Electric fireplaces are an attractive, safe, and convenient way to add ambiance and zone heating to any room. They have numerous advantages over other types of fireplaces, and are available in a terrific variety of sizes, configurations and styles.
Portable, freestanding, media center TV stands, and corner units are just some of the choices you have!
This article will cover all the pros and cons of electric fireplaces and inserts. We’ll also provide examples of the various styles, and cover important safety tips.
Electric Fireplace Advantages
The décor and design possibilities of electric fireplaces are almost infinite. No matter what your home’s design or your personal tastes dictate, you’ll certainly find the type and visual style that works!
Electric fireplaces can also be real space savers compared to traditional fireplaces. Wall mounted electric fireplaces and slimline mantel fireplaces only protrude 6 to 10 inches into a room, and don’t require mounting into walls.
There is tremendous flexibility of installation. Electric fireplace inserts come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes which can be combined with furniture such as corner TV stands, fireplace media centers, mantels or bookshelves.
And if you have an apartment or condo, a small electric fireplace might be your only option in adding coziness and ambiance to your living space.
Electric fireplaces often have a much longer life span than other types of fireplaces, because there are no actual flames that are burning combustible fuels. This means there’s no degradation and corrosion of parts by caustic agents.
Installation of an electric fireplace is often is easy as un-boxing it and plugging it in. There are no contractors or major house renovations involved.
As a matter of fact, most installations are one person jobs. Wall-mounted electric fireplaces are as easy to install as hanging a large mirror, and media center fireplaces are very similar to putting bookshelves together.
If you move frequently, be it condos, apartments or houses, you can take your electric fireplace with you, they’re completely portable. They they can be moved easily from room to room in your home.
Electric fireplaces don’t require a chimney or gas lines; for apartments and condos, they may be the best (or only) option.
Most units come with a remote control, which allows you the same convenience as your media remote! Depending on the model, you may be able to do everything from powering on and off, to setting the temperature, timer, and flame height.
Unlike other types of fireplaces, you can enjoy the beauty of your electric fireplace all year long- even in the summer! This is the only type of fireplace that allows the option of flames without heat!
The electric fireplace heater disperses warmth directly into the room and is not lost through the chimney or special venting (since they don’t require any).
In fact, an electric fireplace allows much better control over the heat output than a wood fireplace. It’s so nice to simply set the thermostat or flip a high/low heat switch, and know you’ll have exactly the warmth you desire.
One of the most attractive benefits of an electric fireplace is the money savings that come with zone heating. By adding extra heat to the room you’re occupying, you’re able to reduce the thermostat on your central heating.
Don’t underestimate the savings gained over the year, simply by using your electric fireplace in your family room during the day, and in your bedroom at night.
Electric fireplaces are indeed a smart and efficient choice for heating the room you’re in, while reducing the heat elsewhere in your home!
Electric fireplaces have a small carbon footprint, and don’t emit any harmful gases or fumes such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the environment.
This is a huge advantage if someone in your home has respiratory difficulties, such as COPD, or asthma. Both gas and wood fireplaces can be really irritating in this situation.
Another thing you won’t have to worry about is potentially dangerous shooting embers or flammable creosote buildup (both of which can lead to fires).
Electric fireplaces are child and pet safe. These fireplaces remain cool to the touch (except for the heat discharge vent, which will be warm); your family won’t be exposed to hot surfaces whichcan cause accidental burns.
New electric fireplaces are certified by the The Canadian Standard Association (CSA), a nonprofit organization that sets electrical industry requirements of both the United States and Canada).
Look for one of their certifications on your electric fireplace and its packaging.
These certifications indicate that the product was tested and has met the certification requirements for electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical products:
Electricity converts directly to heat with a 99% efficiency (you’d have to be a physicist to understand where the missing 1% goes). This compares very favorably to the 60-80% efficiency of gas fireplaces.
The EPA says this about wood burning fireplaces:
“Generally, burning in a wood-burning fireplace is an inefficient way of heating your home. Fireplaces provide less heat to your home, since most of the heat goes out the chimney.”
Electric fireplaces are less expensive than either a wood fireplace or a gas fireplace, both in installation costs and running costs.
