Yes. Electric fireplaces are considered safer than space heaters because they produce a flame effect without creating actual, real fire. There is limited exposure or a smaller probability of danger around furniture, table cloths, drapes as a result due to no chance of embers escaping from the fireplace.
What you will learn in this article
We will share safety concerns to help inform a buyer or customer decision between an electric fireplace or space heater for your home.
Remember, upgrading your home or living space with a little more warmth, coziness, and ambiance is not an easy task — especially with safety as the top priority. Each room comes with its own set of challenges when trying to integrate electric heaters or a heat source.
Electrical failures or malfunctions were the second leading cause of U.S. home fires in 2012-2016 (behind fires caused by unattended equipment), accounting for 13% of home structure fires.
- Fires involving electric failures or malfunctions accounted for the highest share of civilian deaths (18%) and direct property damage (20%).
- Nearly two of five fires (39%) involving electrical failure or malfunction occurred in the cold weather months from November through February.
- Arcing was the heat source in approximately three of five home fires involving an electrical failure or malfunction.
Electrical distribution and lighting equipment was the third leading form of equipment involved in fires in U.S. homes in 2012-2016, accounting for 10% of fires (behind cooking equipment and heating equipment).
- Non-confined home fires involving electrical distribution and lighting equipment most often originated in a bedroom (17% of total), attic or ceiling (12%), or a wall assembly or concealed space (9%).
- Approximately one-quarter (24%) of these fires occurred between midnight and 8am., but these fires accounted for 60% of deaths.
Our favorite rooms are the family room and living room. It is a nice option for an electric fireplace with mantel or a corner space heater to warm a room — hopefully as a secondary heat source, heating system or electric space heater warms up to 1,000 square feet.
As the NFPA statistics indicated, it is easy to have electrical issues that result in a spark that can cause a fire.
The best electric fireplace has compliance standards and safety features for greater confidence. This is usually in the form of “UL certification”. UL certification typically has testing in an lab where the unit is tested for potential hazards and finally approved if it meets strict criteria.
Electric space heaters or portable heaters, can be expensive to operate depending on the amount of heat output and the number of hours it’s running. Use our electric fireplace cost calculator tool to see if an electric fireplace or space heater will impact your utility bill more.
Although space heaters do not require venting, they are considered to be safe inside your home. They even avoid indoor air quality concerns as hazardous fumes are not emitted. Keep in mind that they still pose fire hazards with blankets, rugs, drapes and other flammable cloth or threads that should not be placed directly in front of or on space heaters.
When considering a space heater and installing it, try the following tips:
- Electric heaters should plug in directly into the wall outlet. If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Always check and follow any manufacturer’s instructions pertaining to the use of extension cords.
- Buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over. Some cords also have thermal protection to shut down the appliance if the cord overheats.
Electric space heaters are generally more expensive to operate than wood stoves and combustion stoves, but they are the only unvented space heaters that are safe to operate inside your home. Although electric space heaters avoid indoor air quality concerns, they still pose burn and fire hazards and should be used with caution and not left on while unattended.
A freestanding or corner electric fireplace, generally, is acceptable to have children and pets in proximity. Keep in mind that nominal distance, such as 3-5 feet from the heating element is considered safe. The actual heating element can get warm and should not be touched.
Should you use an extension cord? No.
As an example, the most realistic electric fireplace, MagikFlame, has 5,200 BTUs of heat output with its built-in heater. As a premier electric fireplace manufacturer, the recommendation is not to use extension cords as the unit should plug directly into a wall outlet.
This electric fireplace product is equipped with a polarized plug (one blade is wider than the other blade). To reduce the risk of electrical shock, this plug will fit into a polarized outlet only one way — without hassle. 15 AMP dedicated breakers are ideal.
This is a safety feature. If you are unable to insert the plug into the electrical outlet, try reversing the plug. If the plug still does not fit, contact a qualified electrician. Avoid the use of an extension cord because the extension cord may overheat and cause risk of fire. However, if you have to use an extension cord, the cord must be No.14 AWG minimum size and rated not less than 1875 Watts. The extension cord must be a three wire cord with grounding type plug and cord connection. The extension cord shall not be more than 20 feet (6 m) in length.
Additionally, it is highly unlikely for an electric fireplace to spark a real fire compared to space heaters, mainly because there are no real embers or real flames in a fake fireplace. This includes, modern electric fireplaces, electric log sets, and electric fireplace inserts and their built-in electric fireplace heater.
If you leave home for an extended amount of time or when kids are present, we recommend unplugging the fireplace and potentially turning off the electrical outlet to avoid a potential fire hazard. Fireplaces like MagikFlame have a built-in “sleep timer” for automatically turning the fireplace off after a desired amount of time.
Finally, be sure to follow sensible safety protocols in this article, our electric fireplace buying guide, and according to the NFPA.org for additional insight and safety warnings. Electric fireplaces are safer to use and operate than small or large space heaters and deliver ambiance a space heater does not.
Summary of Safety Considerations and Tips:
- Electric fireplaces are safer than electric space heaters. A main reason is that an electric fireplace does not have real flames or need venting. Simply turn down the thermostat if it’s too warm for the family room or living room.
- Try to avoid bare skin touching hot surfaces.
- Electrical failures are the second leading cause and electrical distribution is the third leading cause in homes within the U.S.
- Ensure UL certification, whenever possible.
- To reduce risk of fire, keep all materials made of combustible substances, such as furniture, clothes, bedding, pillows, drapes, and curtains at a safe distance such as 3-5 feet away from all sides of the space heater or electric fireplace insert.
- If a gas fireplace is currently installed within a traditional fireplace chimney, be sure to have a screen and/or glass to help protect children and pets. Consider changing to a supplemental heat source such as a space heater or family room focal point such as an electric fireplace to have more peace of mind.
- Space heater or electric fireplace safety can be increased by unplugging the unit when away from the home — especially for extended periods of time.
- Although space heaters are a nice option for a small space, avoid using bathrooms, laundry spaces and other indoor locations, likely to be exposed to liquid or water.
- Use an extension cord only if absolutely needed – as a heavy-duty, grounded cord. Please avoid extension cords overall. Best to plug directly into the wall.
MagikFlame electric fireplaces are safer than space heaters. They also assist with cleaner air quality (avoiding carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide issues along with other toxins from wood fireplaces). The built-in 5,200 btu heater is added value and has a thermostat to control potential overheating for the living space whereas a space heater is more unpredictable. Enjoy simple and easy installation if you want a more luxurious experience while ensuring a safer, family atmosphere. Shop MagikFlame fireplace here.