Friedman, Hirschen & Miller, LLP

Gas as a source of heat for fireplaces, stoves and inserts is the latest and greatest technology found in many 21-century homes today. Gas is considered less polluting and less costly. However, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, known as the HPBA, say there are real dangers associated with gas fireplaces in particular, especially to young children.

According to HPBA, the glass covering the hearth of gas fueled fireplaces can easily cause burns to those that touch the surface. "The glass becomes extremely hot during operation and stays hot long afterwards, creating a potential burn hazard," says Jack Goldman president and CEO of HPBA.

Moreover, a survey conducted last year found that less than half of all 11 million houses that contained gas fireplaces with glass covers didn't know the glass was so hot as to become a serious danger to their kids or pets that come in contact with the surface.

The solution is to use a safety screen or gate to cover the glass and keep it out of reach of exposure to small hands or paws. About 5 million households already use these barriers, but unfortunately, that leaves plenty of others not using the protective barrier.

New rules will require all gas fireplace manufactured after January 1, 2015 to require a safety screen or gate. The panels will likely attach to the existing fireplace as many already do today. The Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that some manufacturers are taking proactive measure to inform the public through media outlets, but not all of them.

HBPA safety tips for households with glass covered fireplaces

In the meantime HBPA recommends those with glass covered gas fireplaces follow safety tips to keep everyone safe and free of burns:

  • Supervise those in contact: Individuals in households with glass panels covering their gas fireplaces should always supervise and watch small children, pets or older adults to make sure they do not go near the fireplace. Even if it's been turned off for a short while, it still could be hot-cool down could take up to 1 hour. Additionally, keeping the remote control away from children is also recommended due to the potential for accidental ignite. Homeowners are encouraged to install a switch lock to prevent accidentally turning on of the fireplace.
  • Educate guests and visiting family members: Informing guests or visiting family members of the dangers of the hot fireplace is additionally recommended. Guests may be unaware that the glass panel gets hot enough to cause burns if touched.
  • Read the owner's manual: Homeowners with glass panel gas fireplaces should always read the operator's manual thoroughly to make sure to read safety recommendations and to follow proper installation. Contacting the manufacturer if questions arise is also suggested.

Due to the potential for serious, irreversible burning and other serious hazards associated with panels covering gas fireplaces, homeowners can never be too safe-particularly when young infants are toddlers are around.