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Thread: gas fireplace - switch stopped working

  1. #1
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    My fireplace has a light-switch that turns it on (really, releases the gas, because the pilot light is already going). A couple of months back we noticed the switch would only work every couple of tries. I replaced the light switch and it worked fine for a couple of days but now it is not working entirely (ever).

    Being fairly new to homeownership I'm not sure whether this is a problem for an electrician or a gas fireplace expert. I imagine it's actually a problem with the fireplace but was curious if anyone else has seen similar issues.

    Not sure on the brand of the fireplace -- I'm away on business at the moment...

  2. #2
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    First, always turn the power to the fan off when working on the gas (millivolt side)of the fireplace. The "decor" switch is a problem on gas fireplaces. Use a toggle switch if not there already. Otherwise, see what happens if you take the switch off and touch the wires together. If still not lighting, check those same wires where they attach to the valve at the f/p to check their connection. Still no flame? Take a 3inch piece of wire and jumper the top and bottom terminal. Still nothing? Tap the pilot tube (Aluminum tube) lightly with a screw driver to the beat of your favorite song ( I like "MONY MONY"). If that doesn't open the main burner than you should call a technician because you have a lazy pilot flame, or a weak thermalpile, or a bad valve (wont be the valve).

  3. #3
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    Thread Starter

    that worked!

    Okay, so tapping on the pipe after flipping the switch worked ... only, it appears I need to do that every time to get it going. Any idea on a better long-term solution?

  4. #4
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    Your pilot is likely a little dirty and therefore your millivolts are hoovering around the minimum required to open the valve (explains intermittent flame). Taking the pilot assembly apart is easy for experienced tech. If you don't know how to you can do more damage than good. Just use this knowlegde to not get screwed by the tech you call to fix it. Don't let them sell you parts , just tell the tech you want to see the pilot orifice and have it cleaned. Calling a company that sells that unit will give you a better chance at a quality repair. Also a "Service Expert" is not a fireplace expert. Good luck.

  5. #5
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    if the fireplace is like 5+ years old you might just need a new pilot assembly to deter recurring problems. They are usually not very expensive. Sometimes the pilot orifice is corroded into the pilot hood and there is no way to get it out to clean it.

  6. #6
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    hence the need for a "fireplace expert"

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by natgastech
    hence the need for a "fireplace expert"
    yeap, i was just clarifying that so that if the poor guy tried to sell him the pilot he didn't say "Some guy on a forum told me not to let you sell me stuff", heh.

    Now if the fireplace is near new then I doubt it needs new parts, probably just some cleaning out. But then again I doubt it is near new

  8. #8
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    In your original post you stated that you replaced the switch..did you connect the wires to the side terminals on the new switch and did you tighten the screws securely? Also it's a good idea to cut off about 1/2" of wire, strip it back & start with clean bare wire.Make sure your connections at the control valve are tight & secure. As others have mentioned if the unit is older it's probably in need of a service call from a qualified tech who can SAFELY clean & sevice unit.

  9. #9
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    Make sure that there is not a door switch on the unit also. If the door switch is bad it will not alow the valve to open. The door switch is usually in the lower corner of the door. If so, do not replace it, just bypass the switch.

  10. #10
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    DO NOT bypass the door switch if there is one and you feel it may be faulty as it is a safety & rendering it in-operative is not allowed as per gas code & manufacturer.

  11. #11
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    Confused my switch stopped working also

    I was going to call a repair man but my son says he can replace it, the one that starts the flame. Is that just like replacing a toggle light switch?

  12. #12
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    Call a tech and get it serviced properly. To start with, there are special millivolt rated wall switches that work much better than a standard wall switch.

    Sent from my Transformer TF101 using Tapatalk 2

  13. #13
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    there are lots of possible causes to "switch not working" but replacing the switch is easy and very cheap. I would recommend getting a "millivolt" rated wall switch. any switch will work, but the millivolt switch will last longer.

  14. #14
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    There are several components that have to work together for the fireplace to operate properly and since fireplaces operate on millivolts it doesn't take much interference to cause nuisances. Ideally a fireplace expert should evaluate/diagnose the system and determine what is causing the failure. It could be a number of parts not just a dirty pilot. I've seen components burn out in a couple of years because they were not adjusted right at install.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by randy1 View Post
    My fireplace has a light-switch that turns it on (really, releases the gas, because the pilot light is already going). A couple of months back we noticed the switch would only work every couple of tries. I replaced the light switch and it worked fine for a couple of days but now it is not working entirely (ever).

    Being fairly new to homeownership I'm not sure whether this is a problem for an electrician or a gas fireplace expert. I imagine it's actually a problem with the fireplace but was curious if anyone else has seen similar issues.

    Not sure on the brand of the fireplace -- I'm away on business at the moment...
    The option of replacing the switch with another standard $2 light switch is one solution, but you will likely need to do the same thing in a few years, and my concern is why should that be necessary when you will likely never have to replace most of the other light switches in your home as long as you own it - even though the light switching puts a much higher load on the switches than running a fireplace at less than 1 volt.

    Most standard light switches have brass contacts. At 120VAC level operation, there is usually no concern about residue build up because the high voltage/low resistance load level keeps the contacts clear enough by self cleaning the residue through arcing at every ON/OFF cycle.

    At millivolt level operation, the internal contacts tend to oxidize over time and create a high resistance (up to several ohms) which causes lots of problems for systems working at the millivolt level. The system that operates your fireplace is operating on a circuit that is dependent upon a voltage level that is probably 1/5 to 1/2 that of a AAA battery. As well, this voltage is capable of only a minute current production, so any losses are much more likely to cause performance problems.

    After doing lots of research, and refusing to pay exorbitant prices for "millivolt" switches, I ended up installing a "commercial" grade SPST light switch I got at the local home center. The "commercial" grade switches (Decora Plus, in my case) have silver alloy contacts which do not have the same characteristic residue production over time. In fact, I have read that the oxides that develop on silver actually improve connectivity. I am not 100% sure of that, but time will tell.

    The commercial grade switches can be purchased for less than $10.00.

  16. #16
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    Before doing anything, you need to test the output voltage of the pilot generator, or thermopile to some people. According to the manufacturer of several gas fireplaces, the lowest output that will open an MV gas valve is 305 millivolts. Anything less and the operation becomes sporadic. Installing and servicing thousands of gas fireplaces, I can tell you this is the #1 part I have had to replace to solve an intermittent problem as you describe. A meter that can read millivolt voltage can be purchased at most hardware stores for $20-$30. However, I think you should call a professional that has experience trouble shooting gas fireplaces, as there are many other causes of your symptoms. There are many appliances that run on millivolt operation, such as most wall furnaces, floor furnaces, space heaters, etc. Find someone who has worked on these types and you give yourself the best possible hope for a good outcome. Throwing parts at a problem isn't trouble shooting!

  17. #17
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    The best thing in this case is to get a fireplace expert after maybe your son takes a look at it, unless he's not that good as we think. Maybe it's a thing/few things that need cleaning, or something more serious than an expert can take care of.

  18. #18
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    It's been 15 years I bet he's figured it out.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sooty View Post
    It's been 15 years I bet he's figured it out.


    The car I had fifteen years ago had a starting problem. I wonder if these geniuses can help me figure THAT out too!

    Oh wait. I replaced that car fourteen years ago.
    Never mind...


    "You never know what others don't know." -

    If I can't laugh at myself...then I'll laugh at YOU! -

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