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Ask the Carpenter: Should you shut off the pilot light in your fireplace during the summer?

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
The living room is surrounded by columns similar to the ones that surround the gas fireplace.
Even when the pilot light is turned off, there are still trace amounts of gas molecules in the burner and pilot tubes of your fireplace. Debee Tlumacki

Q. Shutting off the pilot light in my gas fireplace is easy, but turning it back on is a bit of a challenge. Does keeping it lighted in the summer use a lot of energy?

L.L.

A. This is a great question that gets asked all the time about gas fireplaces and gas inserts. I am going to assume that you use natural gas, not propane. With natural gas, a pilot light uses about 7 therms a month. Look at your gas bill and find out what you pay per therm. My guess is it costs you $5 to $7 a month to leave on. Propane will be three times that.

Besides the fact that it’s a pain to turn off, consider this:

■ Even when the pilot light is turned off, there are still trace amounts of gas molecules, called mercaptan (or methanethiol), in the burner and pilot tubes of your fireplace. Spiders are attracted to the smell and will sometimes build webs in there. Come fall, your pilot light may fail to light because webs are clogging the tubes, which cost money to clean.

■ If you leave the pilot light on for long periods without turning on the main burner, a white film can develop on the glass. This is a sulfur byproduct of the burning pilot, and if left uncleaned, it can etch the glass.

For natural gas, I’d leave it on. If it’s propane, I’d turn it off and take the risk.

 

The homeowner has trouble with critters sneaking through the lattice work behind this landing. —Handout

Q. I have hired a contractor to replace my back landing, which is about 3 feet by 2.5 feet with solid stone below and granite rectangles on the walking surface, including the step to the patio. I have had trouble with critters sneaking through the lattice work behind this landing on the sides under each window (behind the pink flowering bush and on the opposite side) on either side of the door, and have asked the contractor to seal the outside of the lattice as a facade. Now, however, after reading your response to someone about crawl spaces, I am concerned that if we seal it, any moisture from the ground will cause rot underneath the door and the floor section that juts out from the kitchen at the back door. I was wondering whether I should put heavy-duty screening at the top inch or so of the stone facade and not seal it completely. Any thoughts?

DAN

A. You can install heavy-duty ¼-inch-by-¼-inch hardware-cloth screening (chicken wire) behind your lattice as a solution. When considering the use of hardware cloth, choose one that has smaller openings and a larger-gauge wire. Dig down 6 to 12 inches and install the wire in the ground. Use galvanized staples, starting on one end and pulling the hardware cloth tight as you stretch and fasten it.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of AConcordCarpenter.com, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to homerepair@globe.com or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.