Electric Fireplace Safety and Maintenance Tips

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Electric fireplaces are safe when you follow the manufacturer’s instructions—especially the section about cords and electrical outlets. This article will demystify electricity for you to be safe and gain knowledge about electrical energy.

Electric fireplaces are installed in homes, offices, school dorms, RVs—any place there is a need and desire for the beauty and features of a fireplace, or as an efficient way to provide supplemental heat where you will have the aesthetics of the fireplace rather than a small space heater.

Safety Awareness

Safety Awareness

Electric fireplaces are a wonderful addition for adding supplemental heat to an elderly person’s living area, a baby’s nursery, or any one room when it’s not efficient to heat only one room with your central heating. Sometimes people sensitive to cold need additional heat without heating or overheating the entire house. It’s more cost-effective to supplement insufficient heat.

The heaters in electric fireplaces typically use a unit of energy known as BTU (British Thermal Unit). That means the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound (~ a pint) of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

Most heaters operate by circulating the air in a room (convection). Some use radiant heat (infrared) that heats people and objects within the heater’s line of sight. Infrared fireplaces are more efficient when heating a room for lesser time. They are energy saving by heating the immediate surroundings and occupants rather than the entire room.

Hundreds of thousands of fires and deaths are reported due to residential fires and safety is a huge priority. Read on.

Installation Guidelines

  • Purchase only newer models of electric fireplaces that have all of the current safety features. Be sure the electric fireplace cord and heater has the Underwriter Laboratories (UL) label.
  • To avoid energy waste, select only a thermostatically controlled heater.
  • Do not purchase oversized heaters for your room area. Most units have a general sizing description at the website if you shop there.
  • Be sure to locate the fireplace on a level surface away from foot traffic. These surfaces include carpeting, hard wood floors, and tile. Most electric fireplaces in the marketplace today offer cool-to-the-touch surfaces so that children and pets will not be burned.
  • If new electrical circuits are necessary, consult a licensed electrician. If you are electricity savvy, you know the drill.

Ventless Electric Fireplaces

These are electrically more expensive to operate than combustion units, yet they have no vents or chimney requirements and are safe to operate inside your house. Concerns to air quality are not an issue, although they still present burn and fire hazards and should be used with caution. There is no real fire.

When you buy and install an electric fireplace, follow these general safety procedures:

  • Electric fireplaces should be plugged directly into a standard 3-prong grounded to earth 120-Volt outlet. However, the cord is usually only 6-feet long and it won’t reach. If an extension cord is needed, use the shortest possible heavy-duty 14-AWG (America Wire Gauge) or larger gauge wire rated at no less than 1875-Watts.
  • Follow exactly what the manufacturer’s instructions state regarding the use of extension cords.
  • Never use a 3-prong adapter (about 2-inches big) from the hardware store to plug the fireplace into a 2-prong receptacle. It will not ground the fireplace to the earth since there is no ground wire inside. You are defeating the system and can cause a fire. The fireplace must be grounded!
  • Most single circuit breakers are 15 Amp. The breaker will trip if overpowered, indicating too much power is being drawn. Never plug other electrical items into the same wall outlet with the fireplace. It will cause it to overload tripping the breaker and can cause a cord fire at the wall outlet.
  • Purchase your fireplace that has an anti-tip over safety switch plus an anti-tip over bracket made of metal that screw into the wall or floor, similar to an electric cook stove. The bracket is normally attached at the lower back. The anti-tip over switch will shut down the heater automatically if the unit tips over.
  • Do not have curtains, throw rugs, or any other flammable objects near the heater. Do not put any flammable object on top of the fireplace, even though it is cool to touch. Keep all combustibles such as furniture, bedding, and pillows, at a safe distance of at least 3 feet (0.9 meter) away from all sides and top of the electric fireplace.
  • When switched on, the heating element is hot. Avoid bare skin from touching the hot surface. The trim surrounding the heater outlet can get hot during heater operation.
  • Never block the fresh air intake or vents discharging warm air. Air must move freely at all times.
  • Always unplug the electric heater when not in use—do a double check when leaving.
  • Never operate an electric fireplace with a damaged cord or plug, or a bad outlet. When the heater has been dropped, damaged, or functioning improperly, return it to the authorized service agency for mechanical or electrical repairs. Do not use it.
  • The cord or cable coming from the electric fireplace must never be run under carpet, throw rugs, floor runners, furniture, or any appliances. Cable covers are available at home centers, but be sure no one will trip over those. Cords must not be used in high traffic areas.
  • Certain electric fireplaces can be used outdoors, in a bathroom, laundry room or any place where there is water. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to determine safety. Water and electricity do not mix.
  • Be sure children or adults do not poke foreign objects into the electric fireplace anywhere including through air return vents, or the heater vent. This can cause electrical shock or damage the unit.
  • Never block the air intake or exhaust opening; this can cause a fire.
  • Never have flammables close to the fireplace, such as paint, thinners, turpentine, lighter fluid, or the vapors from these. Do not store flammables near the fireplace. These can cause a fire.
  • Never burn paper or anything in the electric firebox; it is not meant for that and can cause a fire, electrical shock, injury, or death.
  • Never try to lift the electric fireplace by the glass. Always lift the fireplace by the firebox. Do not strike the glass panels at the firebox or side panel media storage units with glass doors.

