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  1. #1

    Direct Vent Fireplace Problem

    I have a 13 year old Heatilator direct vent fireplace original to the house. Over the last couple of seasons I had problems with the flames going out randomly, sometimes right after I lit the fireplace or after it had been running for a few hours. This past season not only did I have the flames going out, I could not get the unite to ignite at all towards the end of the season. The pilot flame is steady and blue in color and has never blown out. I have never removed the glass cover on front, nor has the unit ever been serviced. What could be causing this? Also, what is the service life for a direct vent unit? Should I have it repaired or replaced?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Keokuk, IA
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    5,520
    Quote Originally Posted by kingmic View Post
    I have never removed the glass cover on front, nor has the unit ever been serviced. What could be causing this? Also, what is the service life for a direct vent unit? Should I have it repaired or replaced?
    You may have answered you own question. I would recommend having any gas heating applianced serviced annually.

    Does it try to light? but then goes out. IF yes, then could be a flame sensor. IF not, then could be a bad gas valve.

    More imrpotantly, you could have a blockage in your flue pipe restricting combustion airflow.

    No reason it can't last another 10-15 years if properly cared for depending on how often it's used. Might jsut go throgu ha couple flame sensor and a gas valve, but the burners and basic housign should last a long time. Its' not as complex as a modenr furnace with blwoers and inducer fans and control boards. It's about the same as the burner on a simple natural draft tank water heater, with exception to those that have multistage gas valves.

  3. #3
    Thank you for the quick response. Sometimes it will try to light but the majority of the time it does nothing (now). It used to attempt to light every time I turned the switch on. You are correct I should have had the fireplaced serviced annually. I hardly ever used it unless it was exceptionally cold outside or friends were over. Are there any specific accredidations I should look for in a contractor for servicing a gas fireplace? What do you think a new gas valve installed should run approximately? I am in the Canton, OH area.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Barrie Ontario
    Posts
    318
    I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the unit has a thermocouple for the pilot and a thermopile for the flame circuit and the pile is mostly likely done and should be a quick and fairly cheap for a qualified tech to fix. And if they're good they'll clean you're glass up nice while they're there
    For some reason I learn more with my mouth shut

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,175

    Cool

    13 yr old unit that has never seen serviced and the glass never taken off?????

    Did you read the part in the mfrs listed instructions about annual maintenance and having a qualified technician inspect and service it as needed?

    Your glass is probably ruined by now not to mention the function of the unit. What troubles me is the description could implicate a problem with the venting. Shut it down until you can get a qualified professional in there to clean and service it.

    You can look for a tech certified by the National Fireplace Institute for starters but also preferrably one who has taken Heatilator Technical Training and has access to parts and tech support. www.nficertified.org


    This is not a DIY site.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    199
    It could also be a bad switch or connection in the on/off circuit. But you should have a qualified tech take a look. what you need to find is a heatilator dealer. hearth and Home is the parent company of heatilator so you may be able to locate a dealer through them.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    11
    Quote Originally Posted by darthvader View Post
    It could also be a bad switch or connection in the on/off circuit. But you should have a qualified tech take a look. what you need to find is a heatilator dealer. hearth and Home is the parent company of heatilator so you may be able to locate a dealer through them.
    Yeah, it could just be an old wall switch. I had a similar problem. Bought a new $5 wall switch and hooked it up. Problem solved. Standard wall switches tend to develop resistance over time. You could use a milliwatt wall switch, but they're expensive. Must cheaper to just replace an ordinary switch every 10 years or so.

