Friday 30 December 2011

What you should know before buying an electric fire

There are a number of things that you should be aware ofbefore buying an electric fire, they are often described ‘easy to fit’ and‘suitable for every home’ but are they? You need to make sure the electric fireyou choose is suitable for its situ too. This blog could be useful to anyonethinking of buying an electric fire and help those in the trade selling firesto ensure the fires sold are actually fit for purpose.

Buying an Electric Fire
The act of actually buying an electric fire is extremely easy, you can pickthem up in DIY stores, from showrooms and online, which is great, but please beaware that images seen in catalogues, brochures and online do not properlydisplay the finish of the fire and the flame effect of a fire, ask to see thefire in operation at a fireplace showroom or DIY store to make sure the flameeffect and pattern is what you are expecting. The finish can differdramatically from manufacturer to manufacturer so have a look at your fire tosee if their shade of brass, or brushed brass is what you were thinking of toavoid disappointment. If you do buy the product online and don’t have chance toview the electric fire before hand you have a cooling off period, and duringwhich time you may return the fire for whatever reason, and yes that means evenif you don’t like the coal effect etc. (This will usually be at your expensethough so it is better to know what you’re buying before it is sent to you).

Copyright or Copy Wrong?
Manufacturers of fires will have copyright on their products and images ofproducts, names of products etc. Despite this there is a whole lot of‘simulation’ and ‘imitation’ of products between the manufacturers, and to behonest if I saw a competitors fire selling by the thousands I’d look to imitatethe products to some extent too. It is important to be aware that this goes onwithin the industry, it is very hard to prove that brand A has copied brand Bso you could get a bargain. However you could get an inferior electric firethat looks like the more expensive one etc. Manufacturers will sometimes selltwo products that are identical under different names, and with greatdifference in the price tag, as well as manufacturer’s warranty. You could savea bundle on an electric fire but have 2 or 3 years less warranty, the choice isyours. Do not buy from auction websites unless it is a shop (you wouldn’t buy afire from a car boot sale would you?).
Another tip when shopping for an electric fire is the flame effect is often thesame throughout a manufacturers range of fires, so if manufacturer A hasseveral different fires i.e. manual control, remote controlled, brass finish,chrome finish, modern design or classic design, they may all have the sameflame pattern or effect, (Many electric fires have the same electric fire, or‘engine’, presented in different fascias or guises). This could mean if you’veseen one LED flame effect you’ve seen them all, but again, different manufacturerswill have subtle differences (however slight!).

Will the Electric Fire Fit?
This is where many people find disappointment, they receive their newelectric fire.......and it doesn’t fit, they you have to send or take it back,and you wanted the job finished by a certain date!.....AAARGH! Should it bethis confusing? Well it’s quite straight forward once you understand that thereis 3 main types of electric fire; Hearth based (3 sided), Hang on the Wall(outset, wall mounted) and Hole in the Wall (inset fires). Once you know whichone is for you the dimensions needed to install are straight forward, and I’lltake you though these one at a time:

Hearth based inset electric fires means the electric firesthat fit into a back panel as part of a fireplace setting. The cut out in aback panel is as industry standard around 16inches wide and 22inches tall. Mostelectric fires fit into these gaps with no problem; however confusion often ariseswith the depth of the electric fire and something called the ‘rebate’. Theinset depth of an electric fire is the depth from what you see in the room backto the end of the fire in the fireplace or wall, (The outset depth is the depthof the fire from the back panel into the room). The ‘rebate’ is the measurementfrom the front of the back panel to the wall, this is usually 25mm or 75mm,some may be adjustable too! Now, if the inset depth of the electric fire isgreater than the depth of the rebate you will need a recess into the wall tofit the fire into. This depth will need to be at least as big as the overlapfrom the inset depth and back panel. A way around this (especially if you onlyhave a flat wall, with no recess) is to use a spacer kit, these come in severaldepths and allow the electric fire to be outset into the room more, but manypeople don’t find this aesthetically pleasing.

Hang on the Wall fires are mounted onto the wall,measurements are outset into the room and the fires will either fix directly tothe wall, or onto a pre fixed bracket on the wall.
Hole in the Wall inset fires need a recess for them to fit into, this can beinto a chimney of a ‘false’ chimney breast, be aware that many measurementswill show a fires inset dimensions, but a few inset electric fires will need clearancefrom these measurements. Make sure no clearance is needed to avoiddisappointment.

Where Can I Get Additional Information?
Every manufacturer has a website and if they don’t then avoid like theplague! Many manufacturers sites will have the installation manuals and userguides for you to refer to before a purchase, if they don’t there will be someway of contacting them to retrieve any information required, if they do nothave either a contact phone number or email address the avoid like the plague!Showroom sales people should have general ideas of what measurements arerequired, but it is always best to go to the manufacturer yourself to assureyou have the correct information, they will tell you the facts not what suitsthem on the day, you can ask for the information to be sent via email or postthus giving you a future reference should you require it. Be wary of reviewsites, many companies have 100% reviews and have sold a couple of items whilstothers have okay reviews but have sold hundreds of thousands of products,question how many happy people bother to leave reviews and how many competitorcompanies review others? Being someone who uses the internet frequently I findreview sites most frustrating, but that’s a different topic entirely.

What Did You Expect?
Electric fires nowadays are 100% efficient and come in a plethora ofdesigns, have more options and finishes than you can think, which is great, butthey usually have a maximum heat output of 2kW. This level of heat is nottremendous; it will certainly take the edge off (if you get close enough) butshould not be relied upon as a sole source of heat in a home. Hairdryers canoften be found to emit similar amounts of heat, so don’t expect a furnace!
Many electric fires simply plug in, which again is great, but what do you dowith the lead? Some manufacturers will view the warranty as void if theirmoulded plug is cut off, which could cause a problem when fitting. Anycompetent electrician would be able to come up with suitable solutions to avoidthis, but people buy these from DIY stores expecting to be able to ‘do ityourself’ and find disappointment when employing an electrician for the job.
By no means do I dislike electric fires, in fact quite theopposite, but it is important to be aware of what small pitfalls may be aheadof you when buying and electric fire, indeed any fire or heating for your home.

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