home.

Trends for propane fireplace inserts

Choose a propane fireplace insert and you’ll get the convenience and efficiency of a propane hearth inside the beautiful framework of an existing masonry fireplace.

  • More realistic flames – Better gas burner technology means more realistic flames that flicker and dance, just like a wood fire.
  • Smarter fireplace inserts – Modern gas fireplace inserts can be programmed to turn on and off at specific times; you can even program temperatures you want to maintain at specific times of the day or night.
  • Adjustable heat – Need to increase the output of your fireplace on a cold night, or back down to take the edge off on a crisp autumn day? Today’s fireplace inserts have multi-stage temperature controls to handle that.
  • Using propane fireplace inserts as high efficiency backup heat – Today’s fireplace inserts can have efficiencies that measure well into the 80s – well above the efficiency of a wood fire. That makes a propane fireplace insert a great source of supplemental heat.
  • More sizing variety – You may have a masonry fireplace with an opening too narrow or too shallow to fit a typical fireplace insert. To overcome this obstacle, smaller inserts are becoming more common.
  • Fireplace inserts with blowers – Here’s good news for people heating big spaces: some fireplace inserts now come with multi-speed blowers to push warm air to the far corners of a room.
  • Masonry fireplace refinishing – Some people have made dramatic and beautiful changes to their existing masonry fireplace without breaking the bank.

How to light a propane fireplace

A big advantage of a propane fireplace is that there is no work involved before you get a fire roaring. You simply click a switch or use your remote control. But there may be cases when the fire does not appear. Problems like this usually happen because of a lack of maintenance. Here are a few troubleshooting tips.

If your fireplace has a conventional pilot light:

  • Check the main valve to make sure the gas is turned on.
  • If the gas is on, and the pilot hasn’t been lit in several months, try purging the air out of the pilot tubing. To do this, hold the pilot button down for about two minutes while the air bleeds out.
  • If gas is coming out of the pilot, but it still won’t light, clear away any gunk sitting between the igniter and thermocouple, using a can of compressed air. If the problem isn’t fixed, it could indicate a bad thermocouple. At this point, it’s time to call in a propane professional to make repairs.

NOTE: Some newer propane fireplaces have electric igniters rather than standing pilot lights. These are great for efficiency, but not so great for self-repair. It’s better to call in the experts.

Please reach out to your local propane company for advice about propane gas fireplaces.