Electric Fireplaces vs Gas Fireplaces
|Criteria||Electric Fireplace||Gas Fireplace|
|Price||Start under $1000.
||Start at $2000. Usual range is $2500 to $5000.|
|Cost to Operate||About 0.3 to 3 cents per hour, without heat. About 16 cents per hour with heat on 100% of the time.||About 20 cents to 40 cents per hour, depending on BTUs.|
|Installation||No venting required. Can go on any wall.
Standard electrical outlet required.
|Venting required. Must go on outside wall.
Gas line must be brought to site.
|Portability||Easily moved.||Not easily moved.|
|Heat||Controlled by thermostat.
Flame can stay on when heater is off.
Ideal for rooms up to 1000 square feet.
|Controlled by thermostat.
Flame and heater go on and off together.
Ideal for rooms up to 1000square feet.
No heat lost through venting.
|70% to 80% efficient.
20% to 30% heat lost through venting.
|Maintenance||LED bulbs require no maintenance. Incandescent light bulbs to be replaced every 2 to 3 years, or longer.||Safety inspections suggested yearly.|
|Safety||No flame to burn. Glass and metal will not get hot enough to burn on contact. No Carbon Monoxide generated.||Glass face at 200 degrees Celsius may burn on contact.
Carbon Monoxide may be generated.
|Usage Period||Year-round.||Limited to colder months.|
Electric Fireplaces Disadvantages
Realism and Authenticity
Electric fireplaces don’t utilize real flames, so depending on the model you choose (and the eye of the beholder), they can look artificial.
You also don’t have the fun of tending, poking and prodding a real fire, and of course, there’s no crackling and popping sounds (or smell) of burning wood.
Electric fireplace heaters are designed to provide supplementary heat to a home. Electric fireplaces generally provide as much heat as a small electric space heater. In fact, strictly for heating, space heaters off more capability to heat larger spaces – of course they are no fun to look at.
To maximize the heat output of your electric fireplace, look for an infrared model.
Electric fireplaces run on electricity, so they are not usable during power outages. If you live in a remote areas subject to frequent power outages, they will not be a reliable heat source.
You may see the dreaded words “some assembly required”. For the fireplace itself, it simply means attaching the flame effect screen to the heater box.
For a wall mount fireplace, installation is required, but it’s a simple matter of attaching a mounting bracket to the wall and “hanging” your fireplace on it.
Assembly can be progressively more involved when you add furniture surrounds to the electric fireplace insert; a media console, bookshelf unit, or electric fireplace mantel surround means more assembly that could be a bit more complex. It’s similar to putting together an IKEA bookcase (scratch that – it’s easier!).
Long Term Value
Adding a full permanent fireplace with chimney can increase the value of your home. A national realtor association says that fireplaces are the third most often requested feature of a home and can increase the value 6-8%.
Since an electric fireplace isn’t a permanent installation, it will not increase the value of your home (although it will certainly add to the interior look as your home is marketed).
If you sell or move, simply take it with you.
Electric Fireplace Safety Considerations
Electric fireplaces designed to run from a standard 120v household outlet, and they tend to draw maximum power. If there are other appliances on the same circuit, you could blow a fuse or circuit if your outlet has other appliances on it or is overloaded.
Although this is not the norm, for larger electric fireplaces units with increased heat capacity, you may need special wiring or a dedicated circuit or a surge protector.
It’s also important to look at the heat discharge of your unit; does the heat discharge from the top of the unit or does the heat come out low from the front? The method of heat discharge can have safety implications.
For instance, it’s not recommended to mounting a TV set over a top discharge unit isn’t recommended. And the heat blows out the bottom, you don’t want to have any flammable objects near the path of discharge; install it away from carpet, drapes, or flammable material.
Make sure that your electric fireplace is securely mounted. Console and mantel units, need to be anchored to the wall to prevent the fireplace of tipping over, as most electric fireplaces are front heavy.
Types of Electric Fireplaces
There’s a wide selection of electric fireplace styles to suit your home’s layout and décor. From freestanding to wall mounted, to corner and media center; you’re sure to find a model that’s perfect for your situation.
The following are examples of highly rated fireplaces in a variety of styles:
Warm up to 1,000 square feet with this rustic style freestanding Infrared Fireplace from Duraflame.
Their patent-pending 3D Flame Effect creates the illusion of a wood-burning fireplace, with flames behind, in front of, and in between the log set!
