Electric Fireplace Buyer's Guide
What is an electric fireplace?
An electric fireplace is, at its core, a room heater that runs on electricity. What's great about electric fireplaces, however, is that they don't require fuel. They also give your home a nice decorative aesthetic on top of the warmth they provide. But today, there are electric fireplace heaters that don't even provide heat; those are entirely decorative.
As more and more people move to a greener lifestyle, electric fireplaces are becoming a go-to choice. Electric fireplaces are a more sustainable option when compared to gas and wood burning fireplaces. Electric fireplaces are eco-friendly, give off no fumes, you can recycle them, and many plug into a standard electrical outlet. So, is an electric fireplace right for you?
Ask yourself these questions: Do you rent or can't afford to invest in a built in fireplace? Do you want it for indoor and outdoor use? Do you only plan to use it occasionally? Does the aesthetic of a fireplace entice you but not the heat? Maybe you want a fireplace, but is the maintenance too daunting? If you answered yes to any of these questions, continue reading.
In this article we will answer every question you may have regarding electric fireplaces like what you need to consider before buying one, the best brands available, and how to take care of your fireplace. These are just some of the topics we'll touch on.
Before you buy, make sure you have a dedicated outlet for your electric fireplace. Plugging any additional high demand appliances into the same outlet could lead to a tripped breaker. The voltage of the circuit must be 120 volts in most cases. That's standard voltage though, so that shouldn't be an issue. Be sure to evaluate what other items are using the same 120-volt circuit as the fireplace. It may be necessary to remove other items to lessen the load. Some small electric fireplace brands require a 240-volt circuit. If you purchase one like this, you'll need a dedicated line run for it. And because of these energy demands, it's not recommended to use an electric fireplace as the primary heat source for any part of your home.
An electric fireplace heater is used for zone heating and are usually rated between 4,800 and 10,000 BTUs. What this means is in a well-insulated home with good circulation, a free standing electric fireplace can heat between 150 to 300 square feet. For a well-insulated addition or other portion of a home that is not connected to a dedicated central air heating system, an electric heater fireplace may be all you need to heat your space.
Wall Mounted — If you have the wall space and want something stylish, look into a wall-mounted model. Most come in a linear style with a low and wide viewing area. You'll find that many are backlit featuring a flame-like design with a bed of fireglass or other media up front. These models can also get pretty big, with some at more than 100 inches long. You can even get a wall mounted electric fireplace without a heating element if the look of a flame without the heat is what you desire.
Traditional with logs — These models look like traditional gas or wood-burning fireplaces and can be used in place of them. If you want to replicate the look of a wood or gas fire, this is the style for you. Some models even offer a variety of flame color options. Another good thing about this style is because of its low clearance requirements these can be purchased alone and put into a wall or used as a fireplace insert. You can also get one of these with a mantel or entertainment center as well, which means this electric fireplace can stand alone in its own space in your home.
Traditional with glass — Everything you read above about the traditional style with the logs applies to this style as well. The only difference; instead of logs you get glass. This style uses a bed of crushed fire glass just like we mentioned earlier about the wall-mounted models. So, if you're into the traditional look, but not the logs, then fireglass is probably right for you.
The Best Brands
Dimplex — The leading brand in electric fireplaces and accessories. Dimplex has made countless breakthroughs and owns many patents for their innovative products. They've got everything from simple electric heating solutions to more complex products, so you're sure to find something within your comfort level.
Napoleon — These are considered some of the most reliable of all-electric fireplaces on the market. Napoleon's designs are some of the best around and will fit any modern room. They also come with many lighting and media options for you to enjoy.
Modern Flames — Offering clean face and wall mounted models, Modern Flames is an excellent choice if you have a lot of room you want to cover. This company even has a unit that's 144 inches in length. So if you got the space, take a look at Modern Flames.
Amantii — A newer company with a myriad of options. If you're looking for something you can bring outdoors, Amantii's got you covered. Amantii's company vision is to provide cutting-edge technology with fantastic value, which is why they are proud to offer models in numerous sizes to fit your electric fireplace need where ever it may be.
