Everything You Wanted To Know About An Electric Fireplace

Everything You Wanted To Know About An Electric Fireplace

When it comes to adding warmth and charm to a home, nothing quite compares to a roaring fireplace. The crackling sound of the wood, the ambient flow from the fire, and the nice warmth that it can provide.

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a fireplace in your home, you may be interested in purchasing an electric fireplace to get those similar effects without the hassle of installing a conventional fireplace.

The electric fireplace isn’t a new innovation by a long shot. In fact, the electric fire has been around for over 100 years, as it was invented in 1912 and its popularity really took off in the 1950s.

Wall mounted electric fireplace in a dinning room

Before the electric fireplace was used in residential homes as a realistic heat source, it was originally intended to be used on stage. They gave audiences a simulated fire to make the scene feel more realistic, but they weren’t suitable for the home because people felt the flame looked fake.

The artificial fireplace that were purchased for the home uses technology that creates “flame effects” in 1981, which was patented by Harold J. Weber.

In 1988, the company Dimplex introduced the Optiflame—a unique, patented method of creating realistic but simulated flames from an electrical source to create the illusion of flames that emanate from a fuel bed.

The fuel bed could feature crystals for a modern look or they will have resin logs or coals to add to the realism. Many people enjoy the coals or wood because the glowing embers adds to the overall ambiance of the fireplace, thus creating a charming focal point.

If you’re interested in learning more about an electric fireplace so you can purchase on for your own home, then continue reading! We’re going to go over a lot of information, so make sure you have a beverage handy!

How Does An Electric Fireplace Operate?

The beauty of an electric fireplace is that there is no maintenance involved like you’d experience with a wood fireplace. There is no wood to cut, no chimney’s to clean, and no need to clean out the ash from the fireplace.

No, with an electric fireplace, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the heat and ambiance with little to no effort.

Now you may be wondering how they work. In order for the unit to create heat, it uses metal coils that will heat up. As the coils get hot, there is a fan that force the heat out of the unit and into the room.

People often are worried that because the fireplace can produce quite a bit of heat, that it is going to be a fire hazard or a safety issue. That isn’t the case.

Kids playing by the fireplace

In fact, they’re quite safe because it is only the heating coil that heats up—the rest of the unit stays relatively cool to the touch. With that said, you will still want to keep it away from upholstery and drapery.

The flames of these devices are becoming more realistic and that is because of the Dimplex company who patented the technology called Optiflame. This is basically the use of light bulbs and refracting the light so that it creates a “dancing flame” effect.

How Much Space Can They Heat Up?

The companies that create these electric fireplaces will make claims that their unit is capable of heating up large spaces. In most cases, the general unit is able to heat a space that is approximately 400 square feet.

There are some heaters that can heat larger spaces, sometimes up to 1000 square feet. Because these units are designed to be used as a supplemental heat source, you aren’t going to be able to heat up a room in the middle of winter without the heater running.

You are, however, going to want to be mindful of the space where you’re going to put the heater, as well as the power sources available. Some homes, especially the older ones, aren’t capable of handling the power requirements and they could cause fuses to blow.

How Cost Effective Are Electric Fireplaces?

Some people hesitate to getting an electric fireplace because they are going to be really expensive and they are going to make their electric bill go through the roof.

That isn’t the case, especially when you take into consideration the cost of installing a traditional fireplace in your home.

For a traditional fireplace, you’re going to have to pay almost as much as $10,000! This doesn’t even include installation, chimney inspection, cleaning, the wood, and the heat that is going to be lost out of the chimney.

A gas fireplace is going to cost about $2,500 for the materials that you’ll need. Then you’re going to need another $2,500 for installation and the finishing touches.

Of course, you’re going to want to budget about $100 to $200 for annual service checks and chimney inspections, plus the cost of fuel depending on how much you use the unit.

Wall mounted electric fireplace in a living room

With an electric fireplace, you aren’t going to have any of that because there’s no need for a chimney and there’s no need for safety inspections or installations (unless you want an in-wall electric fireplace, but more about that later).

All you’ll have is the cost of the device itself, which will run you anywhere from $150 and up. Plus, when you use one of these devices, you can do something called zone heating.

Zone heating allows you to have the thermostat for your entire house at a lower temperature, but the electric fireplace can be used to raise the heat to a comfortable level in the rooms that are being used.

For example, if your family is watching a Netflix marathon in the family room, you can have the temperature to the house at 55 degrees and use the fireplace to increase the heat to that one room to a comfortable temperature.

