Electric fireplaces – Wiring Considerations

“Plug and play” electric fireplaces and stoves, and wall inserts are very trendy now and the designs are amazing. They are easy to set up. Many of them are ready to just plug in to a regular outlet. There is a huge choice of styles and models making sure there are ones for every décor. They add ambiance to a room as well as enough heat to warm between 250- 1000 square feet of space.

Electric fireplaces

Style choices include free-standing wood stoves, electric fireplaces complete with decorative mantles, sleek and modern wall-mount designs as well as ones that are built in to the and media consoles. The common thread is their energy usage.

There are a couple of important things to consider when purchasing one of these nifty items. First is the running cost, and second is to assess if you wiring is adequate to safely run the unit.

What is the actual running cost?

Most of the plug-in electric fireplaces and stoves in our local big-box stores are rated as using 1500 watts. The watts used are the same regardless if the flame technology is infrared, LED or incandescent. This is identical to turning on a 6 foot long 1500 watt electric baseboard heater.

Based on today’s hydro prices, it costs approximately 33¢ to run ANY 1500 watt device for one hour. (This includes the average price of power per KW charged by the utility company -12 ¢ /kw – as well as the additional fees and taxes.)

Some of the stoves and fireplaces on the market have dual level settings. This offers some cost savings because you can choose the amount of electricity you are using. If you want the warmth, turn it on full power at 1500 watts, if you are happy with ambiance and a small amount of heat, there is a 750 watt setting. The lower setting will cut your running costs in half.

Dedicated Outlet

The second important consideration with these units is the draw on the electrical circuit.

When you plug in a 1500 watt electric fireplace into a receptacle, you have engaged the maximum amount of electricity that can be run on that entire circuit. If lights are on the same circuit, or other receptacles on the circuit are in use, the circuit should overheat and trip the breaker or blow the fuse to protect you.

If you are planning to use a 1500 watt electric fireplace it should be on a dedicated circuit, that is, one breaker supplying the power to a single receptacle. This is considered best practice because if the other things using the circuit are essential items, like freezers or sump pumps, you run the risk of interrupting power to this equipment.