The Rise of the Electric Fireplace
About 20 years ago, electric fireplaces entered the fireplace scene as a way to cost-effectively add a fire feature for people who didn’t want or couldn’t have a more traditional fireplace. These fireplaces were very clearly first-generation and featured a frustratingly awkward fire display using aluminum-foil wheels and cheesy light bulbs to mimic the flicker and glow of a real fire. To some they were cool and fun, and to others they were laughably bad and looked down upon.
A Rise in Popularity
Sitting here in 2023, electric fireplaces are the fastest growing hearth category. Each year more and more electric fireplaces are sold across the country, in every type of setting including construction, residential remodel, and commercial. The new innovations have led architects to spec them into homes, and once looked down upon, many manufacturers have been forced to look up. One such reason for the ascension is the growth of the electric category itself, which has allowed more R&D money to be focused on a bigger pie. With “real” money behind it, big players such as Valor, Mendota, Kozy Heat, and other traditionally gas or wood fireplace manufacturers have joined the party, which has pushed innovation forward.
Another reason is the potential gas ban and electrification of certain developments, states, and even whole regions of the United States and Canada. In these areas, it’s all electric and electric only – no gas or wood-burning appliances can be used. This completely lost market segment for fireplace manufacturers has led to the innovation to recapture those potential lost markets, or watch the pie shrink.
Innovative Technologies Make For a More Realistic Fire
With that said, electric fireplaces still have an uphill battle to capture the realistic flame a gas or wood fire provides. Technologies such as water vapor or holograms are included with the newest high-end models, inching closer to the real 3D dance of a beautiful, yellow flame. These technologies still have a ways to go, and at least for now carry high-end price tags, oftentimes even more expensive than its gas or wood counterparts. These costs are sure to come down, but it may be a while before we see these life-like fireplaces in more than just downtown condos. In addition to the flame appearance conundrum, quality and heat output are vital factors in the success or adoption of electric fireplaces, especially in cold climates. In these regards they may never match or surpass gas or wood fireplaces (after all, no matter how expensive your electric fireplace is, it’s still made in China, and electric heaters are woefully inefficient).
The real breakthroughs are still to come – likely within the next 5 or 10 years. As more money goes into the development of these new models, and competition increases, there will be a race to the top. Who makes it there is still yet to be known, but it will surely rise the tide of all boats. Homeowners looking to add a fireplace in the near future will have to seriously consider an electric fireplace, hopefully not just because they have to.
Visit Our Showroom!
For more information about electric fireplaces, contact our professionals at 262-763-3522 or visit our showroom in Burlington, WI to view our collection of beautiful electric fireplaces & see how an electric fireplace can transform your home.