By using zone heating to warm your house, it can greatly reduce the wasted energy and even lower your energy by 10%. Traditional fireplaces work totally opposite because they pull air out of your home via the chimney.

Types Of Electric Fireplaces

So, you’ve probably gathered that an electric fireplace is a great way to heat up your space while giving your room an aesthetically pleasing focal point. These vent-free room heaters can be found in four main types:

Fireplace TV Stands

These fireplace options usually consist of a firebox where the “fire” is going to be and it will also have some kind of mantle that houses the firebox. These mantels are available in a wide variety of colors, finishes, or designs.

Many people opt for the design that can function as a TV stand, book shelf, or a combination of the two. These are great options if you’re short on space and you want to have one central focal point.

You can even find corner fireplace TV stand options if your living space is really small and you still want the charm of a fireplace. Of course, you have the option of foregoing the extras and just have a freestanding fireplace with mantel.

Electric fireplace as a TV stand

Wall Mount Fireplace

An electric wall fireplace hangs similarly to a flat screen television. Many models can be installed directly onto the drywall.

These types of fireplaces will usually include mounting hardware that will be necessary to hang the fireplace safely and securely on your wall. It will also include a step by step instruction guide to help you along the way.

In-Wall Electric Fireplace

These fireplaces will usually require professional installation because you are dealing with wiring, cutting beams, and the like.

These options are sleek and modern, and since there are numerous fireplace surround ideas on the internet, you can truly make your fireplace a statement piece that showcases your personality.

Electric Fireplace Inserts

These are designed to fit inside a fireplace that you already have—be it brick lined or steel lined. These inserts often use logs that are fitter with LED lighting inside so that they give off the illusion of glowing embers.

Not only that, these devices are also capable of creating a realistic flame without the work. These inserts are easy to install because all you have to do us plug it into a 120 volt outlet near your fireplace and set it inside. That’s it.

Electric Vs. Infrared

When you are looking for an electric fireplace, you may see something called an infrared fireplace heater and wonder what it is.

Portable infrared heater

Basically, the infrared fireplace uses the same kind of heat as the sun and the heat isn’t visible by the naked eye. 

These heaters can use gas or electricity.

If you choose an infrared heater instead, you can rest easier knowing that they won’t decrease the amount of humidity or oxygen in your room.

With an electric unit, the fan forced heater can sometimes suck out the oxygen in a room, which causes your skin to dry out and create static electricity. While these aren’t big concerns, the infrared heater may be a better choice if you have respiratory problems.

The down fall of infrared heaters is that once the unit turns off, the warmth in the air disappears almost instantly, whereas with an electric unit, that warmth can linger in the air for some time.

Also, with an electric device, you have many different design options to choose from so that the unit will match your décor.

With infrared, there aren’t that many options so you’re going to be limited to the choices you have. So that is another thing that you may want to take into consideration.

Caring For Your Electric Fireplace

It’s true that an electric fireplace is quite a bit easier to maintain than a traditional fireplace, but that doesn’t mean there is no maintenance involved.

Before you begin the routine maintenance on your unit, you’re going to want to make sure that your device is turned off and unplugged. Then, check the wiring to make sure everything is secure. Then you can continue with the maintenance:

Changing The Light Bulb

There’s no soot to wipe away from the glass, no ashes to shovel out, or anything like that. The most maintenance your electric fireplace is going to require is going to be changing the light bulb.

When you go to change the bulbs, you’re going to want to double check to make sure the unit is turned off and cool to the touch (if you’ve been using it and one of the bulbs go out, turn off and unplug the fireplace.

Allow the unit to cool down for at least 20 minutes before attempting to change the bulb so you don’t burn yourself in the process).

The light bulbs are usually located in the back of the fireplace and can be accessed by opening the back panel of the fireplace.

A pack of light bulbs

The panels are usually held in place with screws and you only need a screw driver to gain access.

Although, you will want to read your instruction booklet because some models may have different access points—such as with an in-wall electric fireplace.

Once you’re inside the back panel, changing the light is easy peasy. Depending on your model, it may even come with extra LED lights to spare you from having to purchase new ones!

Fortunately, LED lights are intended to last a really long time, so you may never have to change the bulb. In that case, it’s still nice to know how to change the bulb just for general knowledge.

Oh! And since most of these devices use LED lights, that’s another cost cutting feature because LED uses a lot less energy than other types of bulbs.