Real Flame — If you're looking for a more traditional option and want something that looks like a traditional fireplace, Real Flame might be your pick. Real Flame offers a variety of mantels, television stands, and bookcase mantels to suit the mood you'd like to set. Real Flame electric fireplaces have a modular design, so setup is simple.
With an electric fireplace, you'll find you have more freedom to place it in more areas of your home. That's because electric fireplaces don't have the same BTU limits fuel burning hearths do, and you can plug them in nearly anywhere. Although, remember if you do plug it in you can't have anything else in the outlet for risk of overloading. Electric fireplaces have a significant amp draw.
Some models of electric fireplaces offer you the ability to turn the heater on or off if you only want to look at the flames, and some are even available without the heater. And because their frames are low temperature, you'll find that some manufacturers offer flexible installation. You could install your electric fireplace into a combustible wall enclosure, or maybe as an insert into an existing fireplace. The choice is yours.
One drawback to an electric fireplace is the amount of energy it consumes. As we mentioned earlier, most electric fireplaces need a 120-volt connection that can't be used by other devices due to the fact that the number of amps used is significant.
Other options you'll find are remote capability, touch controls, backlit colors, and a non-standard flame presentation. Let's go over what all these mean.
Remote Capability — You'll be happy to find that most electric fireplaces come with a full function remote control. So you can kick back, warm your self up, and never have to leave the couch. Some remotes control much more than heat too. You could control backlight color, brightness, fan speed, even the sound.
Touch Screen Controls — Some electric fireplaces have touch screens that give you up to the same control as the remote does. If you're worried that the touchscreen display will stay on forever like a microwave timer, don't be, they turn off after a few moments of inactivity.
Backlight Colors — That's right, if you want to change up the color of light that your fireplace puts out, you've got that power with a modern electric fireplace (especially one with fireglass). You'll find some models let you cycle through a wide range of colors to fit whatever mood you may be in that day.
Non-Standard Flame Presentation — Back in the day, electric fireplaces used a light bulb backlight and a rotating drum to display "flames." Today, however, there have been advancements in flame presentation technology. Some electric fireplaces use projectors that operate at different speeds to give off the appearance of random flames. Other models use backlight water vapor or LCD screens.
Shipping your electric fireplace depends on the size you have ordered as well as what accessories you may have purchased — fireplaces with mantels smaller than 32 inches and linear fireplaces less than 50 inches ship parcel. However, if you buy a larger electric fireplace, expect it to come freight because, if shipped parcel, it might get damaged because of its awkward size.
Lifespan and Care
When buying an electric fireplace, you're probably expecting it to last you and your family for a long time. We'll give you a few tips now to make sure you get a long happy life out of your electric fireplace.
To begin with, be sure to keep the outside and inside of your electric fireplace clean. Regular dusting of the exterior and use of a vacuum or air compressor to clean out the inside of the unit will help in the long run.
You'll find there are a few components that go into an electric fireplace. These are the parts you'll most likely need to replace over time: the bulb, the control module, and the heating element.
- Bulb — this will need replacing every couple of years unless it's an LED bulb, then the lifespan will be much longer. If you're looking at an electric fireplace that has a backlight, these almost exclusively use LED bulbs. Those will cut down on the energy demands of your unit by a decent amount.
- Control module — this will last you longer than the bulb. The average lifespan of electronic control modules is 8 to 10 years.
- Heating element — you can expect the heating element to last a very long time if cleaned out regularly. On average you'll see 10 to 15 years of use.
Now, one thing to remember is that these average lifespan results depend on how much you use the electric fireplace and wear and tear of its other parts. If it sees heavy daily use, the bulb, the control module, and the heating element will have to be replaced sooner.
If you have pets or there's a pesky rodent in the house be sure to check the wiring regularly as well. A chewed on wire can be a fire hazard.
There you have it, everything you need to know about electric fireplaces. If you need one of the most convenient types of hearths, the electric fireplace is right for you. They can plug into most outlets, you can put them almost anywhere inside or outside of your home, and they require no venting. We have many other resources below that you can look into if you still want to know more.
