Why don’t IPI Fireplaces Work Properly?

Update: January 2018 – due to the popularity of this post we’ve created a video discussing this issue, please have a look here: https://friendlyfires.ca/ipi-vs-millivolt-pilot-light-systems/

IPI – the technical term used in the fireplace industry for ‘Intermitent Pilot Ignition’ (also called electronic ignition) is supposed to benefit end users with additional features and functionality – namely – lower fuel bills (as you can turn the pilot light off with a click of the remote) and additional functionality (because the flame on the fireplace can modulate). Some governments (see British Columbia) are forcing manufacturers to only sell IPI units.

However – these IPI units have caused us more service challenges than any other types of fireplaces. Our service calls have quadrupled on IPI units. At first we thought it was the manufacturers we were using – so we switched. But now, they are all more problematic than traditional standing pilot. Unfortunately for consumers, almost all new gas / propane fireplaces are being released as ‘IPI.’ No one really knows why they are more problematic… but our opinion is the following: 1) They rely on a proper power source (a common challenge in certain homes); 2) Replacing batteries is a challenge or unknown for many fireplace customers (especially in the hidden receiver part); and 3) Having electronic components so near to heat is … well… not good.

Therefore – if you are looking for a fireplace that will not have service issues, consider a traditional ‘standing pilot’ fireplace. If you prefer some of the features of newer IPI systems, that is fine, but you should be prepared for some minor frustrations at some point. The good news – is that if you purchased from us, we are here to support you. However, our technicians can be booked for 2-3 weeks during peak season so there is a risk in having a fireplace that is not working for a few days.

Please feel free to comment!

15 thoughts on “Why don’t IPI Fireplaces Work Properly?

  1. Hi Alex, My colleague just came across this article and passed it on to me! We are In St. John’s Newfoundland and have had issues with some newer fireplaces not experienced in our 22 years in the industry! Thanks for writing a great honest article! It’s nice to know it’s not just us! Cheers!

  2. Being a Fireplace Tech myself, I found alot of the problem is when the unit hasnt been used in awhile the gas will back up in the line causing only air to come out at initial startup,therefore taking a few tries to get it working again. Our systems we use are Dexen and we also found putting a rocker switch on the pilot solenoid wire as a cold climate switch works quite well. One pro with the IPI is you are not constantly changing out the millivolt wall swiches!

    • Very good point….. There are some workarounds and benefits to IPI systems. However, it would be nice if there was some form of consistency between manufacturers in order to solve the multitude of issues that come with them. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I have been servicing gas fireplaces for 25 years! What these fireplace manufacturers have created with these electronic systems that modulate the flame,turn on lights in the fireplace,electronically light pilot. They have created a nightmare for service companies because they are all different. There are a lot of dissatisfied customers,and growing. Get back to the basics manufacturers!!!

    • Hi Bob – we agree. If only manufacturers in general (cars, electronics, etc…) could sometimes realize that less is more. Just look at how Apple rose to success – keeping things really simple. Thanks for the comments!

    • I agree Bob! However maybe it was to relieve us techs from the same old questions from customers…Why does my wall switch need replacing and trying to explain about the millivolt systems…Our brand we install and service (H n Glo) are trying to work on a chip that plugs into the gas valve so that it can link to iPhones! People dont really need these gadgets and nowadays eveything is plug and play so start swapping out modules and such at the customers expense.Yeah the good old days when most fireplaces could be fixed by most companies because of the limited parts that they mostly used.You know Robertshaw,Nova Sits,etc…………..

      • I would welcome your input. My new Acucraft fireplace 36″ HearthRoom model came without an IPI. None of the dealers in Albuquerque carry Acucraft model. They are closed today, and i am never available when they are open as I am working. Anyway, how would I figure out which IPI to order, which brand is more reliable etc. I know nothing about this. I don’t have to have something so fancy on my iphone! Thanks if you can help me with hours of internet surfing which I don’t have time for!

        • Hi Amy,

          Impossible to assist online – sorry. You need a licensed installer to get the proper parts from whomever you purchased the fireplace. There are no universal ‘Internet available’ retrofit kits that we are aware of (although we may be wrong – we’ve never been asked this before). If you can’t get served, I would recommend that you return the fireplace and buy something local where someone can assist. Best of luck.

  4. It is now June 2017. Does anyone out there like these electronic fireplaces any better? ….. my company will no longer service them. Thank you electronic engineers and sales people that have no idea. I’m out!

    • Hi Bob,

      Its been our experience that some of the brands have improved tremendously, whereas some are still stuck in the past (we rely on two brands really right now, and they have improved tremendously).

  5. Most of the information on youtube deals with troubleshooting standing pilot systems. I have a Napoleon HD40 which is an IPI system. The pilot lights perfectly every time I turn the wall switch on, but the main burner doesn’t light. I’m not sure if the problem is the 3v electronics not sending the correct voltage to the valve, or if the valve isn’t opening when told to do so. The thermopyle is sending about 480mv to TP-TH/TP. I’ve cleaned the thermopyle/thermocouple rods at the pilot. I’m not sure what, if anything, I can test for at the control module (Dexen) or valve (also Dexen). The manual (pages 43) at http://mynapoleon.napoleonproducts.com/uploads/product_downloads/W415-1566_AeAf1.pdf shows the schematic. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Jeff – too difficult to diagnose online unfortunately – it could be too many things. Best recommendation is to get your local Napoleon service rep to your place and he should be able to figure it out. Best of luck.

  6. I have an outdoor fire table & the pilot line was severed. I was not able to acquire replacement tubing. I sealed this tubing off ,cut the electrical line from the thermocouple & now light the table with a BBQ starter. The fire will not stay lit. Why would that happen ? How do I solve this problem ?
    ( Why does a BBQ not require a pilot light ? )
    Thank you, in advance, for your response.
    Sincerely,
    Gary Walker

    • Hi Gary,
      Great question. Its best to get the replacement parts for your firetable and simply replace them (instead of modifying it). Its difficult to know exactly why it will not stay lit in your current scenario. If you purchased your firetable from us, we have replacement parts for all the products we sell – simply contact us.
      Thanks

      Alex

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