Electric Fireplaces - How Do They Work & Are They Worth It?

The Scoop on Electric Fireplaces

For most people, say the word ‘fireplace’ and it immediately brings up visions of cozy log cabins, cuddled under the blankets while a crackling wood fire warms the soul. But for more and more people, gas fireplaces and even electric fireplaces are taking the place of the wood-fired hearth. With changing tastes, budgets, and home designs, electric fireplaces are being recommended more often as a way to still get a fireplace, but not go through the hassle of installing one. The growing rental market has also led to a spike in electric fireplace interest, where a fireplace can be picked up and moved after the fact when the renter chooses to relocate.

With that said, electric fireplaces are often misunderstood. Are they actually fireplaces? Why are they becoming so popular? Where are they made? What’s the most common application for these?

electric fireplace in pleasant prairie wi1. Are they real fireplaces?

Answer: Not really. They are not fireplaces in the fact that they burn a fuel to create flame and heat. But, they take the place of a traditional fireplace from a looks perspective, to so some people, that is enough. Electric fireplaces for the most part were never intended to be complete substitutes for real, open fires, but to instead give the same feel for those who can’t have, or just don’t want the natural flame.

2. How do they work?

Answer: There are more types of electric fireplaces on the market now then ever before, and some of them work in different ways. Some use a rotating wheel of a metallic material to mimic flames, and some use complicated array of mist & LED lights. As you can imagine, there are different levels of sophistication, quality, and price. New technology is coming out yearly in the electric fireplace market, and the flames are becoming more lifelike.

3. Do they actually heat?

Answer: A little. In a small room, and if kept on for a long period of time, electric fireplaces will heat just fine. In our climate (Wisconsin) we need more heating than other parts of the country (or the world for that matter) so electric fireplaces aren’t as desired around here for heat purposes. However, heat can sometimes be a bad thing – for example if the location is really close to the couch you plan on sitting at most of the time, or if you want to use it all year round.

4. Are they quality?

Answer: Some of them, yes. What you might expect from most things – you get what you pay for – applies to electric fireplaces. Higher-dollar brands such as Amantii, Dimplex, and Napoleon have better warranties, better looking products, and are built to last. But all electric fireplaces are currently made in China, and the quality level between electric and gas or wood-burning fireplaces is still noticeable. Getting replacement parts can also be a challenge if purchasing an off-brand or big box-store fireplace, since cheaper brands come and go yearly.

5. Why would someone want one?

Electric fireplaces are perfect for a whole collection of different reasons:

  • Lower budget (electric fireplaces are naturally less expensive and installation costs are much less)
  • Can’t have a real fireplace: It’s just impossible to install a wood or gas fireplace, so electric is the best back-up option
  • They look cool
  • Perfect for places where real fire might be dangerous (hotel lobby, bar, around kids, etc.)
  • You want something more modern & sleeker
  • You don’t have the room space to add a gas or wood fireplace
  • When you’re looking for a little bit of heat in a chilly area (basements, rec rooms, etc.)

napoleon electric fireplace installation

6. Overall Final Opinion?

Answer: Electric fireplaces are funny because fireplace professionals and consumers have two very different opinions on them. On one hand, people in the fireplace industry have an inherent bias against them – they are not real, they are cheap, etc., and some of those concerns are still valid today. However, the consumer popularity is undeniable, and people are buying them like crazy. The flexibility of installation, the price-point, and the appearance that gets better and better every year have electric fireplaces as by far the largest-growing segment of the fireplace world. And clearly as the future gets more advanced, electric fireplaces will only continue to grow.

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