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3 Main Types of Electric Fireplaces

A dog sitting near an electric fireplace.

It doesn’t seem to matter geographically where you’re looking at homes. There are certain things that many people find nice to have, even if it’s an area that has more or less extreme weather. A good example is a pool. Most people would welcome a pool as part of their new home purchase, even if the swim time is short. Another such amenity is a fireplace.

As someone who was born and raised in a place where it’s stifling half the year, I love a good fireplace. There’s something about sitting in front of a fire that is part of human nature to enjoy. Heck, I get quite a kick out of watching my cats take advantage of it, too. So, when I tour a new dwelling without a fireplace, it is a tad bit of a letdown. 

Fortunately, we have the privilege of living in a modern world. This is when a lack of building strategy won’t hold us back. If you don’t have a real fireplace where the crackle of real wood can be heard, that doesn’t mean you are barred from a fireplace entirely.

Let me introduce electric fireplaces.

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What is an electric fireplace?

Remember back in the day when it used to get so cold in the winter you’d have to heat up rocks and throw them into a lidded pan to slide under the bedsheets? No? Oh, that’s right, our ancestors did that. Yes, not having heat at their fingertips was a struggle they went through, so we can appreciate the luxury of electric heat today. 

Essentially, an electric fireplace is more of a heater that mimics a fireplace visually. In some ways, it might actually be the best part of the fireplace experience. That’s mainly because it’s minus the cleaning and upkeep. When you look at it, often, the electric fireplace has an image of wood being immersed in flames. The unit gives off enough continuous heat to keep the room cozy. 

Beyond the vision, the heat does not need to be stoked, and there’s no need to keep extra logs outside. An electric fireplace is the utmost in warmth and convenience. No need to worry about organizing a room around the fireplace. An electric fireplace can fit in the room wherever it’s needed.

Heck, a unit could be sat in the middle, as long as there is an outlet or extension cord nearby. As Electric Fireplaces Direct says, “Many people have allergies and sensitivities. Or they live in a building that does not have a fireplace, don’t want the hassle of messy wood and flues, or don’t have a fireplace in the rooms they use the most.”

No one needs to discount a house because it comes sans a fireplace. Intrigued? Let’s find the perfect one for your living space.

Types of Electric Fireplaces

If you’re trying to decide how an electric fireplace could fit in your space, get ready to take notes. Depending on the type, you can expect to heat anywhere from 400 to 1,000 square feet. Not only does that exceed the expectations of the real thing, but electric ones can add more than warmth to a home.

The fun thing about these units is how adaptable they can be to a space. Thankfully, there’s no need to renovate a house to keep a fire going or a digital one anyway. From the window to the wall, there’s a wood-free fireplace for your room.

1. Electric Fireplace Mantels

A young woman enjoying a cup of coffee near an electric fireplace.

This is the most life-size replacement for a fully functioning fireplace. It’s really amazing what technology is capable of, especially when you consider these mantel units. This type of fireplace fits so snugly into a room. If you didn’t know better, there would only be a few clues that it wasn’t built into the house.

Typically, this is a fireplace that is sort of a half-wall. It’s the kind of setup you’d see with a real fireplace and mantel where decorative items can be placed. These units can be flat against a wall or even built to slide into the corner.

Design options are unlimited. Stone and wood fireplace mantels are the most popular, but even then, there are a variety of stone, wood, and colors to choose from. So, matching the fireplace mantel to the aesthetic of a room is doable.

If you want to have a flexible mantel, there are some that come on wheels and others that can be used to plug in electronics. With a piece like this, you might be worried about what kind of power source would be needed to handle that much energy. Luckily, a standard two-prong outlet will work just fine.

2. Mounted Fireplaces

A living room with small round table and a fireplace.

Want a fireplace but need to be extra strategic about where the heat comes from? This might be the best bet. “Wall-mounted electric fireplaces are a popular type of electric fireplace. They can be installed on a wall of a home and help to free up floor space compared to other types of electric fireplace,” Fireplace Universe shares.

Have to make the most of an unusual room? Don’t have a wall big enough for a fireplace? Only need enough heat for a tiny room? These are all scenarios where a mounted fireplace would work swimmingly.

This also means you can safely have electronics nearby. You can hang the fireplace on the wall like a painting or next to a bedside table. Oh, and you can leave the copper pot in the kitchen. More room for a good book in the drawer.

3. Electric Fireplace Inserts

An electric fireplace with artificial ember.

Okay, so maybe you have a fireplace but don’t have the ability to run a fire from it. Or maybe the size of the room doesn’t allow the fireplace to keep it warm enough. Perhaps you just don’t want to deal with the complications of upkeep. Whatever reason you have for not lighting up logs in that space is your business. It doesn’t mean that the space can’t be used for heating the room, just not with wood.

The electric fireplace insert makes use of the area set aside for a fireplace and gives you a turnkey way to have a fire there, so to speak. Heat n Glo explains, “It is a steel box that is measured to slide right inside your existing wood-burning fireplace, with a surrounding trim that covers up any gaps.”

