An electric fireplace is an excellent fireplace that provides supplemental heat without an actual fire. Few things are more relaxing than falling asleep to a warm, ambient (although fake) fire. But is it safe to sleep with the fireplace turned on?
It isn’t recommended to sleep with the electric fireplace still on. An electric fireplace should not be left unattended, and if you fall asleep, your not there to attend to the fireplace in case something goes wrong. Although there is no actual flame and little risk of fire, it is best practice not to fall asleep while it’s still on.
Despite the recommendation not to fall asleep with an electric fireplace on, they pose relatively little risk, as there’s no actual flame. We’ll dive a little deeper into the topic at hand in this article!
Is It Safe To Sleep With An Electric Fireplace On?
Most manufacturers do not recommend using an electric fireplace while it is unattended. This recommendation includes while you are sleeping. Although an electric fireplace is safer than other fireplaces (it doesn’t produce smoke or carbon monoxide), nearby flammable materials still present a hazard.
Whether a space heater or an electric fireplace, a supplemental heat source is great to add heat to your room. However, you should follow the guidelines set out in the user’s manual for safe usage. After that, you can use discretion to help you decide what is safe.
To better understand what is safe, it helps to know how an electric fireplace works. The following paragraphs answer a few common questions in regards to electric fireplaces.
How Does An Electric Fireplace Work?
As the name suggests, an electric fireplace uses electricity to “fuel” the appliance. There is no real flame in an electric fireplace; instead, the machine uses lights, mirrors, and screens to portray the look of a flickering flame.
Where Is The Heat Generated?
Electric fireplaces can be used with or without heat. Without heat, the fireplace plays an image of flickering flames. When it comes to the heating portion of an electric fireplace, it uses one of two methods: heating coils or radiant heat.
- Heating Coils: Electrical currents moved through heating coils generate extreme heat. Room air is circulated through the coils by use of a fan. The air is heated by passing through those coils and then pushed out into the room. Heating coils slowly raise the room’s air, and these units can heat around 200 – 400 square feet of space.
- Radiant Heat: Sometimes called infrared heat, radiant heat uses light technology to warm whatever the light touches. Think about how the sun feels warm on your skin while shade feels less warm. This concept is the way radiant heat works. It warms what it touches but does little to raise the temperature of the air. Generally, radiant heaters can efficiently heat up to 1,000 square feet of space.
Do Electric Fireplaces Have Safety Measures?
Many electric fireplace heaters have a safety component that automatically shuts off the machine when it detects the temperature is too high. The manufacturer sets this limit, and when the unit reaches that temperature, it will turn off and not turn on until the component has cooled.
This safety mechanism does offer a level of safety in that the machine will turn off if it begins to overheat. However, relying on the safety mechanism to work correctly 100% of the time is risky, and the machine should never be left unattended. It is always safest to follow the manual’s guidelines and prevent fires.
What Are The Risks Of Leaving An Electric Fireplace On While Sleeping?
Although leaving the electric fireplace turned on overnight is not immediate grounds for a fire, it does carry the risk. Therefore, an electric fireplace shouldn’t be left unattended, including while you sleep.
The possible risks associated with leaving the fireplace on are as follows:
- Electrical issues – If the cord becomes overheated, it can deteriorate and cause a fire or shock hazard.
- Harm to pets or children – Individuals unaware of how hot the fireplace can become are at risk of being injured by the fireplace while it is unattended. Pets and children may touch the hot surface, causing injury to themselves, or they may place flammable objects too close.
- Fire hazard – Fire is a potential hazard if the electric fireplace overheats and the safety mechanism does not function correctly.
- Flammable objects catch fire – Flammable objects that are too close to the electric fireplace can catch fire while the machine is left unattended.
Can An Electric Fireplace Cause A Fire?
An electric fireplace doesn’t contain an actual flame but can cause a fire if the unit overheats or causes a nearby flammable object to catch fire. You can prevent the risk of fire by using the electric fireplace according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and keeping flammable objects outside the typical 3-feet clearance recommendation.
Fires start from electric fireplaces when they are misused. Below, we will go over some improper uses of the electric fireplace that can lead to fire or electrical shock.
Fire Causes From Electric Fireplaces
- Objects placed inside the unit
Electric fireplaces become very hot when turned on. Things stuck inside the unit can catch fire and damage the electric fireplace. Flammable objects and liquids should not contact the heating coils, which are extremely hot and can cause a fire.
- Flammable objects too close
Flammable objects like couches, curtains, papers, pillows, blankets, and clothing are a fire risk when too close. These items need to be at least three feet away from the front of the unit to prevent a fire from starting. Flammable liquids like paint, gasoline, and pressurized containers must be clear of the appliance too, as they are at risk of catching fire. Clothing should not be placed on the fireplace to dry. For example, wet mittens, hats, or socks cannot be dried by laying these objects over the fireplace. The items are at risk of catching fire by overheating or blocking the air vents.
Suppose the unit overheats and the safety mechanism does not shut off the machine. In that case, parts can begin to deteriorate and lead to a fire hazard. When the safety mechanism shuts off the machine, unplug the unit and allow it to cool completely before using it again.
- Not using correct outlets
As the owner’s manual specifies, plug the electric fireplace directly into the wall outlet. Extension cords or ungrounded outlets increase the risk of a fire. Additionally, the unit could be tipped over if someone trips on the extension cord, leading to a potential fire hazard.
- Blocked air intakes and exhausts
The air vents need to be kept clear of any blockages. The intake and exhaust locations are usually marked to know not to block them. Don’t place an electric fireplace on soft surfaces like couches, beds, or blankets.
- Units used outside or near water
Water is an electrical hazard to these machines. As such, they should not be placed near water. Bathtubs, pools, or hot tubs are a few examples. In addition, most electric fireplaces are not meant for outdoor use because rainwater damages the unit and can lead to electrical shock.
The best ways to prevent fire are by following the proper clearance guidelines and preventing overheating.
- Proper clearance is typically three feet of space between the front of the unit and any flammable objects. The sides and rear also become hot and should be kept clear of flammable objects from a foot-and-a-half to three feet of space. Another aspect of proper clearance includes keeping the air vents free and clear of any blockages. For instance, if the unit has a heating component on the bottom, ensure that it sits on a flat surface and with the manufacturer’s legs installed to elevate the appliance off the floor.
- Most machines self-regulate overheating. The internal safety mechanism will shut off the device when it overheats. If the unit continually turns off, contact the manufacturer. It is possible the safety mechanism is failing or needs maintenance.
How Long Can You Leave An Electric Fireplace On?
Typically, electric fireplaces can be on for as long as you want them to. However, electric fireplaces should not be left unattended, so it’s recommended to shut them off before sleeping or leaving the house. Additionally, if your unit, for some reason, overheats, it needs to cool off before you can use it again.
Electric fireplaces are safe supplemental heat sources when they are used correctly. In addition, most units come with a safety mechanism that will automatically turn off the machine if it overheats. This feature helps prevent overheating and fire damage.
Additionally, to use the appliance for an extended time, follow a few of these safety tips:
- Plug the unit into the correct outlet as specified by the manufacturer. Typically, the appliances use 120v outlets and can be plugged into a regular, grounded wall outlet. Extension cords are a no-go!
- Keep the fireplace clear of flammable objects.
- Do not leave the machine unattended.
Of course, be sure to read the owner’s manual and follow their instructions for safe usage.