Both electric and ethanol varieties of wall fireplaces are energy-efficient and safe to use at home, but only if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions properly. When you have an electric or fuel-powered appliance around, you need to practice safety precautions to make sure that no one gets injured accidentally and that its use doesn’t result in a fire.
Here are the safety and maintenance tips about what you need to do to ensure that your family (pets included) and your home are safe when you use an electric or ethanol wall fireplace.
Know the safety features of your electric fireplace.
Electric wall fireplaces come with built-in safety features. Different models may have different sets of safety features, so make sure you read your user manual carefully to see what these are. If you don’t have a wall-mounted electric fireplace yet, we recommend checking for the following safety features when shopping for your own electric fireplace.
- Safety shut-off switch – turns off the fireplace automatically if the unit gets knocked over
- Automatic shut-off timer – allows you to indicate how long you want the fireplace to be turned on until it is automatically turned off. Use the timer so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn it off when it’s time for bed. The timer range is usually from 30 minutes to 9 hours.
- Temperature limiter – prevents fireplace malfunctions by cutting the power to the electric insert should the heating elements become too hot.
Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions for the installation, maintenance, storage, and use of the fireplace. If you have an ethanol-fuelled unit, use only the prescribed fuel brands as specified by the manufacturer.
Make sure the space surrounding the electric fireplace is clear of any objects.
Even though a wall fireplace does not produce soot or emit embers, the space surrounding it – at least 3 feet from all sides – should still be cleared of objects, especially potentially flammable and combustible materials. Keep throw rugs, curtains, pillows, and other objects away from unit.
Keeping objects away also ensures that air intake and exhaust vents are clear of any obstructions, and that air can move freely.
In the unlikely event of a short in the wiring (assuming the fireplace is well insulated according to the user manual), you would be able to protect anything within the immediate vicinity from catching fire.
Educate your children about heater safety.
Depending on the model, electric fireplaces are capable of generating high temperatures and may cause burns if touched, whether on purpose or by accident. To avoid injuries, you should teach your children about the dangers of coming too close to the unit. If you have small children who may be too young to understand and follow your instructions, it’s best to put a fire screen around the unit to protect your home from fire and prevent mishaps. A fire screen is also recommended for homes with pets.
If you have an ethanol wall fireplace, make sure you never leave children and pets unattended.
Practice electrical safety measures.
A contemporary wall fireplace is still an electrical device, so treat it as you would the other electrical devices in your home. Take note of the following general safety procedures for your electric fireplace:
- Plug it directly into a standard 3-prong 120-volt outlet. The electric fireplace must be grounded at all times.
- Do not plug other appliances into the same power outlet as the fireplace to avoid overload.
- Do not run the unit’s power cable under rugs, carpet, appliances, or furniture. Invest in durable cable covers and run the cord in areas that do not get high foot traffic to avoid it being tripped over.
- Keep liquids away from the unit – this is one of the basic rules of electrical safety, and this applies to wall fireplaces no matter how modern they are.
- With ethanol fireplaces, make sure your fuel is stored a great distance away from the fireplace.
- Unplug the unit when not in use. When unplugging, pull the cord from the wall socket by holding the plug, not the cord.
- If you notice any signs of damage such as fraying in the wiring, replace it immediately.
- It is generally not advisable to use an extension cord, but if it is necessary so that the unit can be plugged in, only use a heavy-duty extension cord that meets the manufacturer’s specifications. For a 1500 watt unit, the minimum recommendation is the No. 14 AWG gauge wire rated at no less than 1875 watts.
- The unit must be taken to an authorized service center for repair if it is damaged or not functioning properly. Never attempt to fix it yourself.
- Make sure the air intake and exhaust vents are not blocked to prevent fire.
- Do not modify the unit. Use the fireplace only in the manner described in the user manual.
What other safety tips can you share about the use of electric fireplaces?