    I've never had my fireplace serviced, although I do clean the glass once a year. I don't think you need to get it serviced annually, unless you use it all the time. There's not much to go wrong with fireplaces.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Barrie Ontario
    Posts
    318
    Quote Originally Posted by daveknapp View Post

    I've never had my fireplace serviced, although I do clean the glass once a year. I don't think you need to get it serviced annually, unless you use it all the time. There's not much to go wrong with fireplaces.
    Horrible advice every gas appliance should be inspected and serviced yearly to insure safe operation. IMO

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Frederick, MD
    Posts
    951
    [QUOTE=daveknapp;13917901]Yeah, it could just be an old wall switch. I had a similar problem. Bought a new $5 wall switch and hooked it up. Problem solved. Standard wall switches tend to develop resistance over time. You could use a milliwatt wall switch, but they're expensive. Must cheaper to just replace an ordinary switch every 10 years or so.

    I've never had my fireplace serviced, although I do clean the glass once a year. I don't think you need to get it serviced annually, unless you use it all the time. There's not much to go wrong with fireplaces.[/QUOTE]

    There is more that can go wrong that what you think!
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    11
    Quote Originally Posted by turkey View Post
    Horrible advice every gas appliance should be inspected and serviced yearly to insure safe operation. IMO
    Well, naturally if you're in the gas business, you'd recommend that every gas appliance should be serviced annually. I'm not suggesting you're being disingenuous, but people who work in an industry are trained to think everyone should get professional servicing in that area. That costs quite a bit of money.

    Gas appliances today have all kinds of fail-safes. If something is wrong with them that makes them unsafe, they generally shut themselves off. So if someone never gets them serviced, the first problem that they'll likely notice is that they won't work. Then it's absolutely time to call a professional. Maybe they should have called for servicing before that, but regular maintenance from a professional is costly. A repair job every 10 years is probably a lot cheaper than getting an annual inspection and cleaning.

    Most homeowners can (and should!) do a general cleaning and inspection themselves, which is 90% of what needs to be done every year. The other 10% may eventually result in a repair bill, but as I said it's probably cheaper than an annual visit.

    I suspect that a propane BBQ is far more dangerous than any indoor gas appliance. They don't have many fail-safes, and can easily burn your house down if misused. How many people pay for a yearly inspection of a BBQ?

    Money is tight for a lot of people. Annual inspections should be done, but that doesn't mean they have to be done by a professional that charges a lot of money for it. A competent homeowner could read the owner's manual for the appliance and do that maintenance himself. They're not really all that complicated... especially a fireplace.

    Out of all the people I know that have a gas fireplace, I can't think of any that get annual inspections done on them. A few of them never do anything with them (like the original poster). Sure, their fireplaces look dirty and ugly, but they still work.

    There are benefits a professional can add. Certainly getting your furnace efficiency checked every couple of years is a good idea to make sure you're not wasting gas or something is wrong. And a CO detector in the house is a very good idea, even if you do get annual servicing of all your gas appliances. Problems don't just happen right before your scheduled annual servicing!

    Yes, I agree that gas can be dangerous. All the more reason for the homeowner to familiarize himself with how the system works and how to clean it and check it for basic safety.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,175
    I can think of a lot of reasons for an annual inspection and service. The first is just that---inspection. All sorts of things can and do change with fireplaces over time. Gaskets fail, vent pipes get blocked with nests, logs and embers get out of place, fireboxes rust, pilots get dirty, wires get damagd, dust bunnies pile up in convective chambers, inlet gas pressures can change, house dynamics can change,---a lot of things that can go wrong or need attention. A competent homeowner is NOT qualified to inspect or test fireplaces, much less an incompetent one and how do you separate the two? Dave, I don't know where you're getting your info. from but as a former Quality Assurance Manager for a major fireplace mfr. let me assure you there are a LOT of things you are missing. Just because they *work* does not make them suitable for service. FYI, a UL listed CO alarm will sound after you already have CO poisoning and hopefully just before you pass out and die so they are unreliable junk. If money is tight then shut off the fireplace until you can afford professional service.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Fresno, CA
    Posts
    207
    DaveKnapp,

    As far as the costs of service being alot, most people that own these gas fireplaces understand just like any other appliance it needs maintenance etc..

    So with anything that you purchase A/C, Car, almost anything of value degradates in performance at least 1% annually. With maintenance, repair, and diagnostics performed your better off in the long run in the pocket most cases. And with the peace of mind your system is safe, performing, and completing its intended correct sequence of operation.

