Electric Fireplace In Existing Fireplace

Electric Fireplaces (The Complete Buying Guide) 2020

In Buying Guides, Electric Fireplace Buying Guides, Electric Fireplaces by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

Electric fireplaces are a popular choice of fireplace for a home or office because they can be more flexible in where they can be placed compared to other types, such as wood burning, as well as providing other benefits such as improved energy efficiency and less mess.

Electric fireplaces work differently compared to other types of fireplaces because they use electricity as their source of power rather than gas or solid fuels such as firewood and coal.

The majority of electric fireplaces simply need to be plugged into a nearby electrical outlet in order to work.

This has lead to a large number of different types of electric fireplace being developed to suit every different type of situation where you may want an electric fireplace to be located in your home.

As such, there are numerous types and models of electric fireplace available to buy today and it can be overwhelming deciding which type and model is the best electric fireplace to choose.

We’ve therefore put together this complete buyers guide for electric fireplaces to help you to choose which one is right for you and your home.

In this article we’ve covered:

  • The key points of information that you should know about electric fireplaces.
  • The types of electric fireplaces, including their main benefits and cons.
  • What to look for in an electric fireplace, such as the types of heater available.
  • Where to buy an electric fireplace.
  • The most popular brands of electric fireplace.

We’ve personally used a number of different types of electric fireplaces over the years and so we’ve helped to explain the key points to look for when buying an electric fireplace by referencing our own particular electric fireplaces.

One our of current electric fireplaces

Electric Fireplace Buying Guide – Key Information

To help you make an informed decision on which electric fireplace to buy, we’ve outlined below the key points of information you should know about electric fireplaces.

What you need to know about electric fireplaces is that:

  • Electric fireplaces run on electricity only, and in the majority of cases require a mains power supply in order to operate.
  • They typically come with a power cord and plug and simply need to be plugged into one of your standard electric outlets to work.
  • An electric fireplace shouldn’t be plugged into any form of extension lead and only directly into an electrical outlet.
  • Some electric fireplaces will need to be hard-wired into your home electrics, but can typically come with a plug-kit or can be bought as an optional extra.
  • The flames inside an electric fireplace aren’t real.
  • The flame effects are generated by reflecting light onto the front of the fireplace using a set of rotating mirrors inside the unit.
  • Modern electric fireplaces typically use LED lights to create the flames, but some may still use halogen bulbs and these will typically need to be replaced every couple of years.
  • Most electric fireplaces will come with an integrated heater to provide supplementary heat to accompany the flame effects.
  • The main type of heater is a fan forced heater but some (typically more expensive) models of electric fireplace can use an infrared heater instead.
  • Infrared heaters in electric fireplaces are typically able to heat a larger area than fan heaters.
  • Electric fireplaces require minimal cleaning and maintenance compared to other types of fireplace.
  • More expensive models of electric fireplace generally come with more realistic flame effects.
  • Electric fireplaces don’t produce any byproducts and so don’t require any form of chimney or flue.
  • Electric fireplaces aren’t hot to the touch all over, but typically will be in the area in front of the heater when it’s on.
  • They’re typically made from a combination of metal and plastic.
  • Electric fireplaces can’t be used outside unless you buy an outdoor-rated model.
  • Popular features commonly found on an electric fireplace include a remote control, thermostat and timer.
  • Warranties for electric fireplaces typically cover one year, but extended warranties can typically be purchased when ordering an electric fireplace for peace of mind.

What To Look For In An Electric Fireplace

When buying an electric fireplace there are a few main things that you should look for and take into consideration, including:

  • How power will be supplied to the electric fireplace (either plugged in or hard-wired).
  • The flame effects and how realistic you want them to be.
  • How powerful you need the heater to be and what size room the electric fireplace needs to heat.
  • Maintenance of electric fireplaces.
  • Added features such as thermostatic control or remote control.

Power

An electric fireplace is an electrical appliance and usually requires a source of mains electricity in order to work.

The majority of electric fireplaces will come with a power cord and plug as standard. They generally work straight out of the box and you simply need to plug an electric fireplace into one of the standard electrical outlets in your home and they can be used immediately.

