Gas fireplaces are an ideal fixture for those who want the comfort, warmth, and visual appeal of a fire without all the hassles that come with operating a traditional log fireplace.
There are many kinds of gas fireplaces, and some operate using a metal key while others rely on wall switches or a control panel.
But how exactly is a key-operated gas fireplace turned on? And for that matter, how’s it turned off? These are the two main questions I answer throughout the sections below. Read on to find out!
How to Turn on a Gas Fireplace with a Wall Key
1. Find the Keyhole
The first step is finding the keyhole. Believe it or not, some regard this as the most frustrating part of the process, as the keyholes on gas fireplaces can be elusive.
Generally speaking, the keyhole should be on either the left or right wall cavity. When you’re looking for the keyhole, be on the lookout for a hole that’s surrounded by raised metal; but remember too that not all key holes are raised.
You might also find the keyhole on the floor. So you may have to do some looking around.
Once you find the keyhole, check to see if the key can be inserted. If it can be, don’t turn it yet; read the next step before doing that.
2. Insert the Key
Generally speaking, the keys used to turn on wall fireplaces are between 3 and 6 inches long. That said, you may find a key that’s longer; the keys used for outdoor fireplaces, for example, tend to be longer.
Wall fireplace keys usually have a flattened handle that makes gripping easier, and usually their shafts are straight. Most have a rounded point, but some keys have a square point.
Once you have your system’s key, and you know where the keyhole is, insert the fireplace key.
3. Turn the Key Counterclockwise
Once the key is inserted in the hole, you need to turn it counterclockwise. But instead of jamming it to one side immediately, start by gently turning the key to see if there’s any give.
If it’s not budging, this means you have the wrong key, for it shouldn’t take that much effort to turn the key counterclockwise, especially if the system is off.
4. Ignite the Pilot Light
Once gas is flowing from the gas line, it’s time to light it. You should use a butane lighter to do so. Specifically, get one with a long barrel so you don’t have to put your hand too close to the flame. Avoid using matches and smaller lighters for this.
Of course, before you use a butane lighter, you should make sure it’s fully functional before placing it near gas. Press the lighter a few times to make sure it has no trouble producing a small flame.
Once you’re comfortable and ready, put the end of the lighter near where the gas is coming out of the system and press down on the trigger to light the gas.
Note: If your butane lighter has a child safety lock, you’ll need to disengage this lock before you can use the lighter.
5. Adjust the Level
Now that the flame is lit, it’s time to adjust its intensity by turning the gas valve key. Turning the key counterclockwise increases the flame’s intensity, while turning it clockwise will reduce its intensity. Turn the key until you reach the desired level of fire.
Note: If you turn your key and you’re not noticing a change in the flame’s intensity, there may be a problem with your system, one that should be addressed ASAP.
How to Turn on a Gas Fireplace With a Wall Switch
A lot of modern wall fireplaces come with a wall switch. This is a simple interface, and essentially all you have to do is flip the switch to turn the system on or off. The switch adjusts the intensity of the flame too.
When you flip the switch so it’s in the ON position, the system’s pilot should ignite. If the pilot doesn’t turn on right away, you may have to do this manually. In this instance too, having a long-barreled lighter is ideal.
However, the pilot may not be lighting when you flip the switch on because there’s a problem with the system. In this case, you’d want to investigate further before attempting to use the system again
Many wall fireplaces that utilize a wall switch also have a keyhole. In this case, the keyhole is like a backup that can be used if the switches become inoperable.
How to Turn on a Gas Fireplace With a Control Panel
If your gas fireplace has a control panel, look for the red pilot-igniter knob. There should be two options: OFF and PILOT (or ON).
Here’s what you have to do to light this fireplace:
- Flip the knob from OFF to PILOT (or ON).
- Push the knob, as doing so sends gas to the system.
- Push the igniter every second until the pilot lights.
- Once the pilot is lit, continue holding the button to ensure the flame stays.
- Release the pilot-igniter knob; if the flame isn’t extinguished, keep the knob in the ON position.
Note: Of course, if you want the pilot-igniter knob to work at all, the gas valve knob will have to be open so there’s sufficient gas flow.
How to Turn off a Gas Fireplace With a Wall Key
Turning off a gas fireplace with the system’s key is simple, especially if you recently turned it on. You basically just do the opposite of what you did to turn the system on.
1. Identify the Shut-Off Valve
Just like how you inserted the key in the keyhole to turn the system on, you will have to reinsert the key in the same keyhole to shut it off.
2. Insert the Key
Make sure you’re reinserting the right key properly. A good way to ensure you always have the right key is to hang it up on a key hook somewhere near the fireplace. The key should be labeled and it should be out of reach for small children.
If you don’t misplace your wall fireplace key, you won’t have to waste time jamming the wrong key in the keyhole. Doing this can also damage the system, especially if you’re too rough and try to force the key in a direction it’s not supposed to go.
And since we’re talking about a gas fireplace, it’s definitely wise to refrain from being rough with this system, as damaging it could result in a hazardous, possibly even deadly, gas leak.
3. Turn the Key Clockwise
Once you have the right key in the keyhole, you need to turn it clockwise to shut off the gas. This is in direct contrast to what you do to turn the system on, as there you’re turning the key counterclockwise.
You should turn the key slowly and watch the flame as you do. The flame should decrease as you turn the key. If you turn the key and the flame does not decrease, this is a sign that there’s a problem with the system.
4. Close the Gas Valve
Making sure the gas valve is closed is essential. This way you ensure no gas leaks out of the system. It’s also wise to hide the valves from curious children.
You’ll know there’s a leak if you smell gas emanating from the system long after it’s been shut off.
In this instance, it’s best to call the local fire department, report the gas leak, and then immediately exit your home and get a safe distance away from it. Don’t do too much ventilating beforehand, as this will make it harder for the fire department to pinpoint the leak.
What to Do When Your Gas Fireplace Doesn’t Have a Key
You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the key that’s needed to turn on your wall fireplace. Perhaps you misplaced it, or maybe it’s with a bunch of other keys that look similar and you don’t have time to check each key in order to find which one is the correct one.
Don’t worry! There’s a good chance you’ll still be able to get your system on. You’ll just need to do some tinkering with the system’s components.
Of course, if your system has an ignition knob or switch, you won’t even need the key.
You could turn the pilot light on manually, but this can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. And if you’re going to be tinkering with the system in any way, it’s best to shut off access to the gas supply until you know what you’re doing.
The system manual may explain how the system can be turned on without a key, which is why it’s best to read through this before you start tinkering.
In the end, while it’s possible to manually light a gas fireplace without its key, you’ll need to know proper procedure to pull this off safely.
Should You Attempt a Manual Start?
If you don’t know the ins and outs of handling gas-powered fireplaces, it’s best to focus on getting a replacement key rather than focusing on how you can start the system without one.
There’s no reason to put yourself in harm’s way when, in the worst case scenario, you may just have to get a new wall fireplace.
Looking to make your fireplace more appealing? Check out this guide to painting the inside of your fireplace!
In the end, turning on modern gas fireplaces with keys isn’t that difficult. Usually, the most challenging part is finding the key that’s required to operate the system, and finding the keyhole to put it in can be a pain too.
But if you can manage both, the rest is pretty simple, provided there’s not a larger problem with the system.
In essence, all you have to do to turn the system on is insert the key and turn it counterclockwise; the flame should burn eventually. And to shut it off, put the key back in and turn it clockwise; the flame should go out. It’s really that simple!