Maintaining The Outside Of Your Fireplace

If you thought caring for the inside of the firebox was easy, then you’ll be pleased to know that caring for the outside of your electric fireplace is going to be equally as simple to do.

If you have a fireplace TV stand, you’ll want to make sure the wood pieces are lint and dust free. To clean the glass of the fireplace, use a dampened cloth to wipe away any dust particles. Go back over it with a dry cloth so that there aren’t any watermarks.

NOTE: Don’t use any chemicals on your fireplace, be they glass cleaner or furniture polish because they are flammable and that could spell disaster when you turn the unit back on!

Cleaning The Fan

You’ll find that a clean fan will ensure that your electric fireplace continues to work at full efficiency, especially when you rely on it to provide extra heat during the winter.

Fortunately, most electric fireplace motors and fans have been pre-lubricated prior to assembly and they aren’t going to require your attention.

You will, however, want to check the fans rotation to make sure that it spins easily and without any problems.

You can clean any dust from the fan by using a vacuum with a wand nozzle and a small brush.

Changing fan parts in electric fireplace

To do this, you’ll want to remove the grill from the fireplace and gently clean the grill to remove any dust and hair that may have collected there.

Then, do the same with the blades, but make sure you have your vacuum cleaner handy so that you can collect the debris. When that’s all done, simply reattach the grill and viola, a clean fan!

Throughout the entire cleaning process, we do want stress the importance of making sure that the unit is unplugged for your safety!

Safety Tips For Owning An Electric Fireplace

As we mentioned briefly before, owning an electric fireplace is really safe—as long as you follow the intended use instructions.

One of the main reasons why they are the safer option is because there aren’t any open flames, burning wood, popping ash, or smoke to worry about.

You never have to worry about them getting hot to the touch because the “flame” is just lighting.

Basically, when you touch the screen of one of these fireplaces, it’s going to be like touching the screen of your laptop or television.

The only place it does get warm is the heating element and the area where the warm air comes out. That’s about it.

Electric fireplace in the bedroom

Speaking of safety, let’s take a look at some safety tips for owning one of these great home appliances.

  • The heating element is going to be hot while it is on. Be mindful not to touch it or leave any small children alone with the fireplace when it is on. Children are curious and they could get hurt.
  • Speaking of children, you also want to make sure that pets and people with physical or mental disabilities are not left unattended with the unit when it is turned on.
  • To avoid any risk of fire, keep your fireplace away from upholstered furniture and drapery. Also, keep blankets, pillows, and other combustible materials at least three feet away from the unit while it is on.
  • Don’t block the ventilation system, be it the fresh air intake or the vent where the hot air is expelled. You want the air to be able to move freely in and out of the fireplace.
  • Try to remember to unplug the fireplace when it is not being used.
  • Never plug the unit into an outlet that is damaged or malfunctions.
  • Never unplug the unit from the cord because this could damage the cord and become a safety hazard.
  • Only use the fireplace indoors and never leave it exposed to weather—like an open window. It could get wet and short out the wiring.
  • Speaking of getting wet, don’t use the heater in bathrooms, laundry rooms, or even garages or sheds for the same reason.
  • It isn’t wise to run the cord under furniture or other appliances. Try to find a place in your home to put the fireplace that is near an outlet so you aren’t tempted to run the cord through high traffic areas or use an extension cord (which is also discouraged).
  • Before you disconnect the fireplace, make sure the firebox is turned off and then unplug it. You are going to want to make sure the connected outlets are properly grounded before you plug it in.
  • Never insert foreign objects into the unit when it is plugged in because it could electrocute you, create a fire, or damage the unit.
  • Never make any modifications to the unit, not only because it will void the warranty, but it could backfire and be dangerous.

Yes, we know we said owning an electric fireplace is safe and these are a lot of things to keep in mind, but it’s basically common sense that is easy to remember.

Electric Fireplace Wrap Up

If you’re looking for a way to add some extra heat to your home without increase your energy bill, you may want to consider looking into an electric fireplace.

Unlike a traditional fireplace that requires expensive materials, construction work, inspections on top of the fuel, all you have to do to get this unit to work is take it out of the box and plug it in.

Depending on the particular model you get, you may have to assemble the mantle, attach a stand, or mount it to the wall, but other than that, you can plug it in and enjoy the warmth and ambiance within minutes.

Inserted electric fireplace in the living room

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please send us an email or leave a comment below! We’d love to hear what you have to say!

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