How we get power to our electric fireplace stove

Types of electric fireplace that are designed to be more of a permanent feature in home, such as built-in fireplaces, may need to be hard-wired into your home electrics.

However, many of these types of units can come with a plug-kit as standard that allows you to plug them into an electrical outlet instead. If not, these plug-in kits can typically be bought as an optional extra.

Powering An Electric Fireplace – Summary

When buying an electric fireplace check to see whether it can be plugged-in or needs to be hard wired. The majority of electric fireplaces will come with a power cable and plug as standard but certain types, such as built-in electric fireplaces, may need to be hard-wired.

Electric fireplaces cannot be plugged into an extension lead an so you’ll need to consider which type and model of electric fireplace will be able to reach a nearby electrical outlet in your home.

For more information about the outlet requirements for electric fireplaces see our dedicated article here.

Flame Effects

The flames effects can be considered the focal point of an electric fireplace.

They produce the look and ambience of a having a real fire in your home, but the flames in an electric fireplace aren’t real.

The flame effects in an electric fireplace are created by reflecting light off rotating mirrors, which generate the look of flickering flames.

For more information about how electric fireplaces work click here.

The realism of the flames will vary between each brand and model of electric fireplace, but in general the more expensive the fireplace the more realistic the flame effects you can typically expect to see.

The flame effects on our particular model of electric fireplace aren’t amazing but are pretty good for the low cost price we paid.

The flame effects/ember bed on our electric stove are fairly realistic for the cost of it

As you progress up the price ranges you’ll be able to find electric fireplaces that are using more and more realistic flame effects.

You’ll be able to see that an electric fireplace brand will use their own flame technology across many of their products.

Examples of this include:

  • Dimplex Opti-Myst / Multi-Fire / Prism
  • Classic Flame 3D SpectraFire Plus
  • Napoleon Allure

The Opti-Myst range by Dimplex produce highly realistic flame effects thanks to patented technology and the use of water vapor as smoke effects.

Highly realistic 3D flame effects can be found in electric fireplaces that utilize either the Multi-Fire flame technology by Dimplex or the 3D SpectraFire flame technology by Classic Flame.

In linear (typically wall-mounted) electric fireplace units you’ll be able to find realistic flame effects in Napoleon Allure products and Dimplex Prism products.

Electric Fireplace Flame Effects – Summary

The realism of the flame effects in an electric fireplace will vary between each brand and model.

Expect lower cost electric fireplaces to have less realism in the flame effects and for the higher priced units to display more realistic flames.

Look out for highly realistic flame technologies such as Prism, Allure and 3D SpectraFire used by popular brands such as Dimplex, Napoleon and Classic Flame respectively.

Heater

As well as displaying flame effects, the large majority of electric fireplaces will also be able to generate supplementary heat through an integrated heater.

There are two main types of heater used in an electric fireplace:

  • Fan forced heater
  • Infrared heater

Fan forced heaters are more commonly found in electric fireplaces. They work much like a conventional home space heater where air is blown over a heating element to generate warm air for the room.

Our electric fireplace stove uses this form of heater.

Underneath Electric Fireplace
Our electric stove uses a fan heater, which is fine for the size of our rooms

The other main type of heater you’ll find in an electric fireplace is infrared.

Infrared heaters are typically able to heat a larger area compared to fan heaters and can generally be found on the more expensive models of electric fireplace.

Electric fireplaces with infrared heaters can typically heat spaces up to 1000sqft, while those with fan heaters typically up to 400sqft.

We’ve explained more differences between fan and infrared electric fireplaces here.

Electric Fireplace Heaters – Summary

Electric fireplaces are more commonly found with fan heaters, which are typically rated to heat rooms up to 400sqft in size.

If you’re looking to heat a larger area then look to buy an electric fireplace with an infrared heater, which typically have the ability to heat rooms up to 1000sqft in size.

Maintenance

As electric fireplaces run on electricity, the flames aren’t real.

Many modern electric fireplaces now use LEDs to help create the flame effects but some models may still use bulbs. LEDs are rated to last many more times longer than bulbs.

If your new electric fireplace uses a bulb rather than LEDs then you may need to change the bulb every couple of years when it has blown.

