The things you need to have and operate an electric fireplace in your home are different to what you’ll need for other types of fireplaces, such as open fireplaces and wood burning stoves.
Unlike other types of fireplace, electric fireplaces run off electricity. So what is needed for an electric fireplace? And what don’t you need for an electric fireplace that other types of fireplace may require?
The main things needed for an electric fireplace include:
- A nearby electrical supply such as a wall socket.
- A suitable location that isn’t in a confined space.
Things you don’t need for an electric fireplace include:
- A chimney or flue.
- A vent.
I have both open fireplaces and electric fireplaces in my home, and so I’ve explained what is needed to have an electric fireplace in your home in further detail below.
What Is Needed For An Electric Fireplace?
Electric fireplaces are a lot more simplistic compared to other types of fireplace in terms of how easily you can heat your home. There’s minimal setting up times and they don’t have to be maintained to continuously provide the heat output.
As such, there’s two main things needed for an electric fireplace, which are a nearby electrical supply that’s sufficient to power the heater, and a suitable location in your home.
Electric fireplaces need an electrical supply to work, and come with power leads and plugs to be able to provide the required electricity to operate.
When deciding where to place an electric fireplace in your home, and when choosing what type of electric fireplace to buy, you’ll need to ensure that:
- There’s an electric wall socket near the chosen location for the fireplace, or a mains power cable that can be used to direct wire a fireplace insert into.
- The power cable on the electric fireplace is long enough to reach the electrical supply.
It’s recommended by manufacturers, including the manufacturers of my electric fireplaces, to plug electric fireplaces straight into wall sockets, and not into any form of extension cable, surge protector or timer plugs.
You’ll therefore need a mains power socket near to where you’ll place your electric fireplace. The power socket must also be switched on before the fireplace will work.
During the summer when the open fireplace in my living room isn’t being used, I leave my freestanding electric fireplace stove in the open fireplace. This allows us to enjoy the view of a fire without the associated heat output.
There’s a wall socket near to the open fireplace that allows me to put the electric fireplace inside the firebox, and the power cable is long enough so that it isn’t stretched reaching the socket.
It’s therefore important to consider where you’ll place an electric fireplace in your home knowing that it requires a mains power supply, without the use of an extension cable.
You will also need to consider before buying an electric fireplace how long the power cable will need to be. I made sure that the power cable for my freestanding electric fireplace shown above was long enough for it to be used in my living room fireplace.
A Suitable Location
While an electric fireplace needs a nearby power supply, the location it’s put in must also be suitable.
The heater on an electric fireplace works just like a typical space heater. A blower sucks cooler air into the fireplace, which it turn forces air through a heating element and provides warmer air to a room.
For the heater part of an electric fireplace to work efficiently, this process requires plenty of ventilation and room for air circulation, as many of the common problems for electric fireplaces can be a result of it shutting off due to overheating as a result of poor air supply.
You’ll also need to take into account where the heater is located on the fireplace. Like mine, many freestanding units have the heater located at the bottom, and so hot air is blown into the room from below. The fireplace must therefore be placed in a suitable area where the heater isn’t going to be blocked either from the front or behind.
An electric fireplaces should therefore be placed in an area that:
- Has plenty of space around the unit to allow for air circulation.
- Isn’t located in a confined space, such as in a cupboard.
- Has a level surface.
- Isn’t on long pile carpet.
- Isn’t a high moisture location, such as a bathroom.
If I’m not using my open fireplace for a real fire, I’ll regularly put my electric fireplace inside to be used instead.
For this location:
- The electric fireplace isn’t located in a confined area, and there’s plenty of space around the fireplace for ventilation and circulation of air.
- It’s placed on a fireproof hearth that is flat and level.
- There’s nothing blocking the inlet or outlet of the heater located at the base of the fireplace.
- The fireplace is within a low moisture environment.
- The power cable can reach the wall socket without being stretched, and won’t be a trip hazard safety issue for people walking by.
Things You Don’t Need For An Electric Fireplace
On the other hand, there are a few things that you don’t need for an electric fireplace that you would typically need for other types of fireplace. These include:
- A chimney or flue.
- A vent.
An electric fireplace differs from other types of fireplaces because:
- There’s no real flame.
- A fresh supply of oxygen isn’t required.
- A continuous supply of solid fuel isn’t required.
Chimney or Flue
An electric fireplace doesn’t have a real flame, and so there’s no requirement to have a chimney or flue because no waste gases are released. (I’ve shown in detail here how the flames on an electric fireplace work.)
Other types of fireplace, such as open fireplaces or wood burning stoves, utilize a real flame to produce heat. A real fire releases byproducts such as smoke and gases as a result of burning the fuel (in this case it’s wood).
An electric fireplace uses electricity as the source of fuel. Using electricity to produce heat doesn’t release any waste products and so no form of chimney or flue is required to vent waste gases from your home.
You therefore don’t need to have an existing chimney or flue to be able to enjoy an electric fireplace in your home, and so it also doesn’t have to be placed inside an existing open fireplace, even if you do have one.
As electric fireplaces don’t have real flames, there’s no requirement to provide the fireplace with a fresh supply of oxygen.
Other types of fireplace including wood burning fireplaces and stoves, and gas fireplaces, need a constant supply of oxygen to feed the fire, otherwise the flames will go out.
In many cases, these types of fireplaces will require a vent to be installed in an external wall in your home to provide a fresh supply of air to the room. A vent is also more likely to be required in more modern buildings that are more tightly constructed with fewer drafts.
There is a vent located in my living room that I open when have a real fire in my open fireplace, but isn’t required to be open when using my electric fireplace.
An electric fireplace therefore doesn’t need to be located in a room with a vent, or require any other sort of ventilation. The only requirement is that there is sufficient distance between the fireplace and surrounding objects to allow air to circulate and help prevent it from overheating.