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Fireplaces Explained

Holiday 2004

Many of today's homes include a fireplace. There are two types of fireplaces found in the Phoenix area. The distinction between the two types is gas or solid fuel - primarily wood. In 1997, the City of Phoenix and other valley municpalities have prohibited the construction of wood-burning stoves or fireplaces and encourage the conversion of the existing wood-burning stoves or fireplaces to burn natural gas. The push to natural gas is an effort to limit the pollution during the cooler monthes when the air pollution is trapped near the ground.

Natural Gas Fireplaces

The most popular fireplace in newer homes is fueled by natural gas. The clean burn of the natural gas allows for burning on any day, including those days the county designates as "non-burn days". Gas fireplaces are safer, easier to operate and require less maintenance than a solid fuel fireplace. Operation is often as simple as the flip of a nearby switch on a wall. Although the maintenance of a gas fireplace is relatively small, it is important that the fireplace be properly maintained on a regular basis.  Being a gas appliance, an unmaintained fireplace can present a hazard within the home. An inspection by a qualified technician is recommended prior to each burning season.

Solid-Fuel Fireplaces

The most common solid fuel fireplaces burn wood. Many people prefer the aroma and crackling sound of a burning fire over the convenience of a natural gas fireplace. Wood burning fireplaces also require additional maintenance. Neglected maintenance of a wood fireplace can present many hazards within the home. With this it is recommended that these fireplaces be cleaned and inspected each year by a certified chimney sweep. More on chimney sweeps

In the Phoenix area, the ability to use your wood burning fireplace is restricted during "non-burn days". To find out if you can burn today visit

Fireplace Key Terms

Ash Dump -  Compartment behind the combustion chamber that catches and contains ashes until removal.

B-Vent - A gas fireplace that draws air from inside the home through ports in the firebox itself. (also called Natural vent).

Chimney Cap - Flat or curved plate at the top of the chimney. Often supplemented with a rain cap to protect the intrusion of rain or objects (birds) from entering the chimney.

Chimney - A vertical passageway used to vent smoke and vapors outside.

Certified Chimney Sweep - a licensed professional trained in the proper inspection and cleaning of fireplaces and chimneys.

Creosote - A very flammable by-product of combustion that can build up within the chimney and ignite.

Damper - A device used to reduce or close the opening between the firebox and flue.

Firebox - The chamber of the fireplace that contains the fire.

Flue Liner  - a pipe or channel for moving smoke from the fireplace to the chimney.

Hearth - the floor of the fireplace, which usually extends away from the wall.

Pilot light - Asmall gas flame that ignites the main burner to produce fire in the gas fireplace.

Ventless -  A fireplace that requires no venting as the combustion is maintained within the system (also called Vent-free).