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Electric Fireplaces Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
12 Questions &
from Emmett, MI asked:
February 3, 2021
If you have a freestanding electric fireplace, can you put something on top or have to leave empty?
Many styles of electric fireplaces will get warm to hot on top of the unit. Please consult your owners manual for information regarding your specific unit and if you can set materials on top of it.
on February 4, 2021
from Coventry, RI asked:
September 22, 2020
Do your fireplaces have to be assembled?
For the standalone electric fireplaces/inserts, no, but for those that include a mantel cabinet, yes.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on September 23, 2020
from Indianapolis, IN asked:
January 20, 2020
Is there a glass front insert that can be installed? I am converting from wood-burning to electric but would like to close off the fireplace during the summer. Is this something I would have to purchase later and install then?
Depending on the electric insert, you may or may not be able to add a glass door. This depends on the specific model you choose.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on January 21, 2020
from Carrolton, TX asked:
November 5, 2019
Do you have a see-thru electric fireplace?
We apologize, but we do not have any see-thru/two-sided electric options for your application.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on November 6, 2019
from Meridian, Idaho asked:
August 2, 2018
How difficult is it to remove an existing gas fireplace and exchange it with an electic wall mout unit.
The majority of "wall mount" electric heaters are not meant to be recessed, so you would need to remove your fireplace, cap the gas, and fill in the hole left there before installing your new electric unit.
Kelsey C. C.
on August 2, 2018
from Diberville, MS asked:
December 9, 2017
How do you turn off heat and use flame only- I have a dimplex multifire electric fireplace model no DF3215
Operation instructions to turn the heat off and keep the flame on can be found here
on December 10, 2017
from Saint Cloud, MN asked:
November 27, 2017
I don't see much information about installing an electric fireplace. Is there anything special to be considered? Is it just a matter of plugging it in or are there other considerations? Does it need to be installed or checked by a specialist or is it subject to any codes? Does the size of a room need to be considered with an electic fireplace? I see options for different logs, inserts etc but it appears that the electric fireplaces come complete. Are they complete? Lastly, are there certain types of electric fireplaces that look more realistic than others?
The heat output on an electric fireplace is so low that it usually does not have to adhere to any strict codes or clearances. Low output also will not usually run you out of a room but rather just provide comfortable heating. Any clearances for a unit will be listed in a product manual but most of these are all zero clearance to combustibles. The main factor is whether something can be recessed or must be wall mounted which will be STRICTLY stated in the manual.
Dimplex is a highly recommended brand as their main focus is on this type of appliance but if you want a more modern take then Napoleon is also a good brand.
on November 28, 2017
from Richmond, VA asked:
November 25, 2017
I need an electric fireplace that is 46-48" high
Unfortunately, we do not carry any electric units that are that tall.
on November 27, 2017
from MN asked:
August 3, 2017
Is there a fireplace that needs no vent that I can hang on the wall and that doesn't need me to open the wall?
Absolutely. There are several electric, ethanol and gas (natural or propane) wall-mount systems that will not require the fireplace to be framed into a wall. These models are found in the vent free fireplace category on our site by using the "Wall Mounted Fireplace" filter under "Fireplace Type."
on August 3, 2017
from Poplar Bluff, MO asked:
November 23, 2016
Are there fireplaces that can support a 65" TV?
Almost all of the electric fireplace manufacturers on the market recommend a maximum load carrying capacity of 55 pounds for a standard mantel enclosure and 85 pounds for an entertainment center type enclosure. These capacities will apply to the models we carry as well.
on November 25, 2016
from Tacoma, WA asked:
November 6, 2016
Are electric fireplaces expensive to operate, and do they increase the power bill for the entire house
It is historically more expensive to operate an electric fireplace, as electric heating elements cannot operate as efficiently as a gas burner and have a constant high amperage draw.
on November 7, 2016
from Attleboro, MA asked:
July 8, 2015
If I hand an electric fireplace on the wall, can I also hang a flat screen TV above it?
So long as the mantel clearances are followed in the instructions for whichever fireplace you choose in addition to the air space clearances provided by the television manufacturer, this will not be an issue.
on July 8, 2015