If you’re looking to upgrade your home with a fire appliance, you may be curious about electric fireplaces. These increasingly popular products are very safe, efficient, and capable of creating more realistic-looking flames than ever before. Many homeowners and renters love their electric fireplaces.
However, there are a few features you just can’t get with an electric appliance, like the ability to cook over a flame. Many prospective fireplace buyers wonder whether going electric is worth it.
While we can’t tell you whether an electric fireplace or insert is the best choice in your case, we can answer your questions and give you some tips for purchasing. Here are our answers to our most frequently asked questions about electric fireplaces:
What is an electric fireplace?
Electric fireplaces are electric heaters that are designed to look like wood- or gas-burning fireplaces. Since they don’t burn fuel, they don’t release any smoke or gas and don’t require a chimney. They produce warmth and a pleasing fire-like atmosphere, just like traditional fireplaces.
Homeowners often place electric fireplaces inside conventional fireplaces they no longer wish to use for traditional fires. However, you can also place an electric fireplace on your wall or choose a freestanding model. This flexibility makes electric fireplaces a popular choice for both condos and single-family homes.
In the past, electric fireplaces were often criticized for lacking the appearance of realistic flames. However, many of today’s models create a much better simulation, complete with realistic flame movement and crackling log sounds.
Types of electric fireplaces
There are four basic types of electric fireplaces:
- Electric fireplace mantels. These fireplaces feature a vent-free firebox with a flame simulation and a standalone mantel that plugs into a standard 120-volt wall outlet. Some electric fireplaces double as media consoles and features shelving for additional storage.
- Wall mount electric fireplaces. These fireplaces are mounted on the wall and can often be installed directly into drywall.
- Electric fireplace inserts. These electric fireplace products are designed to fit into existing fireplaces, including steel- and brick-lined hearths. The fireplace insert is usually plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet and centered inside the fireplace.
- Built-in electric fireplaces. Built-in electric fireplaces can be seamlessly integrated into your living space during new construction or renovation. They usually require standard 2” x 4” framing with extended depth to accommodate the firebox. Built-in electric fireplaces are usually hardwired.
What are the benefits of electric fireplaces?
Homeowners and renters alike love electric fireplaces! There are many benefits you will notice right away when you install and begin using your new electric fireplace:
- No fumes. Since electric fireplaces don’t burn any fuel, they do not produce any fumes. You don’t have to worry about smoke or gas destroying your indoor air quality.
- Energy efficiency. Electric fireplaces are incredibly energy-efficient and can be less expensive to run than wood- or gas-burning fireplaces, depending on local utility and firewood costs. You can effectively heat the room without seeing a dramatic increase in your electric bill.
- Realistic flames. Modern technology has allowed electric fireplace manufacturers to create more and more realistic flames. Many fireplace buyers are surprised at how realistic and comforting the flames are in popular electric models.
- Thousands of unique designs. There’s an electric fireplace out there for everyone! Whether you prefer a traditional stone mantel or a smooth, contemporary design with blue fire glass, a good fireplace store can find the perfect model for you. From there, you can often customize your electric fireplace to provide storage space or create the ideal fit for that awkward corner in your home.
- Smaller footprint. Electric fireplaces often take up less space than wood-burning and gas fireplaces. For example, a wall mount fireplace will only protrude about 8” into a room, sometimes less.
- Consistent heat. Unlike wood fireplaces, electric fireplaces can be controlled with a thermostat. You can easily keep the room at a temperature that feels comfortable rather than accidentally over or under-heating the surrounding space. While electric fireplaces do not have a central heating system’s power, they can usually heat the full room where you install them.
- Year-round enjoyment. Electric fireplaces can often be used without heat. That means you can enjoy the appearance of flames even on hot summer days when you’d like to keep the house cool.
- Minimal maintenance. Electric fireplaces require virtually no maintenance. All you need to do is occasionally wipe down the front glass (like with any other surface in your home) and maybe replace a light bulb once in a while. You will never have to buy or chop firewood, hire a chimney sweep, or clean up messy ashes and soot like you would with a wood-burning fireplace.
- Few safety risks. With an electric fireplace, there is no risk of smoke inhalation, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, or chimney fires. Many models come with an automatic shut-off feature, and the front glass is usually made to stay cool while the fireplace is running. For these reasons, many parents and pet owners prefer electric fireplaces.
- Low costs. Depending on the model and whether you already have a fireplace in your home, installing an electric fireplace is usually more affordable than installing a wood or gas fireplace. You don’t need to build a chimney, extend a gas line, or do any major wall construction.
- Fast installation. Since electric fireplaces don’t require venting or gas, the installation process is usually less complicated than installing a wood-burning or gas fireplace. You may not need any building permits or disruptive construction, although it’s never a bad idea to check homeowner’s association regulations or lease agreements.
