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How to Safely Own and Operate a Gas Fireplace, for Ottawa Homeowners

A gas fireplace is any Ottawa homeowner’s best friend when the cold winter months roll around. Sure, a central heating system will get the job done just fine, but really, nothing in the world beats the warmth and radiance of sitting by a fire. And with natural gas fireplaces, Ottawa residents can enjoy that sensation with the added convenience of being able to start it with the push of a button, temperature controls, and a cleaner-burning fuel source than wood. But ownership of a fireplace isn’t just a luxury—it’s a responsibility. For a safe and comfortable fireplace experience this winter, follow these safety tips:

Keep a Safe Distance

It may feel cozy from a distance, but the area immediately around the fireplace can potentially become extremely hot! It’s best to create a buffer of about one metre around it—anything flammable or heat-sensitive should stay out of this buffer, including furniture, clothing, electronics, and of course, people. This means that you especially should not let children around the fireplace unsupervised, because their natural curiosity can become a hazard. Which leads us to…

Use a Screen

Did you know that, as of 2015, all gas fireplaces in Ottawa—and indeed, in North America—are required to be sold with a protective screen in front of their glass door? This is because during operation, the glass can become hot enough to cause severe burns on contact, even for up to a half hour after the fireplace is turned off. If you have a fireplace from before this regulation was put in place, a safety screen is a good investment. A screen is not a replacement for vigilance, care, and supervision, but rather a last line of defense.

Carbon Monoxide Safety

Ideally, a properly-working gas fireplace should not be venting carbon monoxide into your home. However, it always pays to prepare for any possibility. Ventilation systems (i.e. your chimney, pipes, or other vents) becoming clogged or failing to work properly can result in harmful emissions into your home, so it’s important to have a working carbon monoxide detector on every floor, and to regularly check the batteries of each one.

Perform Maintenance Annually

A proper maintenance check should be performed every year—ideally, before you turn it on for the first time. Have a professional come in and inspect the various components of the fireplace, make sure that all vents are unobstructed and all parts working properly, clean the glass and the fans, and give you the thumbs up for another winter of safe operation.

Owning a gas fireplace in Ottawa is a responsibility—but if you take proper care to operate it safely, it’s well worth it!