Electric fireplace options

For homeowners who like the warm and cozy aesthetic of a fireplace, but can’t or won’t go to the hassle of installing a chimney for a wood-burning or gas fireplace, an electric fireplace provides a fine alternative. Although electric fireplaces don’t provide heat, or at least any more heat than a traditional light bulb, they still give the flickering light, glow and warmth of a traditional fireplace and can serve as a centerpiece for a room design.

Video: Electric Fireplace Safety Tips

How electric fireplaces work

Electric fireplaces use a variety of optical illusions, including lights and mirrors, to create the visual effect of a flame. Different models create a different look depending on what you want, ranging from a model that looks exactly like a traditional fireplace log and flames to sharp-edged, modern designs with a futuristic or contemporary look with rocks or other material in the place of the log.

Electric fireplace cost to install

Depending on what you’re looking for, electric fireplaces cost anywhere from $200 to a few thousand dollars, with most models ranging between $700 and $800. They also have a small but noticeable energy cost. On average, an electric fireplace insert uses $1.84 in electricity every eight hours. 

Electric fireplace inserts are also easy to install. Most of the time a homeowner can do it themselves — all it requires is a power outlet and someplace to set the fireplace. You’ll be looking at a more complicated job if you want to install in a wall or create a more traditional look, such as with a wood mantel or stone surround.

clear glass beads in electric fireplace with flames

An electric fireplace will often use glass beads to produce a more contemporary effect. (Photo courtesy of The Outdoor GreatRoom Company)

Electric fireplace maintenance

An electric fireplace doesn’t require much maintenance or upkeep, especially compared to its wood-burning and gas fireplace cousins. It consumes no fuel, creates no smell or smoke, generates no waste product and requires no chimney or venting system.

You also don’t need to have fireplace tools such as a poker, shovel or ash bucket to maintain the system, although some electric fireplace owners like to place a fireplace tool set nearby in order to maintain the traditional aesthetic.

mounted electric fireplace in modern living room

Design ideas for electric fireplaces can add sparkle to any room. (Photo courtesy of The Outdoor GreatRoom Company)

Electric fireplaces do present safety concerns, especially contemporary metal designs or if you have children in the house. Make sure sharp edges and corners are protected to keep children from hurting themselves. 

Electric fireplace design ideas

Electric fireplaces offer considerable versatility; indeed, their design options represent one of their biggest advantages. An electric fireplace can be mounted in any of the ways traditional wood-burning or gas fireplaces can be installed in a wall, plus they can be wall-mounted or even free-standing in a room as an attractive conversation piece.

They also provide much more flexibility. If you decide you want to move your electric fireplace, it’s easy to haul it to the next room, plug it in and be ready to go. In many ways, an electric fireplace has more in common with furniture and cabinetry than it does with traditional fireplaces.

electric fireplace mounted in tiled wall

Electric fireplaces are easy to install and can be moved from room to room. This one can be found at Godby Hearth and Home in Indianapolis. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

An electric fireplace also makes an ideal choice for an apartment or condominium because of its minimal requirements. Some homeowners prefer to install an electric fireplace TV stand. The compact size and utility of electric fireplaces make them ideal to install in a cabinet beneath a TV and add a unique flair to a room.

An electric fireplace can be decorated with the same design ideas as wood-burning or gas models. Popular surround, mantel and hearth options include brick, granite, slate, stone, wood and marble. Furthermore, since electric fireplaces generate so little heat, they don’t require the same amount of safety precautions as wood-burning or gas fireplaces — they don’t need fireplace screens to prevent ashes or stray flame from escaping, nor do you have to install glass fireplace doors to keep everything inside. You can install a hearth for aesthetic reasons, but it’s not necessary to protect the nearby floor. 

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