Other than needing to change a bulb in your electric fireplace every so often (unless it uses LEDs) there isn’t much maintenance when it comes to looking after an electric fireplace.

Compared to other types of fireplace such as wood burning, there’s nothing to setup at the start of a fire and nothing to clean up at the end. There are also no byproducts such as smoke or gas produced and so you won’t need to maintain a chimney or flue either.

Dust should be removed from the heater inlet and/or outlet when required but no other cleaning is as essential (you can read more about cleaning requirements for electric fireplaces here).

Electric Fireplace Maintenance – Summary

Electric fireplaces don’t need as much maintenance or cleaning as can be required for other types of fireplace.

Some models of electric fireplace may still use bulbs to generate the flames, which you can expect to have to change every couple of years through normal use.

When buying an electric fireplace check to see what type of bulb it uses. LEDs are rated to last many times longer than halogen bulbs.

Features

Many models of electric fireplaces can be found with an array of features including:

  • Thermostatic control
  • Remote control
  • Timer functionality
  • Multi-color flames
  • Flame only functionality
  • Overheat protection
  • Flame speed and brightness control

Thermostatic control allows you to be able to set a desired temperature for a room, and an electric fireplace will bring the room up to that temperature can keep it there by turning itself on an off.

Electric Fireplace Thermostat Dial
The thermostat dial on our electric fireplace stove

Many electric fireplaces can come with a remote control that allows you to adjust all of the features from the comfort of your seat.

If you want to be able to enjoy the flames without the heater being on (such as in the summer) then many electric fireplaces provide this option.

Many electric fireplaces also allow you to adjust the brightness and/or intensity of the flames to suit your preferences.

Our own particular electric fireplace stove allows us to adjust the brightness of the flame effects.

Types Of Electric Fireplace

Not only can different types of features be found in an electric fireplace, such as various forms of heaters, there are also a number of different types of electric fireplace available to choose from.

With many electric fireplaces simply needing to be plugged into a standard electrical outlet, and with minimal ventilation requirements, they have been designed into many different versions or into furniture to suit different needs.

The main types of electric fireplace include:

  1. Inserts (both plug-in and built-in)
  2. Wall mount (including recessed)
  3. Log sets
  4. TV stands
  5. Mantels
  6. Stoves
  7. Outdoor-rated

Plug-in electric fireplace inserts are great for when you want to covert your existing open fireplace to electric.

Built-in Inserts are more of a permanent feature and are typically built into walls or entertainment centers.

Wall mount electric fireplaces are designed to be installed on the surface of a wall. Some model can also be partially or fully recessed into a wall for more of a built-in look.

Electric fireplace logs imitate the look of a fireplace grate with burning logs, and are commonly put in open fireplaces. However, they don’t take up the whole opening of an open fireplace like an insert does.

Electric fireplaces can also be found installed directly into TV stands to combine the two units and save on floor space.

Electric fireplace mantels resemble a traditional open fireplace and allow you to provide the real fireplace look up against any wall in your home.

Electric fireplace stoves resemble the look of wood burning stoves.

Other types of electric fireplace include double-sided (see through) and outdoor-rated.

1.1) Plug-In Electric Fireplace Inserts

If you’re looking to convert your existing fireplace to electric then the type of fireplace you may want to look at buying is a plug-in electric fireplace insert.

As the name suggests, plug-in electric fireplaces come with an integrated power cable and plug and so simply need to be plugged into a standard home electrical outlet to work.

To help a plug-in insert to look more built in you’ll ideally need to have an electrical outlet installed within your fireplace to provide power. The downside in doing so is that you can’t then use your open fireplace for burning firewood unless you have the outlet removed.

Plug-in electric fireplace inserts take up the whole opening of the existing fireplace.

As traditional open fireplaces come in all sort of shapes and sizes you won’t typically need to look at buying one that fits your fireplace opening perfectly, but more commonly one that is slightly smaller that will fit without any issues (but will leave a small gap).

You can then use a further surround for the insert to plug the gap between the edge of the insert and the edge of the existing fireplace opening.

For more information see our complete buyers guide to the best electric fireplace inserts for your existing fireplace.

