installing an electric fireplace in an existing fireplace

8 Steps to Installing an Electric Fireplace in an Existing Fireplace

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Nothing quite inspires awe and warmth like the crackle and glow of a burning fireplace, especially during the holidays. However, with a wood burning fireplace also comes the threat of an open flame and creosote buildup in the chimney, not to mention the messy cleanup, which can quickly ruin the beauty. In fact, statistics show that there are over 20,000 chimney fires a year in the U.S., resulting in more than 120 million dollars in property damage, and more.

On the other hand, an electric fireplace offers a simpler, cheaper, and cleaner way to enjoy the ambiance of a fireplace without the hazards. Installing an electric fireplace in an existing fireplace is simple; you too can do it in the following eight steps.

Bright family room with electric fireplace

Step 1: Remove the Existing Grate

To install an electric fireplace into your existing fireplace, you first need to remove the grate to make room for the unit. To remove the grate, simply lift it out of the fireplace and discard it. Alternatively, simply clean it, and store it away for later use.

Step 2: Clean Up any Remaining Ash

Next, you need to clean up any ash that remains in your fireplace.

To remove the ash, simply discard any large chunks. Afterward, use your ash set, tools, broom, and shovel to remove the rest. Or you can use an ash vacuum, which also helps keep the dust down while removing it.

To clean the inside of your fireplace, simply spray it with water and then use a scrub brush to remove the soot. If you have bricks, and they are under fifty years old, you can follow up with a hearth cleaner to remove any stuck on soot.

Once you have cleaned the area, simply spray it with water again to rinse it. Afterward, use a towel to dry the area.
If you are working with a gas fireplace, you might consider hiring a professional to remove the gas fireplace;  because you are working with natural gas, you need to ensure it is decommissioned properly.

Step 3: Measure the Height and Width of Your Fireplace Opening

There are three main electrical fireplace types; an electric log set, an electric firebox, and an electric fireplace insert, which is the best option for you will usually depend on the measurements of your current fireplace.

To determine the best fitting electrical unit for your fireplace, simply measure the width and height at the opening as well as up to about 9' into the opening.

If you have an old world masonry fireplace, you should also measure the top and the bottom of the inside of the opening. Many of these fireplaces are slightly tapered inside, which means you may have to opt for an electric log set.

When using an insert, it should be smaller than the existing opening so that it will fit inside the fireplace. However, if you are using a firebox, it must fit the opening perfectly to avoid any gaps.

Step 4: Check the Nearest Outlet

Prior to installing an electric fireplace in an existing fireplace, you need to be sure the outlet that you select matches the requirement of your electric fireplace unit.

Additionally, if you are considering using an extension cord to power your unit, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions to learn about the specific requirements of your insert.

If you do not have an outlet nearby, you can have a licensed electrician install one. Likewise, if you don't like seeing the cord running across the hearth, you can hire a licensed electrician to hard wire the unit directly to your home's electricity.

Step 5: Close the Damper

Before installing an electric fireplace in an existing fireplace, be sure to close the damper to prevent drafts. However, depending on the model, you may need to run a flue liner to the damper.

To run the liner, simply slide the liner down the inside of your chimney. Then place the end of the flue liner into the flue collar adapter located on top of the fireplace insert.

Attach the flue liner to the collar adapter using screws. Cut away the excess liner.

Step 6: Unpack the Electric Fireplace

Remove the electric fireplace from its package, and discard the packing materials.

Some fireplace inserts include a glass front. Simply slide the glass panel into position and then tighten it according to the instructions.

Step 7: Install the Electric Fireplace Insert

Position the electric fireplace insert into the fireplace opening. You may have to slightly tilt the insert to fit it into the opening. Be sure it is positioned straight up with the feet resting evenly on the bottom of the fireplace.

If you intend on installing an electric fireplace in an existing fireplace permanently, then you may consider placing fiber-free insulation around the inside of your insert.

Step 8: Plug in the Unit

Pull the cord either around or under the fireplace insert and then across the hearth. Plug it into the selected outlet. Using the remote, turn on the unit and enjoy!

Customizing Your Electric Fireplace Insert

Many electric fireplace inserts also include a trim kit with decorative molding. You can use it to enhance the look of your fireplace insert and fill in any spaces around the border of your fireplace insert.

There are also electric fireplace models that include glass ember beds that mimic the effect of real glowing embers. Once your insert is positioned, simply add the accompanying glass rock-fluid into the tray located on the front of the firebox.

Wrapping Up

In just these few steps, you can have an electric fireplace installed in your home, apartment, hometown, condo, office or more, for the beautiful look and feel of a real fireplace without the hassles. Furthermore, most electric fireplace inserts also allow you to shut off the heating element, so you can enjoy your fireplace year round. Simply follow the tips above for quick and easy installment.


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