How A Built-In Electric Fireplace Works

How A Built-In Electric Fireplace Works

 During the winter months, people prefer to stay at home whenever they can. It’s cozy and warm because they can enjoy the heat coming from their fireplaces.

Traditional and gas fireplaces were popular in the past, but electric fireplaces are becoming ever more popular. More homeowners are now using a built-in electric fireplace because it is safer to use and less expensive.

A lot of manufacturers have been revolutionising electric fires over the years. They improve the efficiency and they add more features to make it safer.

In this article, you will learn more about electric fires, how they are installed, how to improve their efficiency, and more.

The Inside of a Built-In Fireplace and How it Works

Electric fireplaces come in different shapes and sizes. Some units are built-in the walls and there are some that are freestanding on the floor. You can also find a model that you can hang on the walls.

A standard electrical fireplace has two main parts:

  • The heating element
  • LED screen that creates the flame effect

These two parts typically make up the whole fireplace. The heating element produces the heat, while the LED screen projects a flame effect to make it look realistic.

Wall hung electric fires can heat your room in two ways:

  • Some models work by drawing cool air from the room. The cold air will then pass through the heating coil making it warm. The warm air will be dispersed back into the room through a fan.
  • Some units use infrared. This type of fireplace uses an LED bulb that will produce infrared light. Coils are surrounding the LED bulb which will distribute the heat evenly with a metal reflector. The warm light rays will be sent into the room.

Both types can produce heat to warm your room, but they don’t operate the same way. Some people prefer heaters with the heating coil, while some use infrared units. But, which one is a better option?

Infrared vs. Heating Coil

If you plan to get an electric fireplace, you need to know which type of heater to get. Is it better to get an infrared heater or should you stick with a heating coil?

Most electric fires use a heating coil. Many of the newer models use this type of heating technique since it is a more popular option. But, you should choose based on your preference. We made a simple comparison between the two to help you figure out which one is better.

Heating Time

Electric fireplaces heat a room through a heating coil and fan. Because of this, it would take about 20 to 30 minutes to fully heat a 37 square meter room. Although you have to wait for a few minutes, the heat would stay for a long time. If you turn off the unit, it will take about an hour before the warm air disperses.

Infrared fireplaces also use electricity and it can heat a closed space within a few seconds. The heat will stay in the room if the unit is turned on. Once it is turned off, the heat will vanish immediately. The people and the items in the room absorb the heat right away so once you turn it off, the warm feeling will vanish.

Electric fireplaces with a heating coil are a better option as it helps you save energy. Since you will only use these units as complementary heaters, you don’t need the fireplace to heat the room instantly.


Both fireplaces are very safe to use. They have protective housing to prevent the outer part of the unit from heating up. They also have an auto-shutoff feature to avoid overheating issues.


Although infrared heaters can be considered electric fireplaces, they are not focused on design. The newer models of electric fires have different shapes and designs. The infrared heaters usually have a standard design.

If you want the interior of your house to look and feel elegant, you can opt for an electric fireplace. If you only want the heating, then you can go with infrared heaters.

Creating the Fake Flames

An attractive feature of a fireplace is the fire. If you use a traditional fireplace, the fire creates a warm temperature and provides an elegant aesthetic to the room.

Manufacturers have managed to create a fake flame for their electric fireplaces. There are no real flames involved and it is just an effect to complement the interior design of the room.

There are different ways in which the flame effect is created:

  • Some electric fireplaces come with an LED screen. A video of fire will be displayed. It usually comes with audio as well to create an authentic crackling sound. You’ll feel like you are using a traditional fireplace.

  • There are also electric fires that use bulbs. The light from the bulbs will be refracted to provide an illusion of flames. There are modern electric fireplaces that use water mist to create a smoke-like illusion too.

How to Install a Built-In Fireplace

Most of you are probably asking if you can install a built-in fireplace on your own. Yes, you can do the installation. You just need a few tools and items such as:

  • Wall finishing
  • Framing
  • Caulking
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Gloves
  • Pliers
  • Measuring tape
  • Philips screwdriver

Aside from the materials and tools, there are tips that you should know as well:

  • You don’t need fireproofing on the wall where the fireplace will be installed. It doesn’t have a real fire so you don’t have to go the extra mile and fireproof the wall.

  • Keep the combustible materials away from the fireplace. Put a 3-feet clearance to prevent fire. Check the user manual to know about the clearances that you need to keep in mind.

  • Plug the fireplace in before installing it and check if it’s working properly.