    As far as your whack argument that homeowners should put off and do and familarize than having it serviced. you really should really check your self on that, if your not a professional and what your saying can actually hurt others its wrong to post on the subject. I understand that you may be speaking from your own personal experience on your systems operation, but fires, incomplete combustion, and electrical problems that come from no predictive/preventive maintenance, and or regular recommended service intervals is not something to be suggesting to be putting off or speaking on about if you not qualified and or certified to do so.

    And if you are an technician in some area of expertise, simplifying something that can take lives really isn't that simple at all. Its complicated.

    Over the last month I have walked into peoples homes and done servicing where they never had their systems serviced before, I ask
    "what made you change your mind?" some have replied "I didn't know you were suppose to" or "we had a fire and it was explained this thing was suppose to be service" and sadly sometimes " I intended to, but didn't and we ended having fire/system issues." So basically they learn the hard way some, but most of our customers understand that with use of the system, service is mandatory.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    11
    Quote Originally Posted by hearthman View Post
    If money is tight then shut off the fireplace until you can afford professional service.
    Sure, and while I'm at it, I'll shut off the furnace, hot water heater, BBQ, electricity, stop driving, stop cycling, etc. BTW, all of those things are more dangerous than a gas fireplace if not properly maintained.

    Rather than debate pro HVAC contractors about the merits of hiring you do to maintenance of a HVAC appliance, let me relate something unrelated to your profession:

    I have a car that has a maintenance computer to tell me when the car needs servicing. Everything from oil changes to spark plugs, etc. It does this based on usage, how hard you drive the car, time, RPM, etc. Even the owner's manual warns not to get the first oil change done before the maintenance reminder pops up.

    I do servicing according to the owner's manual and car's computer, and when I notice something wrong of course. Yet, whenever I take it to the mechanic, they want to change the oil every 3 months/3000 miles. They want to do expensive servicing that isn't required yet, etc.

    I don't think they're trying to rip me off. They're just trained in that industry to insist on more maintenance than is required (or even recommended). Who am I to believe? The manufacturer, or an auto-mechanic who's interest is to make money? Maybe they're just recommending things to the lowest common denominator, that abuses their car. I'm not in that category, nor are most people.

    Again, I am NOT suggesting you're ripping people off when you insist on annual maintenance of a fireplace. Indeed, for careless or clueless owners it is a very good idea. (I know a couple of people like that, and they don't ever get it maintained nor do it themselves. In that case, I'd agree with you that they should be hiring someone to do it.)

    What I am suggesting is that homeowners pick up their owner's manual, read what needs maintenance, and do most of it themselves if they're comfortable with it and a bit handy. That not only saves them money, but it likely results in a better-working fireplace than if it is just serviced once a year. Absolutely if there's gas issues or something failing, call in a professional.

    My owner's manual for my fireplace lists several things that need maintaining. The only thing they recommend that they say only a professional should do is replace the ember material. I'm not interested in having that replaced, since it just adds to soot. So I'm comfortable doing all the other recommended maintenance. If I notice a problem, I'll call in a pro.

    But can I change a wall switch? Yes, I can. Can I clean glass? Yes, I can. Can I vacuum soot and reposition logs according to the manual? Yes, I can. Can I light a pilot? Yes, I can. Etc. If I suspect there's something wrong with the fireplace, can I call a professional to come and fix it? Yes, I can.

    Money isn't free. Some people less fortunate than yourself have to make choices on what things to do themselves and what things to hire someone for. Telling them to "shut off the fireplace until you can afford a pro" is condescending.

    Do you deny a BBQ can be more dangerous than a fireplace? A BBQ doesn't shut off the gas if something's wrong. It's exposed to all kinds of bugs and weather. Yet, I know of nobody that hires a pro to annually maintain their BBQ. Why don't you go after people for not getting professional servicing of their BBQ?

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