You Ask, Do the Flames Get Hot?

No is your answer. Because you are not burning combustible fuel (wood logs, gas), and no open flame, your electric fireplace will need no venting to the outside air. The electric log set and fireplace inserts are safer and more efficient. The realistic flame effects are only an image or projection of flames provided by LED lights. When you touch the screen, it is as cool as touching your television when it’s on.

The only warm or hot areas are near the heating element or warm air blowing from the heater. It’s the same as holding your hand near a hair blow dryer. Nothing you touch will burn you like a wood burning fireplace or stove.

Even though usually safe for children and pets to be near, use care near the heater if it is close to children and those with physical disabilities or the elderly when the heater is in the on mode and left unattended.


Fire Extinguishers are Not Created Equal

When you buy an electric fireplace, buy a fire extinguisher at the same time. You can never be too safe with any electrical device or appliance. An extinguisher next to your hearth could save your life and house. Each year, fires cost millions in damages and kill hundreds of people.

Be sure to buy the right type. Electrical fire extinguishers have no effect on a wood fire.

Purchase from these five types. The first three apply to standard home uses:

  • Class A: for ordinary combustibles (wood, paper, cloth)
  • Class B: for flammable liquids (grease, oil, gasoline)
  • Class C: for electrical equipment (tools, appliances)
  • Class D: for combustible metals (mostly in factories)
  • Class K: for cooking combustibles (animal oils and fats, vegetable oils most often found in commercial kitchens)

The fire class is marked on each container. Choose an extinguisher for an electrical appliance, since that is what an electric fireplace is.

In addition to the letters indicating class of fire, fire extinguishers have numbers before the letters. Keep your extinguisher near your fireplace. Don’t like the looks? There are lovely boxes made specifically for extinguishers.

Read the manufacturer’s instructions, and have the extinguisher charged and checked at least every 5 years. Regularly check the pressure gauge. Shake the canister often to keep the contents mixed and ready to use.

Maintenance Tips

To care for your electric fireplace, remove dust and vacuum inside and out of the firebox, including the control compartment inside. Use a mild dishwashing liquid to clean the glass when it is cold. Use nothing abrasive that will scratch the surface. Use a damp cloth immediately to clean up spills. Furniture polish and oils with lemon are not necessary since the faux wood is usually a laminate on the top finished surface. Do not use polishes on the faux rock fireplace cabinet.


Once again, never operate an electric fireplace with a damaged cord or plug, or a bad wall outlet. When the heater has been dropped, damaged, or functioning improperly, return it to the authorized service agency for mechanical or electrical repairs. Do not use it.

Enjoy your electric fireplace, follow the electrical requirements, and with proper maintenance and care, it will last for many years.

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Donna turnet - November 7, 2015

How do I change the temps tire on my electric fireplace I have the montabello

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