Once you decide that you want to add an electric fireplace to your home, you or your contractors will need to do some planning. As with any home improvement project, there are multiple factors to consider. Below are our preparation tips on How to Install an Electric Fireplace in your Renovation.

How to Install an Electric Fireplace: Electrical requirements

Voltage: All electric fireplaces connect to 120 volts; some may also connect to 240 volts. For those looking for higher heat output, a 240 volt connection will provide more power to the heater, so the fireplace can warm up a larger area more quickly. Your electrician will need to know if you have chosen one or the other before running the electrical line to the fireplace location. Then they can check your electrical panel to see if you have the capacity to run a new line of your preference.

Dedicated Circuit: Because electric fireplaces have heaters that draw up to 1500 watts, a dedicated circuit is strongly advised. This means that the electric fireplace will be on its own circuit breaker. If this is not possible because you can’t run a new electrical connection (which is often the case in condos or when the basement ceiling is already finished), then you may not be able to take full advantage of the heater on your new fireplace. Without a dedicated circuit, you run the risk of tripping the circuit breaker if you run the heater at full power; some experimentation will be required to see if you are able to use the heater, and at what level. Note: A dedicated circuit is not the same as having the fireplace on its own outlet. Most rooms have several outlets on a single circuit breaker, as well as overhead lighting. If you have other items drawing power on the same circuit as the fireplace, there is less power available for the heater on the fireplace.

Hard-wire vs. Plug-in: Most electric fireplaces come with a plug attached, or have a plug kit option. However, only those that may be pulled out of the wall from the front, may stay on a plug after installation. Any electric fireplace that is built-in and has wallcoverings over the firebox, must be hard-wired to the electrical cable; any included plugs must be removed before the wall is closed. This is a safety requirement under the building code; you can’t have a live electrical outlet behind a closed wall. Of course, you can choose to hard-wire just about any electric fireplace, if your electrician prefers to do so. And a 240-volt connection is always hard-wired. Note: If you are in a condo, a hard-wire connection may not be possible unless you are doing a gut renovation and running new power lines. There is not usually any excess cable behind existing outlets, to allow you to change to a direct connection. If you want to install a built-in electric fireplace in this situation, an access panel must be incorporated into the wall or cabinet, to allow service access to the outlet should there be a fault in future. This access must be large enough for an electrician to easily reach and repair the outlet with both hands.

How to Install an Electric Fireplace: Venting requirements

This is a trick heading – there are NO venting requirements for an electric fireplace because there is nothing burning inside the unit. It’s one less thing to consider!

How to Install an Electric Fireplace: Clearance requirements

Electric fireplaces are zero-clearance. Because there is no combustion inside the fireplace, and the flames are created with LED lights, there is no risk of fire to surrounding materials. This means that you may build and cover your wall with any materials you like.

Heat will not blow directly up onto the TV from any better electric fireplace. However, should you find an older or less-expensive model that still blows heat off the top of the fireplace, behind the glass face, this unit must be surface-mounted, and no electronics or flammables should be hung above it. Likewise, don’t place furniture or window coverings directly in front of the heat outlet on any electric fireplace. It’s recommended that you allow at least 36-inches distance between the heat vents and any flammable furnishings or draperies.

Showroom wall with Faber e-matrix FEF3226L3
We understand the renovation process. Here’s an in-progress photo of the Faber e-Matrix FEF3226L3 in our showroom. See top of this article for the finished wall.

How to Install an Electric Fireplace: Framing requirements

Because electric fireplaces are zero-clearance, you may frame the wall or build the cabinet with wood or metal. Most linear electric fireplaces are designed to be installed in walls framed with 2×6 studs; some are able to be installed in walls framed with 2×4 studs. There are also deeper models, in both linear and traditional styles, that require 12 to 16 inches of depth. You will want to understand any framing limitations that you have before falling love with your perfect electric fireplace.

How to Install an Electric Fireplace: Converting a wood-burning fireplace to electric

It is possible to convert your existing wood-burning fireplace to electric. You will need to run an electrical line to the inside of the fireplace opening, drilling through the bottom, side or rear of the masonry. Electrical requirements are the same as with any other electric fireplace; see notes above.

If you simply want to insert a new firebox into the existing opening, without touching the façade of the fireplace, then you must take good measurements before visiting a single showroom. We need to know the width and height at the front of the opening, as well as width and height at 10-inches into the opening. Depth is usually not an issue, as most electric inserts are far less deep than wood-burning fireplaces. It is the trapezoidal shape of the masonry fireplace opening that will limit your options of electric fireplace inserts. We can quickly get to the options that will fit if you bring along the right measurements.

If you plan to refurbish the entire fireplace surround, and want to change to a linear electric fireplace, then we need to know the overall measurements of the masonry fireplace around the opening. Measure from left to right and from floor to ceiling, as well as the size of the raised hearth, if there is one. In this situation, you can simply build out a new wall in front of the old fireplace, to accommodate a 4-inch to 6-inch deep linear electric fireplace.

How to Install an Electric Fireplace: Converting a gas fireplace to electric

As with word-burning fireplaces, it’s possible to convert a gas fireplace to electric. In this case, the gas line must be disconnected and closed by a licensed technician. The old gas firebox must be removed, with will usually result in damage to the surrounding wall or fireplace structure. The good news is that the opening that is left will easily accommodate an electric fireplace of the same style. If you prefer to change from a traditional boxy style to a more linear style, you will either build out a new wall in front of the old fireplace, as above, or you can rebuild the fireplace wall to fit your new electric fireplace.

Note that the electrical line that may be present to start the gas fireplace, or run the blower, does not have enough voltage to support a 1500-watt heater on your new electric fireplace.  A new electrical connection will be required, as noted at the beginning of this article.

See our full post on converting fireplaces to electric

Stylish Fireplaces knows that adding a fireplace to your home can be challenging. With an electric fireplace and their NFI Certified Hearth Design Specialists, it’s easy to create a space you’ll love to share with family and friends. Check out all the options and connect with their experts for help to find the perfect electric fireplace for you. You’ll live stylishly ever after. 

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