Plug-In Electric Fireplace Inserts – Summary

Plug-in electric inserts are the ideal type of fireplace for when you want to put an electric fireplace in your existing open fireplace.

They come as complete firebox units with the fake ember bed inside.

You’ll need to buy one that is smaller than your fireplace opening to ensure that it fits.

You may need to take into account clearance out the back of the unit.

An electrical outlet will need to be installed on the inside of the existing fireplace in order to accommodate installation of the electric insert and provide power.

1.2) Built-In Electric Fireplace Inserts

Built-in electric inserts work much like plug-in inserts but the main difference is that they are more of a permanent solution for a home and typically require hard-wiring into your electrics.

Built-in inserts are ventless, meaning that you don’t typically need to leave clearance out the back of the unit as you would typically need to do with plug-in inserts.

This makes them more suitable for installations that are tighter on space, such as in walls. They can still however be used within existing masonry fireplaces if needed.

Built-in inserts are also typically zero-clearance meaning that you can install them flush with other surfaces such as wood for a more built-in look.

These types of electric fireplaces will come with a power cable that needs to be hard-wired into your home electrics.

However, some models will be supplied with a plug-kit that allows you to plug the insert into an electrical outlet rather than needing to be hard-wired. If a particular model doesn’t come with one then it can typically be bought as an optional extra.

For a guide to the best built-in electric fireplace inserts you can buy right now see our in-depth buyers guide.

Built-in Electric Inserts – Summary

Built-in inserts are more suited to installations that are tighter in space, such as being inserted in walls.

They typically need to be hard-wired, but many comes with a plug-kit to allow a standard home electrical outlet to be used.

Built-in inserts can also generally be bought with an optional plug-in kit if it doesn’t already come with one.

2) Wall Mount Electric Fireplaces

Wall Mounted Modern Electric Fireplace

If you’re looking to be able to install an electric fireplace on the surface of a wall in your home then wall mount electric fireplaces are the ideal type of electric fireplace for you.

Wall mount electric fireplaces are typically linear in style, meaning that they are wider than they are tall.

They are generally measured in inches, which explains how wide they are. For example, a 34-inch wall mount electric fireplace will be no more than 34 inches wide.

Wall mount fireplaces can be placed onto a wall by installing a bracket on the wall and inserting the fireplace unit onto the bracket.

They can also typically be found as either direct-wire or plug-in versions, but more commonly as direct-wire. However, many direct-wire models of wall mount electric fireplace come with a plug-kit to allow you to plug them straight into an electrical outlet.

Many models of wall mount electric fireplaces also give you the option of either partially or fully recessing the unit into the wall.

This allows you to install the unit further into a wall, which is useful if you’re looking to save space or give a wall mount fireplace a more built-in look.

There are also a small number of wall mount linear electric fireplaces that can be found as:

  • 3-sided (viewable from each side as well as the front)
  • See-through (viewable from both the front and back)

See our buyers guide to the best wall mount electric fireplaces that you can buy right now.

Wall Mount Electric Fireplaces – Summary

For installation of an electric fireplace on the surface of walls look to buy a wall mount electric fireplace.

Wall mount electric fireplaces are designed to be more linear.

Both direct-wire and plug-in models are available.

Many direct-wire wall mount fireplaces are also supplied with a plug-kit for ease of installation.

Many models can also be partially or fully recessed into a wall.

3-sided or see-through linear wall mount electric fireplaces are also available for more niche situations.

3) Electric Fireplace Logs

Electric fireplace log sets work much like an electric fireplace insert but without the firebox surround, meaning that you’re left with only the fireplace grate and ember bed.

This makes electric logs more versatile when it comes to choosing a location for them because they can be a relatively small and compact type of electric fireplace.

Electric logs sets are commonly placed inside existing open fireplaces to imitate the look of a real fireplace grate with logs, but they can be used in many other smaller spaces around your home.

Log sets typically come as a plug-in appliance meaning that you’ll need to plug them into a nearby electrical outlet in order to work. If you have an electrical outlet near your open fireplace then this may suffice but you’ll need to try and hide the power cable for a more built-in look.

If you want to put an electric log set in your existing open fireplace and you don’t have one nearby then you’ll need to get a professional to install an electrical outlet inside the firebox of your open fireplace.

