Electric Fireplace Flame Effect Not Working? 5 Reasons Why

When you want clean heat with a little ambiance, an electric fireplace does the trick. So, what can you do if it’s heating, but the lovely ‘flickering flames’ have suddenly vanished? Today we’ll talk about what you can do if the electric fireplace flame effect is not working.

We’ll start by explaining how the effect is produced and then give you a list of the most common issues that may occur and what you can do about them. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the technical details of making those faux-fires we’re so fond of and what you can do to keep those ‘flames’ burning!

Understanding How the Flame Effect is Produced

Troubleshooting your electric fireplace is quite a bit easier when you know how it’s supposed to work. You’ve heard someone say when describing a Magician’s trick that it’s ‘all done with mirrors’? Well, your electric fireplace is much the same.

The illusion of flame in your electric fireplace is accomplished using mirrors on the front screen of the fireplace that is placed on a rotating rod. A motor keeps this rod spinning so that cleverly placed mirrors reflect the light from the bulbs inside, which may be ‘standard’ bulbs but are more commonly LED lights these days.

The mirrors on the rod look a lot like fan blades, curved to be either fat or slender, and their slow rotation, along with their shapes, creates the flickering effect that makes your electric fireplace look so tranquil while it’s heating your house.

So, breaking it down, if your flame effects aren’t working, then it’s likely down to one of the following:

  • Motor issues
  • Rod issues
  • Lightbulb issues (the most common culprit)

In the next few sections, we’ll list the most common problems that you’ll see with your electric fireplace, and now that you know how it works, you might find that fixing it is going to be much easier than you previously thought!

3 Reasons Why Electric Fireplace Flame Effect is Not Working

1. Bulb needs to be Replaced

The most common issue with a missing flame effect is simply that the lightbulb inside has gone out. Older electric fireplaces employ halogen bulbs inside, and these can certainly go out and require replacement over time. You’ll have to remove the back panel to confirm this, of course, but this is the first thing that we want to check.

If you think that the bulb needs to be replaced, these older electric fireplaces will generally be compatible with an E12 bulb. Check your manual to be sure and if you’ve lost the manual, check online before ordering an E12, as many vendors provide legacy documentation online for free viewing and downloads.

Newer models will be much less likely to have this problem, as they incorporate LED lights, and these are rated for performance in the 10’s of thousands of hours. 

If your unit uses halogen and the bulb is out, typically, you may replace it, but check with your unit’s manufacturer first – some units are compatible with ‘swapping out’ those old halogen bulbs with a compatible LED array.

If your unit allows for this, then those LED lights last a long, long time, and they even use less electricity, so this might be an opportunity to not only fix those flames but to give your electric fireplace a cost-saving upgrade!

2. Flame Effects Work, but the Fireplace is ‘Squeaking.’

If the ‘flames’ seem to be working, but you hear a bit of a squeaking sound (along with ‘crackling’ if your model simulates this as well), then it might just need a little bit of oiling. The rod that turns inside is generally well-lubricated, but it still needs some care from time to time.

Check your manual for approved lubrication that you can apply, and that should stifle any squeaking.

3. Problems with the Motor

If you see the light, but no flickering, then it is likely that the motor will need to be replaced. Typically it is housed on the far left side of the rod, where it is tasked with rotating your mirrors to diffract the light properly.

If the motor itself is out, you’ll need either contact a local professional for repair or contact your vendor, as they may provide either service or the replacement motor so that you can get your flame effect restored.

4. The Rod Mechanism is not Spinning Properly

If the rod spins, but it seems a little erratic, or it is ‘locking up’ from time to time, then this is another case where lubrication is a good idea. Generally, if you are very careful, you may employ a little WD40 into the end of the rod, but don’t do this unless you are very confident that you can avoid any spillage.

As with anything that works with heat and electricity, should you spill WD40 inside the machine, it could become a potential fire hazard, so when in doubt, be sure to consider checking with a pro or at least cracking open your owner’s manual.

Some manuals will include lubrication steps for those who want to perform ‘preventative maintenance’ safely, so it is well worth a look if you want to do the lubrication yourself, as the steps for performing this routine safely may already be outlined and waiting for you inside the manual.

5. No Response from the ‘Flame Effects’ Switch

If everything seems to be responding but the actual switch itself for the flame effects, then you might have a blown a fuse. Check your manual for the fuse array listings and see if your unit employs fuses that you may easily replace.

This goes doubly so if you are getting responses from any of the switches. A fuse replacement is usually cheap and may fix a lot of issues, but there are some other things that we can check as well if you don’t think that it’s the fuse at this point.

Heaters tend to draw more power than other appliances, so if we see no responses from fuses, this could indicate a bad outlet. Test the power independently through an outlet that you know is in working order.

If you get good results from this, then it’s a problem with your outlet. Other warning signs of a power-draw issue may include the following:

  • Warm power cable
  • Power outlet faceplate is warm or even hot

If you run into either of these symptoms, disconnect the unit immediately and not run it from this outlet.

A licensed electrician is going to need to assess the outlet involved. If the unit was plugged in loosely, this could account for the problem, as a loose connection causes the electricity to have to ‘jump’ to complete the circuit, but for best results, you should unplug it for a while before testing, even in a case like this.

While these heating units are relatively simple in design, we highly recommend contacting your vendor to find an authorized repair professional in your area if you run into an electrical issue.

Barring your power outlet (which requires a licensed electrician), tracing power issues inside your electric fireplace will likely require a multimeter and a trained eye.

This can help to determine where the circuit is not being completed. However, unless you are 100% certain that you can do it on your own, a professional will be the best way to avoid any potential injuries or inadvertently creating a fire hazard. 

Performing a Manual Reset

While this option is not available on all models, check your manual to see if you have a ‘reset’ option for your electric fireplace. If you do, this may sometimes fix issues where an electric fireplace generates heat, but there are no flame effects such as the standard light flickers or ‘crackling’ in applicable models.

While most of the time, any issues are going to be related to the rod, motor, or the bulb, with the higher end models resetting the defaults may be a viable option if the issue is not readily apparent once you have removed the rear access panel and observed operation with the heat component disabled.

Resetting to defaults will likely remove any custom settings in models of this type, so if you have this option available for your unit, be sure to only use this as a last resort and contact customer service for your particular unit to rule out other issues.

If you are Still Experiencing Issues, It’s Time to Get the Vendor Involved

Today we’ve outlined the most common problems involved when your electric fireplace flame effect is not working. Often, these will be minor issues, such as we have outlined today, but if you have used our tips and are still having problems with your fireplace, it may be best to get a professional involved.

Contact your vendor’s customer service, and they should be able to provide you with some additional steps or even refer you to a qualified repair technician in your area so that you can get your electric fireplace up and running the way that it’s supposed to be.

Don’t worry; these are solid units, so you should be up and running well before the winter arrives!

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