There are plenty of designs and styles to choose from as well as control options. This is great for anyone who is physically challenged or has a concern for children or pets around an existing fireplace. So, instead of putting a mirror in front of the space or leaving it dormant, using an electric fireplace insert will bring the fireplace back to life.

How does an electronic fireplace work?

A wall mounted electronic fireplace.

Now you have a better idea about all the ways you can incorporate an electric fireplace into your home. Still, there may be more questions about function and utility. Perhaps there may even be concerns about safety. To learn a bit more about the process, let’s go through how it works.

Conventional Heating

To heat up a space more efficiently and without fire and wood, a conventional electric fireplace has to take a unique approach. It takes cool air, for starters. The unit sucks up the cool air and heats it up by way of coils.

Once the air reaches the desired temperature, a fan directs the air back out into the room. You can get the fireplace going until the room is at a comfortable temperature and then turn it off. The room will stay that way for a while.

Infrared Heating

This option warms up a room using infrared technology, where quartz tube heaters make heat. That heat is radiated across space instead of sending out warm air that used to be cooler. That means it gets hot faster and can keep larger rooms on the toasty side for as long as you want. Of course, as soon as you turn off the infrared heater, the warm air goes with it.

Purchasing an Electric Fireplace

Different types of fireplaces display on the store.

Now that you’ve read about the various types and how they work, you might be ready to take the next step. Heating a home without running the HVAC would be nice, so where do you start?

“When shopping for an electric fireplace, you’ll want to look for lower wattage and a higher BTU rating. Because of their relatively low wattage, most electric fireplaces can run off of a standard 120-volt plug (about 1500 watts), making electric fireplaces much more efficient than wood-burning fireplaces,” Hayneedle explains. 

If that’s not nice to hear, I don’t know what is. This is especially good news when you are trying to have a more targeted approach to heating. Cutting down on power bills during extreme weather seasons is tough. One way of curating a smaller bill is by shutting off parts of the home that aren’t in use.

If you have central heating and air system, closing vents to those rooms will save even more. Then, choosing to focus a heating source in one room can make a big difference when it isn’t the big heater but instead a smaller unit. This way, you only get heat where you need it. 

Once you find the wattage and BTU rating that makes sense for your needs, it’s time to reconsider the types. Here are some tips for putting all the info in this article together:

Consider the Area

What part of your home are you in the most? Whichever room you choose to move forward with, make sure you have the space needed. That might be a wall, a corner, or a spot by the bed.

Remember, electric fireplaces are pretty versatile. From half walls to portrait size, these heaters can look as awesome or be as small as you need them to be. Take a good, long look at what you have to work with before leaving the house or pulling up an internet browser. 

Choose Your Heating

Do you want to warm up quickly and be done when you’re done? Do you want the room to heat up and let it linger? After picking out what kind of fireplace you want, now think about how you want it to heat the room. Both infrared and conventional heating is good, but one might suit you better. 

Consult a Professional

A professional installing an electric fireplace.

After you’ve scrolled through the endless designs of electric fireplaces that fit the criteria you’re looking for, speak to someone. Because of how big of a deal they’re going to be once placed in the home, it’s important to understand specifically all the nuances of the models in consideration.

You want to feel confident about any purchase, especially one that is sure to be around for years to come.

This step will ensure not only reading comprehension but that your plan will work. If an expert hears you want a conventional corner unit to heat 900 square feet, they have an opportunity to redirect you. In this case, an infrared fireplace would be better because conventional only reaches about 400 square feet. See how handy?


What type is the most realistic electric fireplace?

Electric fireplace mantels are the ones you’d get if you want to really invest in a look. The reason is these units aren’t just fireplaces; they come with a whole mantel and are meant to integrate into your home. So, if you want it to look like this electric fireplace has always been there, get a mantel.

Of course, the inserts are also realistic because they are actually in a fireplace, but that’s really up to preference. 

Can electric fireplaces be placed outdoors?

Yes and no. Yes, there are electric fireplaces that can be used outside. No, not all or even most of them. If you want an outdoor heating unit, there are options that are made to be used outdoors. They offer specific protection against the elements, and it’s safe for them to be unattended in an outside environment. 

However, be extremely cautious when purchasing an electronic fireplace. If the goal is to keep it outside, make sure to discuss your plans with a professional. If you purchase an indoor-only unit, I can’t stress enough how important it is not to use it outside. Using an indoor-only fireplace beyond the confines of four walls and a roof would be extremely dangerous. 

A majority of electric fireplaces are not intended to be used anywhere other than inside. So, since no one can predict the weather or events in nature, it’s best to do a good bit of research before taking the plunge. 

How long do electric fireplaces last?

As with anything in life, the expected longevity depends heavily on use. If you live in the arctic, where the cold is perpetual, the fireplace will wear out faster. If that doesn’t sound like your situation, the likelihood is that one of these units will last as long as two decades.

Who knows, the electric fireplace could possibly go on for longer if it’s kept in pretty good condition. Most warranties extend up to ten years, be sure to check for that.