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Fireplace 101: What Is an Electric Fireplace?

By Modern Ethanol Fireplaces July 19, 2021

Electric fireplace

Nothing beats the warmth of a fireplace when it comes to adding a cozy ambiance to a home, especially on wintery nights.

Electric fireplaces provide an artificial alternative to enjoy the same comfy atmosphere in your home.

Whereas gas and masonry fireplaces need to be shut off during the off-season, an electric fireplace can run throughout the year. 

Besides homeowners, these clean, affordable, and easy to install fireplace options are also popular among renters.

Whether you're planning to transition from traditional fireplaces, or are toying with the idea of installing an artificial unit, Modern Ethanol Fireplaces offers a one-stop shop for all your heating needs.

How Does an Electric Fireplace Work?

An electric fireplace is an electric heater imitating a fireplace. The artificial fireplace operates by creating the effect of wood, coal, or a natural gas fireplace.

Invented in 1912, the electric fireplace has been around for more than 100 years. However, it wasn't until 1988 when Dimplex introduced a patented method of creating realistic flames called the Optiflame, that electric fireplaces became well known. The simulated Optiflame flame makes use of light bulbs to refract light, creating the effect of real flames.

Today, the Optiflame technology has been adopted to create the flame pattern typical in most electric fireplaces. Some manufacturers have even gone a step further to create impressive effects, utilizing built-in holograms and smoke machines. 

Electric fireplaces use metal coils that heat up as a fan blows hot air into the room to generate heat. Most LED electric fireplaces can produce supplemental heat for a room measuring 400 square feet.

You can even enjoy just the optics alone by shutting off the heat simply by tapping on your remote control. 

Unlike fireplaces that use wood, pellets, and direct vent gas, electric fireplaces are maintenance-free and safe as they don't use combustible fuel.


Types of Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces don't need venting. Therefore they can be designed to suit different occasions. With that in mind, electric fireplaces come in four standard styles:

  • Wall-mount electric fireplace
  • Electrical fireplace inserts
  • TV stand/mantel electric fireplaces
  • Built-in electric fireplaces

Wall-Mount Electric Fireplace

These electric fireplaces are available in hanging models that you can mount directly into the drywall or fix inside a wall with a recession. Units such as Touchstone 80004 are ideal for homeowners looking to save space and portability.

Touchstone 80004
Source: amazon.com

Highlights

  • Venting is not necessary as it plugs into a standard 120-volt electrical outlet
  • Varieties include LED lighting and multiple color and media options
  • Remote control operation allows variable flame intensities

Note: professional installation may be required to ensure the unit is installed as per the building code

Electric Fireplace Inserts

Electric inserts are a cheaper alternative to the conventional wood or gas fireplace. They’re designed to slide into an existing fireplace opening or space. The AA Warehousing Y-Decor True Flame often uses logs fitted with LED lighting to give off the illusion of glowing embers.

AA Warehousing Y-Décor True Flame electric fireplace
Source: amazon.com

Highlights

  • Venting isn’t necessary as this fireplace plugs into a standard 120-volt electrical outlet 
  • This fireplace can replace an outdated fireplace by filling existing masonry or an opening
  • A variety of fire media and color options are available for custom appearances
  • Setting up is easy. Most inserts often include optional trim kits that provide a smooth integration

TV Stand/Mantel Electric Fireplaces

This electric fireplace comprises two main components—a vent-free firebox with a realistic flame illusion, and a separate mantel that houses the firebox. Units such as the Freestanding Fireplace Heater are ideal for spaces where venting a wood or gas fireplace is impossible.

Mirrored Fireplace Golden Lines Fireplace
Source: amazon.com

Highlights

  • Some units double as media consoles
  • The standalone cabinets offer a focal point and can be used as a TV stand, a bookshelf, or a combination of both
  • For a customized appearance, multiple fire and color options are available
  • Often resembles a traditional fireplace unit that you can place in any comer of the room

Built-In Electric Fireplace

To seamlessly integrate into your living space, units such as Dimplex Revillusion 36" Portrait Built-in Firebox offers the lowest profile mounting options. However, you may need professional assistance to install these units as the process involves cutting beams and wiring. 

Dimplex Revillusion 36" Portrait Built-in Firebox
Source: amazon.com

Highlights

  • Ideal for new construction, condos, apartments, or renovating old spaces
  • Installation requires external frames that can fit the firebox's dimensions
  • Does not need venting as it plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet
  • Some models allow a complete flush mount which offers a low profile design
  • Adjustable controls allow variable flame intensities

Safety Tips for an Electric Fireplace

The following are the most important safety tips for using an electric fireplace in your home:

  • To avoid the risk of fire, keep the fireplace away from drapery, upholstered furniture, and other combustible materials
  • Remember to always unplug the fireplace when not in use
  • To avoid electrocution or the risk of a fire, do not plug the unit into a damaged or malfunctioning outlet
  • Electric fireplaces should only be used indoors 
  • Never expose an electric fireplace to inclement weather or place it near open windows 
  • Do not use the unit in bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, or sheds
  • For air to move freely, do not block the hot air discharge vents or the fresh air intake vents
  • The cord or cable should run in areas that are safe from foot traffic to avoid tripping over
  • Do not cover the cord with throw rugs, or runners, or pass it under carpeting or furniture
  • Do not use an extension cord, power strip or a relocatable outlet for plugging the heater in. Plug the unit directly into the outlet or wall receptacle

Why an Electric Fireplace is better than a Wood Burning Fireplace

Electric Fireplace Wood Burning Stove
Lower maintenance Higher maintenance
Costs approximately $25 to run annually Costs approximately $190 to run annually
Doesn’t release pollutants and is cool to touch making it safer Requires cleaning every year to avoid excess creosote and chimney fires
Converts all the energy produced to heat Loses a lot of heat through the chimney

Safety 

With no open flames, smoke, wood burning, or popping ash, electric fireplaces are:

  • Child safe
  • Pet safe
  • Cool to touch
  • Easy to shut off or turn on

Mess Free

With an electric fireplace, you’ll not need to clean up ashes or stack firewood. Kick back and relax without worrying about buying firewood, storing it or braving inclement weather to fetch more firewood.

Easy to Install

You can install an electric fireplace in any part of your home without worrying about venting or gas lines. Besides the instruction manual, you will need the following tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Nails and wood screws
  • Wood saw
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • Drill with relevant bit
  • Hammer and chisel

Energy Efficient 

Electric fireplaces are designed to provide zoned heating. This allows you to save on overall heating costs by setting the appropriate temperature for the unit. Most units have built-in timers that automatically switch off in the event a unit or room begins to overheat.

Easy to Use

Turn up the heat and flickering flames with the touch of a button without having to stock the fire with logs.

Lower Home Insurance

A wood burning fireplace has a higher risk for chimney fires. With this in mind, insurance companies tend to charge higher premiums for homes with wood burning stoves. 

Electric Fireplaces—The Wrap Up

According to recent data by industry magazine Hearth & Home, over 2 million electric fireplaces have been sold across the U.S. Annual sales have more than doubled the combined total sales of fireplace inserts, and gas, wood and pellet stoves.

Thanks to the two main features (no venting requirements and easy installation options), electric fireplaces will in the foreseeable future offer a great alternative to wood burning or natural gas fireplaces.

Unlike the traditional fireplaces that are costly to install and maintain, all you need to do to heat a room is to unwrap the electric fireplace from the box and plug it into an outlet.

What’s more, the combination of classic and contemporary designs creates charming interior decor.

Contact us to find out more about our top sellers and discover why homeowners love these models.



Featured Image from: Pxhere by The Original Flame


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