- Often movable. Since electric fireplaces are not tied to chimneys or gas lines, you can place them almost wherever you want in your home. Depending on what type of fireplace you install, you may even be able to transport it to a new home if you move.
- Long-lasting. Electric fireplaces can last a surprisingly long time. They usually aren’t as susceptible to corrosion, rust, and other problems as other heaters and fireplaces. Your electric fireplace may still look brand new after years of use.
- Better for the environment. Both wood and gas fireplaces use natural resources, emit fumes, and lose some of their heat to the outside. On the flip side, electric fireplaces only use a small amount of electricity, have zero emissions, and are extremely efficient. You can’t get more eco-friendly heat than that!
How do electric fireplaces work?
Electric fireplaces work a lot like space heaters. They draw in cool air, heat it with a heating coil, and spread the warmed air back into the room with a fan. Some electric fireplaces can heat larger rooms using infrared technology.
The flame portion of the fireplace usually comes from an LED light bulb. The light bounces off a spinning silver refractor with 3D patterns to create the simulation of a randomly flickering flame. Some electric fireplaces come with a sound-making device that makes a crackling log noise as the refractor spins.
Do you need to vent an electric fireplace?
Electric fireplaces do not produce emissions, so you do not need to vent them. There is no need for a chimney or direct vent as with other types of fireplaces.
Is the flame in an electric fireplace real?
No, the flame is not real. However, many electric fireplaces today have highly realistic-looking flames as a result of recent technological advances. Some electric fireplaces can even imitate the sounds of crackling logs.
Are electric fireplaces safe?
Electric fireplaces are extremely safe, including for small children and pets. There is no actual fire, so there is no risk of sparks flying out or fires getting out of control. You also won’t be inhaling any smoke or chemicals since there are no emissions.
Even the glass face on an electric fireplace is relatively safe. It will never get hot enough to burn someone.
Can you install an electric fireplace under a TV?
Depending on the type of electric fireplace you choose, it is perfectly safe to install an electric fireplace under a TV. In most cases, you can place electronics above your electric fireplace with no adverse effects, although you should be careful with wall-mounted fireplaces that push out heat through the top of the unit.
We generally recommend choosing an electric fireplace mantel if you want to keep electronics above your fireplace. These products can be designed with storage space to seamlessly fit both the TV and the firebox into your living space.
Do electric fireplaces really heat rooms?
Yes, they do! They can heat a room faster than a wood-burning or gas fireplace in many cases since they are much more energy-efficient.
Forced fan electric fireplaces are great for areas around 400 square feet. If you want to heat a 1,000-1,500 square foot space, you can use an electric fireplace with infrared technology.
Do electric fireplaces use a lot of electricity? Are they expensive to use?
Electric fireplaces are extremely energy efficient. Hunker reports that operational costs range between $0.003 to 18 cents an hour, depending on whether you have the heating option turned on and how much electricity costs in your area. Standard electric fireplaces use less energy than more powerful models that are designed to heat larger rooms.
What is the best electric fireplace?
There is no single best electric fireplace for every home. Different models are designed for different room sizes and decorative tastes. However, if you are shopping for an electric fireplace, look for the following features:
- Sufficient heat for the area where you will install the fireplace. Forced fan fireplaces work well in areas around 400 square feet, while the average infrared quartz fireplace is designed for rooms around 1,000 square feet. High ceilings, windows, and drafts can also affect the heating capacity you need.
- Storage space. If you plan to place a TV or other equipment above your fireplace, be sure to choose a model with a mantel that is designed for electronics.
- A good warranty. Many electric fireplaces come with a 1-2 year warranty.
- Easy controls. Electric fireplaces can come with a range of control options, including thermostats, remote controls, and adjustable LED lights.
- A fireplace that fits in your space. If you are buying an electric fireplace insert, be sure to measure your existing fireplace to make sure the model you are buying fits. For other types of electric fireplaces, make sure there is enough space on the wall and in the area in front of where you plan to install the fireplace.
- A design you love. There are hundreds of electric fireplaces on the market, many of which you can customize down to the smallest detail. If you don’t absolutely love the appearance of the fireplace you are considering, you may want to go a different route.
Can you install electric fireplaces outside?
Yes, some electric fireplaces can be installed outdoors, although you need to choose an outdoor-rated model. Much like indoor electric fireplaces, outdoor-rated models can emanate heat and create a realistic flame-like appearance. You can use outdoor-rated fireplace models both outdoors and indoors.
Is an electric fireplace worth it?
Most homeowners and renters are delighted with their electric fireplaces. The extra warmth and aesthetic appeal make these fireplaces more than worth the cost. Electric fireplaces are energy-efficient, cost-effective, low maintenance, and even do a good job of heating the room. What’s not to love?
We hope we answered all your questions about electric fireplaces. If you are looking to buy a fireplace for your home in Western Washington, be sure to check out our selection of electric fireplaces and inserts. We do installations, custom designs, maintenance, and more.