There are two main sub-types of electric fireplace log sets that have different ways in which they display the flame effects. These include:

  • Rear projection
  • Panel projection

Rear projection electric fireplace logs project the flame effects onto the back wall of your open fireplace.

Panel projection electric logs display the flame effects on the unit itself, much like how other types of electric fireplace work.

Which type of electric logs you choose will be down to personal preference and there isn’t one that’s better than the other for all circumstances.

There are also certain models of electric fireplace logs that provide the most realistic looking flame effects possible by using water vapor to generate smoke along with the flames.

The Dimplex Opti-Myst electric fireplace log set is the perfect choice for those who want the upmost in flame realism from an electric fireplace. However, this realism comes at a cost and the unit isn’t able to produce supplementary heat.

A popular optional extra for an electric fireplace log set is a crackler sound system that helps to further improve the real fireplace experience provided by electric fireplace logs.

For our complete buyers guide to the best electric fireplace logs sets click here.

Electric Fireplace Logs – Summary

Electric log sets are ideal for use in existing open fireplaces where you don’t want the whole opening of the fireplace to be taken up (as with electric inserts).

Need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to work.

Can come as panel projection or rear projection.

Certain models can come with smoke effects for added realism.

A crackler sound system is a popular optional extra.

4) Electric Fireplace TV Stands

Electric fireplace TV stands offer the benefit of having both a TV stand and an electric fireplace insert built into one unit.

This helps to save on floor space and you’ll be able to enjoy the ambience of the flames while watching TV.

Electric fireplace TV stands are typically more than just TV stands. Most models offer a wide range of features including:

  • Side cabinets
  • Open storage areas
  • Media console areas

As well as being able to hold a TV on top, electric fireplace TV stands typically offer a range of storage capabilities to hold all of your electronic media appliances and more.

As an electric fireplace TV stand is a piece of furniture you’ll be able to choose from a range of different styles and colors.

Each model of electric TV stand will be able to hold a certain size of TV and so it’s important to choose the right one if you already have a TV for it.

Electric fireplace TV stands can also be found in corner units (see our buyers guide to the best corner electric fireplaces for more information).

As with many other types of electric fireplace you’re able to choose between an electric TV stand that either has a conventional fan heater inside the fireplace unit (which can typically heat rooms up to 400sqft in size), or infrared electric fireplace units (which can typically heat areas up to 1000sqft).

If the room you want to heat is above 400sqft then you can choose from this list of infrared electric fireplace TV stands here.

For more in-depth information on electric fireplace TV stands see our buyers guide to the best electric TV stands you can buy right now.

Electric Fireplace TV Stands – Summary

Electric fireplace TV stands combine a TV stand and electric insert into one unit.

When buying an electric TV stand ensure that you choose a model that is able to hold your size of TV.

Can also be found in corner-specific units.

Electric TV stands offer a wide range of storage options in the form of open console areas and cabinets.

A number of different styles and colors of furniture are available to choose from.

5) Electric Fireplace Mantels

Electric fireplace mantels are the ideal type of electric fireplace if you’re looking to bring the open fireplace look to another room in your home.

Electric mantels combine an electric fireplace insert and fireplace surround and mantel into one.

As with electric TV stands, there are a number of different styles and colors to choose from to suit the décor of your home. Popular styles include stone effect or traditional wood surrounds.

Electric fireplace mantels are designed to be placed up against a wall. You’ll also need a nearby electrical outlet in order to plug the fireplace into for it to work.

You can choose between standard fan heater electric fireplace units or infrared units. Infrared electric fireplaces are typically able to heat a larger amount of space in your home.

Electric fireplace mantels also typically give you the opportunity to place your belongings on top of the mantel as you would be able to with a real open fireplace mantel.

See our electric fireplace mantel buyers guide for more information on what you need to consider when buying an electric mantel as well the best electric fireplace mantels you can buy right now.

Electric Fireplace Mantels – Summary

Electric fireplace mantels bring the open fireplace look and experience to another room in your home that has a nearby electrical outlet.

Plenty of colors and styles of surround to choose from to suit your home.

Choose between conventional or infrared electric fireplaces to suit your preference or size of room.

