The next time you snuggle up near the warmth of a gas fireplace, ask yourself when the last time you had someone do maintenance on it. Usually ignored, gas log fireplace maintenance should be done annually just as you do with your furnace. Right, the furnace is do, too, but that's a different post.
Most of the manufacturers of gas log fireplaces and inserts recommend having the system serviced on an annual basis. Most of this you can accomplish on your own if you are reasonably handy. Always remember to turn off the pilot and the gas to the fireplace before working on it.
Use a brush to clean the control space and the burner once you have the unit opened up. Use a very soft bristle brush to clean the logs - they tend to be fragile, so handle with some care.
Some logs, called 'yellow flame logs', require more frequent maintenance. They don't generate as much heat as the blue flamed logs but present an attractive appearance that rivals a traditional wood fire. The yellow color of the flame is a result of the carbon in the logs and, like the wood-burning fireplace, generates soot. Chimneys for these require the same maintenance as the traditional chimney.
The glass can be cleaned with a standard glass cleaner. Be careful with trim work and clean only with a damp rag - using chemicals might etch the finishes and ruin the appearance of the fireplace.
Before you start the fireplace for the first time, check to make sure that the vent is clear of debris and dead animals. Also verify that there are no cracks or holes in the flue pipes. Check for condensation the first time you ignite the fireplace. There will be a little bit but it should burn off quickly. If it doesn't, the condensation may combine with the combustion gases and make a weak corrosive solution that can attack the metal of the flue.
Call the Pros!
The manufacturer also recommends annual service of the gas log fireplace by trained professionals. You really do need to have them come out to service the system. While you can clean and maintain the burner components and do a routine inspection of the vents, the pros can check the fuel/air mixture to make sure that the fireplace operates at optimum efficiency, check for gas leaks, and inspect the blower components to ensure the fan operates correctly.
A reminder - if you smell gas, call a service person immediately and describe to them the type and strength of the odor. Follow their instructions - if they say get out - Get Out!
A second reminder - install a carbon monoxide detector even if everything else in your house is electric. Any home with a gas-fired or wood-burning fireplace or furnace should have one.
So, the basics of gas log fireplace maintenance. Do it and enjoy the ambience all winter, worry-free.