As electric fireplace specialists, we are asked a lot of questions about how to install electric fireplaces. Compared to other types of fireplaces, they are relatively simple. They are truly zero-clearance; the walls around the fireplace don’t heat up and there is no combustion inside the fireplace. This means that you can literally install them in just about any material you choose, and they are easily installed into custom furniture or cabinetry. However, there are some important concepts to understand in order to get the right electric fireplace for the type of installation you want or need.
How are Surface Mount electric fireplaces installed?
A surface-mounted electric fireplace is one that is mounted ON the wall, and not IN the wall. With this type of fireplace, there is a metal plate or bracket that must be screwed onto the wall surface first. Screws are spread out across the width of the plate or bracket, to ensure that at least some of the screws will catch a wooden stud or other solid anchor point behind the wall. When this bracket is secure, it will easily support the weight of the fireplace.
A surface-mount electric fireplace will typically come with a cord so you can plug it into any 120 volt receptacle. However, you then see the cord coming out of the fireplace. There is no way to hide this cord behind the fireplace, or plug into a receptacle behind the fireplace, because the cord would get in the way of the fireplace resting against the wall. An alternative is to remove the cord and direct-wire the fireplace to an electrical cable in your wall. A licensed electrician would put this cable into position for you, without a receptacle. In this way, you can have the electrical cable come out of the wall directly beside the back of the fireplace, so the wires can connect with very little cable showing. Most quality electric fireplaces may be connected this way.
How are Flush Mount electric fireplaces installed?
A flush-mounted electric fireplace is one that is mounted inside a framed opening in a wall or a cabinet. This framed opening must be made to exact specifications, to support the firebox of the fireplace and allow for anchoring screws to be attached to the framing. If the opening is too large, the anchoring screws will not be able to reach the edges of the opening for attachment. If the opening is too small, the fireplace may not fit at all. These fireplaces are put into the opening last, after the wall surface is complete. This means that they may be removed from the wall should access to the electrical connection be required. For this reason, a flush-mount electric fireplace may be plug-in or direct-wire.
How can I install a flush-mount electric fireplace as a surface-mount?
If the fireplace you really want is a flush-mount, but your situation calls for a surface-mount, there is a solution. We often build custom wall-mounted frames for fireplaces; these can be made to fit any size or model of fireplace. In this way, the frame supports the fireplace, and the entire thing – frame and fireplace – are mounted to the wall surface. The frame hides all the screws and electrical wires and gives a finished look to the fireplace.
How are Built-in electric fireplaces installed?
There are some electric fireplaces that must be installed during the construction of the wall, before the drywall or surface covering is completed. These are built-in electric fireplaces. This category includes 3-sided fireplaces, and some fireplaces with frameless viewing glass. These fireplaces usually come with a cord and plug, for testing the fireplace prior to final installation. However, the cord must be removed for final installation, and a direct-wire connection made instead. Because the fireplace will not be able to be removed from the wall in the event of an electrical problem, it is against building code to have an electrical receptacle behind the fireplace. Don’t worry about servicing a built-in fireplace – they are designed to be serviced through the front, by removing the glass faceplate.
There is a sub-set of built-in electric fireplaces that require a water source in order to create mist that is lit up to look like flames. Some of these units may be refilled manually, but most work best, and are easier to maintain, if they are connected to a water line. These are the Optimyst units from Dimplex. Close attention must be paid to the air intake requirements as well; air must come from below the units in order for the ‘flames’ to function optimally. The photo at the top of this post is an Optimyst.
How are electric fireplace Inserts & Logsets installed?
Electric fireplace logsets are just as they sound – sets of logs in a grate, without a metal box around them. They are designed to retrofit into wood-burning fireplaces. They are an easy way to update a fireplace without changing the fireplace itself. An electric fireplace insert is like a logset inside a metal box, although some contemporary inserts have crystals or driftwood instead of logs. Inserts may also be retrofitted into wood-burning fireplaces, or they may be installed as the centerpiece of a custom fireplace. If you are installing an insert into an existing opening, you will most likely need a trim kit to go around the insert. Because there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ wood-burning fireplace opening, insert manufacturers can’t possibly make an insert that fits every opening size. Instead, they offer trim kits on some of their electric fireplace inserts. This allows an insert to be installed into an opening that isn’t an exact fit, with the trim covering any gaps around the insert.
All logsets and inserts may be plugged into a regular 120 volt receptacle. However, there are also some inserts that are designed to be direct-wired by default, and a plug-kit may be optional. This is usually the case if the fireplace insert is dual-voltage; that is, it may connect to 120 or 240 volts. Because a 240 volt connection must be direct-wired, plug kits are usually not included with these units. If you plan to connect a dual-voltage unit to 120 volts, don’t forget to order the plug kit as an option.
What are the electrical requirements for installing an electric fireplace?
See our previous post for tips on electrical requirements.
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.