Jul 9, 2012 / 5:00 am
In the age of convenience we often overlook subtle costs. Take for example gas fireplace inserts with pilot lights. Pilot lights stay on 24/7 to light the main burners whenever we desire, even when we don’t use them during the summer. Most modern gas appliances use some form of electronic ignition instead of a pilot light, but I see many appliances out there with pilot lights.
The pilot light is fuelled by a small amount of gas released from the gas pipe. When the appliance is turned on, a valve releases more gas, which is ignited by the pilot light. Pilot lights may need to be re-lit from time to time after being extinguished on purpose or by accident. Pilot lights can pose danger when they are mixed with explosive gasses released from insecticide "bug bombs" and foggers or floor refinishing products.
A constantly burning pilot light adds heat to the house. This heat can be useful in the winter when it helps to heat the house, but, in the summer it just adds to the unwanted heat load, and makes the house hotter or requires the A/C to work harder. In some cases, the pilot light can account for almost half of the gas used by a fireplace. According to sources they waste more than 20% of gas consumed.
Make a habit of turning off the pilot light during the non-heating months or when you are away for extended periods of time to minimize your monthly gas bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
If you’re buying a new gas fireplace, look for a model that has an electronic ignition, which eliminates the need for a continuous pilot light. Ensure the fireplace is properly sized for your heating needs, check the fireplace efficiency, and select direct-vent gas fireplaces (instead of power vent, natural draft or vent free ones). New furnaces also allow you to vent directly through a basement wall to reduce the cost of installing, maintaining and repairing a chimney. Note that decorative fireplaces are not designed to be a primary heat source and most decorative fireplaces are not very inefficient. That said, by selecting an energy approved labelled fireplace, you'll be getting the top 25% efficient product in its category.
For information on how to turn off your pilot light click here.
(Photo: Hugh Cairns)
The purple area in the inset photo is cool while the orange shows hot. Leaving the pilot light on over the summer can be a waste of energy and money.
Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles
- Hugh Cairns: Concrete driveway spalling May 20
- Hugh Cairns: Relaxing your home May 13
- Hugh Cairns:Home security tips May 6
- Hugh Cairns: The end of flue season Apr 29
- Home inspections - turning the water on Apr 22
- Hugh Cairns: home inspections Apr 15
- Hugh Cairns: mobile home inspections Apr 8
- Face-lifts that sell houses Apr 1
- Replacing aluminum wiring Mar 25
- Is aluminum wiring safe? Mar 18
- Eco-friendly, reusable moving boxes Mar 11
- Ductless heat pumps Mar 4
(Click for RSS instructions.)