6) Electric Fireplace Stoves

Electric Fireplace Stove

Electric stoves are designed to imitate wood burning stoves, with a stove body, legs and door.

This type of electric fireplace can be flexible on where it can be placed in a home. Electric stoves typically come with a power plug as standard and so simply need to be plugged into a nearby electrical outlet to be used.

Electric stoves are commonly placed in open fireplaces to resemble an installed wood burning stove (but for a fraction of the cost). These electric fireplaces are fairly small compared to other types and so can be moved around your home into different rooms as and when you want to enjoy the flames and/or heat.

We like to use our electric stove in our living room fireplace during the summer months when the open fireplace isn’t being used.

Electric Fireplace In Existing Fireplace

We have an electrical outlet located near the fireplace and so the electric stove simply needs to be plugged in and it can be used straight away.

Electric stove can come in both conventional fan heater and infrared, with infrared electric stoves typically being able to heat a larger area compared to fan heater electric stoves.

See a list of all the infrared electric stoves you can buy right now here, or you can view the whole range of electric stoves that includes both types of heater here.

Our particular model of electric stove has a fan heater, which can be found located underneath the stove.

Electric Fireplace Heater Outlet

At a first glance it’s not easy to tell whether an electric stove uses a fan heater or infrared heater. Infrared heaters are a selling point and so you will typically be able to see infrared mentioned in either the title of the product or the description, otherwise the type of heater an electric stove uses will be stated in the product details.

Electric stoves are typically black in color but some models can be found in varying colors to suit your preference.

We’ve put together a complete guide to buying electric stove right here, which also outlines the best models of electric stove that you can buy right now.

Electric Fireplace Stove – Summary

Electric stoves are designed to look like a wood burning stove.

They’re commonly placed in an open fireplace to resemble an installed real wood stove.

Typically small and compact and so can be moved around a home as required.

Both types of heater (fan and infrared) available for electric stoves.

Accessories such as fake flues available to make an electric stove look more realistic.

7) Outdoor-Rated Electric Fireplaces

Fireplace Ideas With TV Above

If you want to be able to use an electric fireplace outside then you’ll need to purchase one that is outdoor-rated.

Outdoor-rated electric fireplaces typically come with a form of protective cover that helps to keep the wet weather away from the fireplace and the electrical components inside.

You won’t be able to use a standard electric fireplace outside, and you won’t be able to modify one to allow it to do so.

When it comes to buying an outdoor-rated electric fireplace there are two common options:

  • The Touchstone 80017 Sideline Outdoor Built-In Electric Fireplace
  • The Panorama Series Deep-Built Outdoor Electric Fireplaces By Amantii

For the Touchstone Outdoor Electric Fireplace it comes with a weatherproof casing, but can’t generate any heat as a result.

For the Amantii Panorama Outdoor Electric Fireplace range they can produce heat as well as the flame effects but you’ll need to ensure that you’re buying the fireplace along with the outdoor cover when ordering.

We have another article that explains outdoor electric fireplace in more detail here.

Outdoor Electric Fireplaces – Summary

You can’t use a normal indoor electric fireplace outside.

To use an electric fireplace outside you’ll need to have one that is outdoor-rated.

Outdoor-rated electric fireplaces have further protection from wet weather.

Popular outdoor electric fireplaces include the Touchstone 80017 and the Panorama range by Amantii.

What Is The Best Electric Fireplace To Purchase?

The best electric fireplace for your particular situation will depend on the type of electric fireplace you’re looking for, your budget and your preferences for additional features and realism.

Start with deciding which type of electric fireplace best suits your situation and you can narrow down to the best electric fireplace for you from there:

  • To be able to have the look of an open fireplace against any wall in your home you’ll want to check out electric fireplace mantels, which you can our complete buying guide here.

Where To Buy An Electric Fireplace

When it comes to buying an electric fireplaces there are two main places to buy from.

For the best range of electric fireplaces across all types check out Amazon here for the list of the best selling electric fireplaces right now.

Further Reading

To see our more in-depth buying guides for each type of electric fireplace click here.

For more information about electric fireplaces we have a whole range of articles dedicated to explaining everything about electric fireplaces which can be found here.

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