The built-in digital thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature as needed, and you can choose between five adjustable color, brightness, and speed settings. A handy remote control is included.
For added peace of mind, this fireplaces utilizes Duraflame’s patent-pending Safer Plug* fire prevention technology. Safer Plug monitors plug temperature with a built-in thermometer; if the plug temperature rise above safe levels, the plug will immediately shut off to prevent overheating.
User reviews are excellent for this model, with purchasers almost uniformly finding it functional and realistic. They also note that the fan is quiet.
This fireplace measures 24″ W x 23.4″ H x 12.9″ D.
The manufacturer offers a 1 year warranty, with an optional replacement plan for up to 2 years.
Media Center TV Stand
There’s plenty of storage space for your media supplies in this “Walker” Electric Fireplace from ChimneyFree is absolutely stunning with its traditional style and warm cherry finish.
It has an extra large 25″ firebox featuring realistic SpectraFire Plus Flame Technology. You’ll love the life-like multi-toned, colored flames as they rise from the realistic, glowing log set and ember bed, while the fireplace heats up to 1,000 square feet in your home with soft infrared heat. You also have the option of the flame without heat.
You can create customized ambiance with the multi-function remote as you select from 5 flame colors, 5 flame speeds and 5 flame brightness levels.
Reviews are superb for this unit (nearly a perfect rating!), with purchasers commenting on the quality of the workmanship and the realism of the fire.
One satisfied purchaser shared:
“The TV console unit is very very nice. Very well made and a beautiful addition to our family room especially with the fire place inside. Arrived in perfect condition and was not hard at all to put together. The 2 main parts of the unit were already together. Love it!”
This model measures 59.9″ W x 31.75″ H x 19.5″ D, and can easily accommodate flat screen televisions up to 60 inches wide.
ChimneyFree offers a 1 year limited warranty. Additional warranty plans are also available on Amazon.
Corner Electric Fireplace
The “Lynette” Electric Fireplace from Real Flame combines contemporary styling and functional storage in a space saving corner design.
It has adjustable shelves to display your favorite items behind the elegant glass & mullion doors. The center shelf provides space for media components, as well as built-in cable management.
The VividFlame electric firebox plugs into any standard outlet for convenient set up.
The features include:
- remote control
- programmable thermostat (1400W heater)
- timer function
- brightness settings
- ultra bright VividFlame LED technology
Reviews across the web are excellent for this model, with one purchaser saying:
“Fireplace is well built and was easy to put together. Easily holds my 60″ TV. Definitely recommend this if you are looking fro a corner unit that can handle up to a 60″ TV.”
This unit measures 56.26″L x 34.69″ W x 36.26″H.
Shelf Dimensions are 12.125” L x 14.21” D
Center Shelf Opening: 23.18”L x 14” D x 5.625” H
Real Flame offers a 90 day warranty. Additional warranty plans are available on Amazon.
Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace
This GMHome 60″ Fireplace is an absolute stunner! With 1500W, this model will easily heat 400 square feet.
This versatile fireplace can be either wall mounter or freestanding (using the legs provided). You customize this fireplace by selecting between 40″ and 50″ glass or metal panels when you order.
Create the perfect ambiance with the realistic flames on crystal stones. Imagine selecting from 9 changeable flame colors, while also adjusting flame brightness, temperature, and timer, to create the ultimate custom effect. You can also enjoy the fireplace without heat.
You can program this model with the remote control or the manual control panel.
This gorgeous fireplace is safety certified and safe for kids and pets. Easy instructions are included, and installation is fast and simple.
Reviews of this model are excellent, with purchasers extremely satisfied with both the quality of the product, and the manufacturer’s customer service.
One happy purchaser stated:
“This fireplace is so perfect. It has all the features I was looking for including that it has the option to sit on feet as well as be mounted on the wall. That’s a great option for renters!!
The colors are really great, it’s even better in person because the detail in the colors is easier to see.”
The dimensions are 60 x 12.8 x 4.9 inches.
According to one answered question on Amazon, there is a manufacturer’s warranty, however the details are not specified. Regardless, I always recommend the peace of mind of an optional extended warranty plan for large purchases.
Electric Fireplace Inserts
If you’re looking to create a built-in mantle to add value to your home, or simply require a replacement for an outdated electric fire box, electric fireplace inserts are a great option.
