For many electric fireplace consumers, confusion often arises while researching the various types of fireplaces available on the market. This article will seek to clarify this confusion in regards to one of the most popular types of electric fireplaces, built-in units. Many consumers don’t realize that built-in electric fireplaces are suitable for both new construction and retro-fit applications and fireplace inserts can be permanently built in and hard wired within a wall as well as plugged into an existing socket. Units are available with the wire exposed at the end of the cord or with a plug at the end. Both can be changed with a plug kit or by removing the plug and hard wiring the unit into the home’s electrical system. For consumers who choose to hard wire their unit, the electrical cords will be concealed within the wall behind the insert and undetectable to the eye, thus allowing for a more realistic viewing experience.
When purchasing a fireplace always consult the manufacturer’s recommended power supply wire specifications while you are preparing for the installation. A unit wired for 120 volts uses three non-metallic sheathed cables with ground wire for the power supply, while a unit wired for 220 volts uses four cables. Always use the appropriate wires to meet local and national electrical codes for the unit’s rated power consumption. All wires should be 12 gauge solid wires with a dedicated 15 amp breaker for 120 volts. When installing 208/240 volt builder’s box models use two dedicated 15 amp breakers.
Plan to use at least 8 inches of service cable for the connection of the power supply wire to the junction box on a fireplace insert being installed before you finish the wall. Allow up to 4 feet of service cable for connection of the power supply wire to the junction box on fireplace inserts after finishing the wall. It is advisable for do-it-yourselfers to enlist a professional electrician.
Electric fireplaces have a zero clearance design. However, no combustibles should be placed on the top surface of the fireplace. Combustibles may be installed to the edge of the unit. Insulation and vapor barriers should be placed a minimum of 2 inches from the unit. Use your unit’s dimension specs when constructing the framing. Make sure you accommodate any air intake system the unit may have, particularly if you are customizing the installation of a plug-in unit designed for per-existing cabinets. If these guidelines are followed in addition to the instructions and warnings listed in the manual of the purchased unit, there is no reason any consumer should fear completing a fireplace installation project.
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