Gas Fireplace Glossary of Terms

There are a number of terms that keep popping up when talking about gas fireplaces. One of the more difficult things to grasp in a home improvement is all the terminology that gets thrown around. We’ve provided a quick glossary to keep you up to speed.

BTU: BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are a measurement of heat transfer. In technical terms, a BTU is the amount of heat energy needed to heat 1 pound of liquid water by 1 degree Farenheit. In other words, BTUs are a measurement of heat energy. The higher the BTUs, the more heat a gas fireplace produces. This works the other way, as well. If you have a particularly drafty and leaky home, you will lose more BTUs per hour than a well sealed home.

Propane: Propane is a gas used for fueling energy needs, including heating. It becomes liquid at a higher temperature than natural gas and thus is much easier to transport. As well, it produces more BTUs per unit than natural gas. However, this “heavy” quality also means that it does not rise when it is released into the air. The cost of propane as compared to natural gas depends largely on location: some areas that do not have access to natural gas find propane cheaper.

Natural Gas: Natural gas is an energy source found in both liquid and air forms. Most urban areas utitlize natural gas and have networks of gas lines running in a grid to fuel buildings. It does not produce as much BTUs per unit as propane, but is much more accessible, especially for urban areas.

Oxygen Sensor: An oxygen sensor is an important safety mechanism built into gas fireplace units. It detects when their is any significant change in the oxygen and gas levels of the room. What this means is if there is even the slightest leak of gas into a room, the oxygen sensor will detect it and immediately cut off the gas fireplace from its fuel source. No gas (whether natural or propane) will be released into the room.

Piezo Ignition: This is an ignition system that utilizes a quartz crystal provide voltage. When triggered, a spring-loaded hammer hits the quartz crystal, slightly deforming it. Quartz crystals, when deformed, produce a small voltage. This voltage is then used to ignite a fuel source. In gas fireplace units, piezo ignition systems are used to light the flame safely and efficiently. The great draw of piezo ignition systems is that they do not require any electricity to function. All that they require is your touch of a button or pull of a lever. This can help eliminate any electicity costs associated with your gas fireplace.

Electric Ignition: Electric ignition systems use electricity from either a power source or a battery to ignite a flame. When used in gas fireplace units, the gas fireplace is connected with either the home’s electricity or to a separate battery. The system then uses a spark to ignite the fuel source. The advantage of using electric ignition in your gas fireplace is that you can easily just connect with your existing electricity and not need a separate system.

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