You can also use an electric insert to easily convert an existing wood-burning fireplace to electric (wood-burning fireplaces require maintenance, and can cause problems for those with respiratory issues).
This ClassicFlame 33″ Infrared Fireplace Insert has a 5200 BTU heater, and can easily heat up to 1,000 square feet (you can operate it with no heat).
Spectrafire Plus offers an impressive 125 selectable flame effect options and 5 flame colors to create the perfect mood and ambiance for any style! This model features a natural-looking flame effect along with pulsating embers and glowing logs for additional realism. A convenient remote control is included.
This model comes fully assembled; just unbox it and plug it in!
Reviews for this unit are excellent, both for the insert and the customer service. Purchasers say this insert produces a good amount of heat and looks better than expected.
This insert utilizes Safer Plug, which continuously monitors the temperature of the plug with a built-in thermometer. If the plug temperature gets too high, the plug will automatically shut off to prevent overheating.
A 1 Year Limited Warranty is included (provided you are the original owner). Again, I always recommend an optional extended warranty plan for large purchases such as this.
Electric Fireplace Safety Tips
This list of electric fireplace safety tips was compiled from various manufacturers’ operating guides. Of course, you should read and understand all the manufacturer’s instructions in your own operating manual, as well.
As you skim over these, you’ll find that they’re really just common sense.
- The heating element is hot when switched on. Take care to avoid bare skin touching the hot surfaces. During the heater operations, the trim surrounding the heater outlet can also get hot.
- To avoid risk of fire, keep all materials made of combustible substances, such as furniture, clothes, bedding, pillows and curtains at a safe distance of at least 3 feet (0.9 meter) away from all sides of the electric appliance or unit.
- Do not block the fresh air intake or the hot air discharge vents. Air must move freely.
- Although generally kid and pet safe, exercise caution when electric appliance having heaters is operated by or is near children or individuals having physical disabilities, whenever the unit is ON and left unattended.
- Ensure that electric heater is always unplugged when not in use.
- Never operate the electric fireplace with a damaged plug or cord, or if you observe the unit malfunctioning or the heater has been dropped or damaged in any way. The heater must be returned to the authorized service facility for repairs or making electrical or mechanical adjustments.
- Electric fireplaces are for indoor use only, never use the unit outdoors or expose to the weather.
- Electric heaters are not to be used in bathrooms, laundry spaces and other indoor locations which likely to expose the unit to water. Water and electricity do not mix. Never install the heater at places where it can fall into bathtub or water containers accidentally.
- The cable or cord of the unit should never be run under the furniture, carpeting or other appliances. The cord should not be covered with runners, throw rugs and similar materials. Cord must be passed in areas safe from high traffic areas in home, so as to avoid someone tripping over the cord.
- Before disconnecting the unit, turn off the firebox and remove the plug from the socket or outlet.Ensure that the connected outlets are properly grounded before connecting.
- Do not insert or allow possibility of foreign objects enter the appliance through any exhaust or cooling openings as this can cause electric shock, fire or damage to heater or insulation.
- Do not block the opening for the air intake or for exhaust in any way so as to prevent possible fire. Take care to avoid using on soft materials like bed or clothes as this can result in clocking the openings. Electric heaters have some parts which produce sparking. Never operate heaters in areas where flammable liquids, gasoline or paints are stored or being used and in places where flammable vapors are present.
- Do not make any modifications to the unit and use it only in the manner described in the manual. Using it in any manner not recommended by the manufacturer can cause electric shock, fire, injury or death. Do not burn any material inside the heater.
- Do not attempt to lift the electric fireplace by the glass. Lift from the firebox. Do not impact or strike glass panel.
- Whenever new circuits or modifications are required, use services of only a certified electrician.Ensure that the outlets you use are grounded properly, polarized and provided with fuse units.
- Never use an extension cord or a re-locatable outlet or power strip, for plugging the heater; plug the heater directly into wall receptacle or outlet.
Electric fireplaces are an easy way to create customized ambiance and supplemental zone heating in your home. They’re environmentally friendly, and easy to install and maintain. Electric fireplaces are also the least expensive option among fireplaces, and won’t create irritating smoke.
What are your thoughts on electrical fireplaces? Have one? Want one? Let us know!
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