Modern electric fireplaces and electric fire inserts are more efficient than wood burning and gas fires but are they also safer? Here we will address some common buyer concerns and address common questions.
As long as you follow proper installation and guidelines for correct use, your electric fireplace will remain safe. In addition, electric fires won't release harmful smoke, leak gas or allow creosote buildup like wood burning and gas fires.
Electric fires operate at lower temperatures than other fires - the only parts of an electric fireplace that get hot are near the heating element or the air close to the heating output. The glass on an electric fireplace will never get super heated enough to burn anyone, they typically have cool touch glass that makes them a safer option for those with pets or small children although it still recommended that you never leave children unattended around electrical appliances.
It is important that you only buy an electric fire that has a European or British safety mark. Although it is highly unlikely that you would find a fire that isn't accredited in stores/online these days, it is still worth keeping in mind.
PLUGS, WIRING AND SOCKETS
Plugs and cables that are old or poorly wired can be a real danger. Here are some things to look out for:
Overloading plug sockets - it is all too common that people try to cram a bunch of appliances and devices into one convenient place but there is a real risk of overheating if you have too many things plugged in at the same spot.
You should avoid using extension leads with an electric fire, instead plug it directly into a wall socket. All manuals will advise against the use of extension leads. If you ignore this and choose to use an extension anyway absolutely do not plug one extension into another extension lead. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
If you do not have enough sockets to plug in all of your electrical appliances it is advisable to get additional sockets installed rather than overloading your existing sockets.
Hot plugs or sockets, plugs with scorch marks, fuses that repeatedly blow or flickering lights can all be signs that there is either loose wiring or some other electrical problem.
Ensure that your plug is properly wired - you should not be able to see any coloured wires sticking out from the plug itself or between the plug and the power lead.
Check for signs of wear and tear on any leads. Frayed power cords can allow electricity to flow out of the wiring and onto flammable materials. If it looks frayed or damaged in any way you should not use it - instead get it repaired or replaced by a professional electrician.
Ensure that you do not run your cable/lead where it can be a tripping hazard, near water or other sources of heat. It also isn't wise to run leads under carpets or rugs as you could wear through the lead without noticing.
CAN I LEAVE MY ELECTRIC FIREPLACE ON OVERNIGHT?
While it isn't necessarily dangerous to leave the fire on all night, it is always best to observe basic safety precautions when using an electric fire so we wouldn't recommend that you leave it turned on overnight or any time the fire is going to be unattended for a long period of time. It also isn't a good idea to have your fire running constantly unless you want a costly utility bill at the end of the month.
DEALING WITH AN ELECTRICAL FIRE
Electrical fires tend to start because an appliance/device has been overloaded when too much electricity is flowing through the socket.
The minute you become aware that your electrical appliance is on fire you should immediately unplug it from the mains, if it is safe to do so. Turning off the power will help prevent the fire from spreading. If you cannot safely turn off the appliance then you should turn off your mains power.
If there is no way you can get the power turned off because it is blocked by fire/other hazards or if you are not sure if the power is still on DO NOT USE WATER to try to put out the fire! Water is a natural conductor of electricity so if you throw water on an electrical fire you can get shocked or electrocuted. The water could also help the fire to spread by conducting electricity through the room and potentially igniting other flammable materials.
One thing that can be effective, if the fire is small, is baking soda. Fire needs oxygen to burn and so smothering the fire with baking soda blocks the oxygen flow and prevents further burning. You could also try smothering the fire with a heavy blanket or clothing - again if the fire is small enough and it is safe to do so.
IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO EXTINGUISH THE ELECTRICAL FIRE
Get you and your family out of the house immediately to prevent injury or loss of life.
Close the doors as you leave to try to contain the fire as much as possible.
Call 999 as soon as you are a safe distance from the fire.
Do not try to be a hero and do not return to the house until the fire has been contained by firefighters.
Whilst the above steps are the best way to deal with an electrical fire, remember it is more important to prevent fires occurring in the first place by observing these simple steps:
It is good practice to unplug electrical appliances when not in use.
Never operate an electric fire with a damaged plug or cord.
Only use the electric fire in the manner it was intended, do not attempt to tamper with or make any alterations to the appliance.
Keep flammable materials such as curtains, clothes, pillows and furniture at least 3 feet away from the electric fireplace.
Do not block the ventilation system - air needs to be able to flow in and out of the fireplace freely.
Do not allow any foreign object to enter the appliance through the openings as it can cause electric shocks or fire.
It goes without saying that electrical fireplaces are for indoor use only and should be exposed to the weather like an open window.
Remember no matter how safe a device is, it will only remain so if you take the appropriate measures and follow expert guidelines for safe operation.