What is an Electric Fireplace?

R. Anacan

An electric fireplace is an electrical appliance that simulates the look of a traditional wood or gas burning fireplace. These fireplaces can either provide the appearance of a burning flame with no heating capability, or they can actual heat, via electricity, as well. Electric fireplaces have grown in popularity as consumers look for alternative yet stylish ways to heat their homes. They are available in a wide variety of styles and designs to match the d├ęcor preferences of most consumers.

Electric fireplaces are often made to look like those that burn wood.
Electric fireplaces are often made to look like those that burn wood.

An electric fireplace offers the appearance of a burning flame through the use of lights, mirrors and reflectors. The light is designed to replicate the flickering of a real fire while simulated burning logs and embers complete the illusion of an actual flame. Many fireplaces offer the ability to adjust the brightness and glow of the simulated flame with the turn of a dial. The simulated fire can generally be turned on whether or not the heating function of the electric fireplace is used.

The heat in an electric fireplace is generated by electrically heated metal coils. A fan is then used to direct the heat from the coils to the outside of the fireplace. Many modern electric fireplaces are able to generate heat rather quickly and do not need a prolonged period to allow the elements to heat up. They can be plugged into a common electrical outlet, making them easy and generally convenient to use. The amount of heat generated can often be controlled and adjusted as well.

There are also electric fireplaces that are designed to fit inside an existing fireplace. These are commonly known as electric fireplace inserts and are simply placed in the opening of the fireplace where the firewood would ordinarily be placed. All that is required is an accessible electrical outlet that the fireplace can be plugged into. Once installed a fireplace insert functions very similarly to stand alone electric fireplaces.

Advantages of electric fireplaces:

  • Those set in a standalone unit are often portable, allowing the user to move it from room to room.
  • They offer localized heating which can be more economical than heating an entire home.
  • They do not require extensive remodeling to install and use.
  • They do not consume wood or fossil fuels, making them a preferred choice of the environmentally conscious.
  • There are no direct emissions or pollution from the use of an electric fireplace.
  • No emissions also mean that no venting system or chimney is required to use it.

Disadvantages of electric fireplaces:

    The flames may not look realistic to some consumers.
  • They are generally more expensive than a basic electric heater. An electric fireplace is typically chosen over a simple electric space heater because of its appearance. The consumer who desires heating but does not need the look of a fireplace, should consider an electric heater.
  • Use of an electric heater can result in an increase in electrical bills. In some areas, electricity is more expensive than other forms of heating power such as natural gas or propane.

Discussion Comments


Additionally, I found electric fireplaces powered using infrared these days. Just like this infrared fireplace I found here, it also had a mantel and flame simulation to resemble a traditional fireplace. The flame simulation has improved too, these days. I don't know how an infrared has made into this because as far as I know, they are radiant, but I see they are effective.

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