Mistakes People Make While Buying An Electric Fireplace

electric fireplace buying mistakes

Electric fireplaces are in many ways superior to other types of fireplaces. They are energy-efficient, cost-effective, easy to maintain, safe, and long-lasting. But there are so many options out there. How does one even begin to wade through the various choices?

If you are looking for an electric fireplace and you are afraid you might make the wrong decision, don’t worry. I have prepared a well thought out list of mistakes most people make when they go shopping for an electric fireplace.

1. Not knowing the difference between free standing fireplaces and electric inserts

Most people who want a free standing fireplace are attracted by its ability to exude the ambiance of a traditional fireplace but without the associated installation costs. But when they go shopping, not knowing the right terminology, they end up purchasing an electric insert.

A freestanding fireplace is positioned against a wall or corner. As its name suggests, the unit is apart and, well, freestanding. An electric fireplace insert, on the other hand, is a built-in unit installed or fitted into an existing fireplace cavity.

If you are looking for portability, you should buy a freestanding fireplace. Freestanding units can be moved from your living room, into your kitchen, bedroom, or basement, wherever you like.

2. Not taking the measurements of their fireplace’s dimensions

If you are going for a fireplace insert, you will need to measure the dimensions of your fireplace cavity. You don’t want to go to all that trouble choosing a unit you like, come home with it, only to find out it won’t fit when you try to install it.

Especially if your fireplace has a mantel. Note the size and shape of the mantel and ensure it’s proportional to the fireplace and the rest of the room. A mantel that’s too big will make the fireplace look tiny. The mantel shouldn’t be too small either – find a proportionate balance. So there is an element of aesthetics that goes into the decision as well.

Unfortunately, if you buy a unit that doesn’t fit into your fireplace, the only thing you can do is return it, having wasted your time.

3. Not calculating how much space the unit can heat

This might be the most important point. You might purchase and install a fireplace unit only to find it can’t adequately heat the amount of space you want it to.

There are two things you should consider before choosing a fireplace: the BTU (British thermal unit) and the square footage of the space you want to heat. BTU is a unit of heat – it tells you the amount of heat need to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

Factors that determine how many BTUs you need include room size, levels of insulation, number and type of windows, the climate of your area, and the type and use of any other heating systems in your home.

For instance, a 1300 square foot house in the New England area, having average insulation, would need 14,000 BTU/hr in winter. On average, a home in the United States needs between 10,000 and 20,000 BTU/hr during winter.

4. Not knowing the difference between hardwired and plug-in fireplaces

There are two power supplies available for electric fireplaces: plug-in or hardwired. It would be a mistake to purchase a hardwired fireplace when what you need is a plug-in fireplace.

You see, hardwired fireplaces operate with a 240V current. You will also need to call in an electrician to directly connect your new fireplace to the power supply of your home. But if you buy a plug-in electric fireplace, a standard 120V wall outlet will do.

5. Assuming there is no need for maintenance

Many people think that once they buy their new electric fireplace, all they have to do is install it and settle to a comfortable life of getting warm without worrying about maintenance. Granted, electric fireplaces are much easier to maintain than traditional fireplaces, but some input is still required of you.

For instance, if your unit has glass covers, these might become stained with soot and haze. Some fireplace inserts save you from the extra work – they have self-cleaning glass fronts which prevent build up of soot and grime.

6. Not reading the user manual

Thought it would seem an obvious point to most of us, not everyone bothers to read their user manual. Many of the complications you run into when installing or using your fireplace would be easily avoided if you simply took some time to read the instructions and guidelines provided by the manufacturer.

For instance, some people run into trouble with their fireplace after installing them poorly. Like installing a fireplace INTO the wall when it was designed to be ON the wall. Consequently, the unit will end up overheating.

Also, reading the user manual will ensure you clean the fireplace using the right procedure. Like remembering to turn unplug the unit and let it cool completely before performing maintenance tasks on it. Or avoiding abrasive cleaning agents or objects when cleaning the unit to avoid damaging the interior.

The user manual will also instruct you on how to store your freestanding fireplace: in a cool, dry place, packed in the original packing to prevent dust from building up on the unit.

7. Not considering décor

Although elegance and beauty are not things we consider when we are looking at the rational factors that would make us want to buy a product, they are vital. Even if somewhat irrational, the aesthetic impulse is the cause of many a buyer’s  regrets after purchasing a fireplace that simply doesn’t fit into the décor of the room.

It’s a mistake that only bugs you afterward when you have installed your fireplace and lived with it for a while. That’s when it hits you: something doesn’t feel quite right.


Don’t repeat the mistakes of thousands of buyers before you. Consider these seven points next time you go shopping for an electric fireplace. You just might save yourself a lot of grief and regret!