An electric fireplace is a type of fireplace that uses electricity to generate both the flame effects and heat, while a hearth is a flat heat-resistant surface located at the base of a fireplace.
Electric fireplaces work differently compared to other types of fireplace because there’s no real flame and the majority of an electric fireplace unit isn’t hot to the touch when operating.
So does an electric fireplace need a hearth?
An electric fireplace will not typically need to be placed on a hearth in order to be used. The body of an electric fireplace won’t get hot during operation and there’s no real fire for a hearth to protect the floor of a home from.
A hearth is an important component of many types of fireplace including wood burning and gas, but we’ve explained in more detail below why a hearth isn’t a necessity when it comes to using an electric fireplace in your home.
Does An Electric Fireplace Need A Hearth?
The hearth is the flat surface found at the base of all traditional open wood burning fireplaces.
We have an article that covers fireplace hearths in more detail here, but a hearth will be made of a fire-resistant material such as concrete, granite, tiles or stone.
A hearth is required for all wood burning fireplaces (including stoves) for safety reasons, as it provides a barrier between the heat of the fire and the floor of a home.
For open wood burning fireplaces, the fire is traditionally built on the hearth or within a fireplace grate. The hearth must therefore be able to cope with the high temperatures of such a fire.
Wood burning stoves work by absorbing heat from a fire located inside and transferring it out into the room in a more efficient manner compared to open wood fires. This means that the body of a wood stove gets extremely hot and so a suitable hearth is also required for safety purposes.
For electric fireplaces a hearth isn’t required.
Unless a manufacturer specifically mentions that an electric fireplace needs a hearth then one won’t be needed.
This is because electric fireplaces work differently to other major types of fireplaces, as there’s no real fire.
Electric fireplaces instead use an electrical supply to generate the look of flame and provide supplementary heat through an integrated heater that works much like a conventional home space heater.
We’ve explained which parts of an electric fireplace get hot to the touch in more detail here, but an electric fireplace will not be hot to touch while only the flames are operating.
Electric fireplaces use a combination of lights and rotating mirrors to create the look of flames on the front screen of the unit (more about how electric fireplaces work here). No heat is generated while the flame effects on an electric fireplace are operating, and the fireplace won’t be too hot to touch anywhere on the unit.
To generate supplementary heat, electric fireplaces use a form of heater, most commonly fan heaters or infrared heaters.
When the heater on an electric fireplace is on, typically only the area immediately in front of the heater becomes hot.
Apart from the heater, the rest of an electric fireplace won’t get hot and a hearth therefore isn’t required.
This means that electric fireplaces are much more flexible compared to other types of fireplace when it comes to placing them around a home. The majority of electric fireplaces come as plug-in, meaning that they simply need to be plugged into a nearby electrical outlet to work. More information about the outlet requirements for electric fireplaces can be found here.
Many models of electric fireplace can even be used on carpet.
We have an electric fireplace stove and we regularly use it on carpet at home. The heater is located far enough off the carpet that it doesn’t affect the performance of it. We have another article explaining using an electric fireplace on carpet.
Placing An Electric Fireplace On A Hearth
Even though it’s not typical for an electric fireplace to need a hearth, using an electric fireplace on a hearth can make it look more real and built-in.
We like to place our electric stove in our open fireplace during the summer months when the open fireplace isn’t in use.
When placed in our open fireplace, our electric stove is located on a real hearth, and helps it to look more like a real wood stove. There’s an electrical outlet located on a nearby wall that allows us to use the electric fireplace even when placed inside our living room fireplace.
Hearth pads are also available if you want to improve the realism of your electric fireplace elsewhere in your home.
If you’re looking to place an electric fireplace in your home in a place other than an open fireplace then a hearth pad can be used as the base for your electric fireplace wherever you decide to locate it.
For ideas check out the full range of hearth pads available for fireplaces here that can help to improve the look and feel of an electric fireplace in your home.
You can also buy accessories such as fake flues to make an electric fireplace, such as an electric stove, look even more realistic in your home.
Electric fireplaces don’t typically need to be placed on a hearth.
They work differently to other types of fireplace, such as wood burning, and don’t have real flames, and so a hearth isn’t required for safety purposes.
A hearth can be used however to improve the realism of using an electric fireplace in your home.
An electric fireplace can be placed on an existing hearth such as inside an open fireplace, or a hearth pad can be placed underneath an electric fireplace across other locations in a home.