The Installation Process

  1. Create a Frame on the Wall

As the name implies, you need to install the fireplace into the wall. Read the installation manual and look for the right wall frame size.

Check the firebox dimensions and add at least 0.25 inches to give some breathing space for the fireplace. You should determine if you’re cutting a frame in a non-load-bearing wall. The purpose for checking is to ensure that the wall will not collapse after the installation.

  1. Setting Up the Power Supply

An electric fireplace comes with a lead that you can plug directly into an electrical outlet. 

Hardwiring the fireplace is another option that you can consider. Most units are hardwire-ready so you can connect them directly to the household wiring. A licensed electrician is needed for both of these tasks. 

  1. Insert the Firebox

The next step is to lift the firebox and insert it into the frame that you created. Some built-in fireplaces are very heavy so you might not need some help carrying them.

Level the firebox to ensure that it’s not tilting. Drive the mounting screws on the holes at the sides of the fireplace. You should check for holes at the top as well. You have to screw them directly on the studs.

  1. Add the Decorative Media and Glass Panel

Once you’ve leveled the firebox, the next step is to add the decorative media. It usually comes with fire glass or decorative glass. It’s placed on the fireplace right after the installation.

After putting the decorative media, the final step is to attach the glass panel. You either mount the glass panel or screw it directly to the fireplace.

How to Improve the Electric Fireplace Efficiency

An electric wood burning stove is very efficient compared with traditional fireplaces. It converts 100% of the energy into heat with almost no wastage. There are other reasons why an electric fireplace is energy efficient:

  • Any byproducts produced due to the conversion of energy to heat can reduce the efficiency of the fireplace. There are no byproducts produced while the energy is converted to heat.
  • The artificial flames are usable even without turning the heater on.
  • Modern electric fires use LED lighting instead of halogen bulbs to save energy.
  • The thermostatic control helps regulate the temperature of the fireplace.

Since an electric fireplace is already efficient, are there other ways to improve its efficiency?

  1. Check the Insulation of the Room

Windows and doors with gaps can reduce the efficiency of your electric fireplace. Even if the room is heating up fine, it doesn’t mean that it is perfectly sealed.

Before the winter begins, touch up the window caulking. Go to a home improvement shop and get a caulking tube. Run it through all the joints of the window frame. Focus on the joint where the wall and frame of the window meet.

As for the doors, you can get door seals to prevent the heat from escaping. Look for door seals with rows of rubber ridges. They cost more, but they would work really well in sealing up a room.

By insulating and weather-proofing the room, you can heat it without turning the thermostat control to the maximum. You can use the low settings and still heat your room effectively.

  1. Use the Sun to your Advantage

The sun still rises during the winter and you can use it to your advantage. If your room is facing the sun directly, open your curtains, but leave the windows closed. Let the sun’s rays enter the room. Once the sun sets, close the curtains right away to retain the heat and warmth in the room.

Although the added heat is minimal, it would help your electric fireplace heat up the room faster.

  1. Use the Right Electric Fireplace

Coal effect electric fires usually run in 120 volts and a maximum draw of 1,500 watts. This is sufficient to warm a room with 400 square feet.

If you are going to use the fireplace as a supplemental heating unit, it can heat a bigger room. You have to remember that it only produces 5,000 BTUs of heat. A gas fireplace produces up to 30,000 BTU, which is a big difference.

You cannot expect your electric fireplace to do the same. It’s only applicable for a small room. If you have a bigger room, there are other models with 2,000 watts and above.

  1. Run your Ceiling Fans Clockwise

Most ceiling fans can be reversed depending on your preference. In the summer months, the fan on the ceiling should spin counter-clockwise as it forces the cool air down. In the winter months, your fans should spin clockwise. It will pull the cold air up towards the ceiling and keep the heat below.

Make sure that the fan is running at low speeds because it might create a cold breeze. It will distribute the warm and comfortable temperature in your room. This would help improve the efficiency of your fireplace and make it faster to heat your room.

  1. Thermostat Control

Look for electric fires with thermostat control. It’s one of the features that you need to look for as it helps you save more energy.

The thermostat control allows you to set a specific temperature for the fireplace. The electric fire will keep heating the room until it reaches the temperature you want. Once the fireplace reaches the specified temperature, it will maintain the heat of the room. Maintaining the heat of the room will use less energy so you can save more money on electricity costs.


With a built-in electric fireplace, you can save more on electricity while safely heating your rooms. Knowing how these fireplaces work would give you a better view of how they consume energy and heat the rooms. 

If you are looking for high-quality electric fireplaces that are both efficient and affordable, you can click here to learn more.

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