- What Is An Electric Fireplace Insert?
- Do Electric Fireplace Inserts Need To Be Vented?
- Do Electric Fireplace Inserts Produce Heat?
- Do Electric Fireplace Inserts Look Real?
- Types Of Electric Fireplace Insert
- Electric Fireplace Insert Parts
- How Does An Electric Fireplace Insert Work?
- Electric Fireplace Insert Pros & Cons
- Electric Fireplace Insert Installation
- Electric Fireplace Insert Replacement
- Are Electric Fireplace Inserts Safe?
- Are Electric Fireplace Inserts Energy Efficient?
- Are Electric Fireplace Inserts Worth It?
- What Is The Best Electric Fireplace Insert?
- Further Reading
Electric fireplace inserts are a popular form of electric fireplace as they help to transform many older and potentially unused open masonry fireplaces into electric form that can be much easier to use and maintain.
We’ve bought an electric fireplace insert to install in our kitchen masonry fireplace and so we’ve covered in this article everything you would need to know about:
- What electric fireplace inserts are
- What they look like
- How they work and the main parts
- What you need to consider when installing in an existing fireplace
- And more
This article covers owning and using an electric fireplace insert.
See our buyers guides for a complete list of the best electric fireplace inserts you can buy right now, including what you should consider before when buying one and what to look for:
Best Electric Fireplace Inserts For Existing Fireplaces
Best Build-in Electric Fireplace Inserts
What Is An Electric Fireplace Insert?
Electric fireplace inserts are a form of electric fireplace that are designed to be inserted into another object such as an existing open fireplace or a bespoke entertainment center build. Inserting an electric fireplace into an existing fireplace makes the original fireplace redundant.
Electric fireplace inserts are a type of fireplace insert; other forms of which can include wood burning and gas.
Fireplace inserts are typically placed inside the firebox of an existing masonry fireplace.
This turns the old, typically wood burning, masonry fireplace into a new gas, electric or wood burning fireplace. The original fireplace can’t be used once a fireplace insert is installed.
See our complete guide on fireplace inserts for more information.
Electric fireplace inserts are also a type of electric fireplace.
Electric fireplaces differ in comparison to other types of fireplace in that they don’t have any real flames and instead create the imitation of flames using light sources and run using electricity only.
An electric fireplace insert is therefore a form of electric fireplace that’s designed to be inserted into an existing masonry fireplace to turn the use of that fireplace to electric.
As an example, below is what our electric fireplace insert looks like.
We’re looking to install it in the masonry fireplace in our kitchen (where we’ve recently removed an old gas fireplace insert.)
It’s here where we can place our electric fireplace insert into the opening of the existing masonry fireplace.
Electric fireplace inserts are designed to sit over the front wall of existing fireplace and the back portion of the electric insert sits within the firebox.
While many electric fireplace insert installations are within masonry fireplaces, electric fireplace inserts can also be used in more bespoke installations such as faux mantels or entertainment centres, where the unit will be built around the electric insert frame.
Do Electric Fireplace Inserts Need To Be Vented?
Electric fireplace inserts do no need to be vented. As with all electric fireplaces, the flames aren’t real and so the venting of waste air using any form of chimney, flue or direct vent isn’t required. Sufficient space around the unit may still be required for air circulation.
Even though we’re looking to install our electric fireplace insert in a masonry fireplace that has an existing chimney, it doesn’t need to be vented.
We could even install it elsewhere in our home as there are typically no venting requirements.
This is because electric fireplace inserts don’t burn any form of solid fuel or gas, don’t have real flames, and therefore don’t produce any harmful gases or particulates that would otherwise need to be vented straight out of a home.
When installing an electric fireplace insert you may still need to consider space around the back of the unit for sufficient air circulation.
Electric fireplace inserts typically pull air in through the back of the unit and blow it through the front, where the air is heated and warmth to the room is provided.
As we’re looking to install this in our kitchen masonry fireplace, we’ve ensured that there’s sufficient space out the back of the unit inside the firebox for air circulation, but this space and chimney isn’t required for venting purposes.
Do Electric Fireplace Inserts Produce Heat?
Most electric fireplace inserts will produce heat, while a smaller number of inserts won’t. Ensure to check the box, website or manufacturer for information on whether a specific model of electric fireplace insert produces heat.
In the majority of cases you’ll find electric fireplace inserts are able to produce heat, but some buyers may not always want an electric insert to generate heat but flames effects only, and so some models of electric fireplace insert are available that don’t generate any form of heat.
You’ll often find that these models of electric fireplace insert will sacrifice being able to produce heat for more realistic flame effects.
You can typically tell whether a particular model of electric fireplace insert will produce heat or not by looking to see whether there are any switches, heating elements or a thermostat dial on the unit.
For example, high and low heat switches, a thermostat dial and a heater outlet can be seen under the hood on our electric fireplace insert.
Do Electric Fireplace Inserts Look Real?
Electric fireplace inserts can look very realistic but depends on the model. Higher cost electric inserts can typically look more realistic compared to lower cost ones. The flames in an electric fireplace insert are fake and so can never be as realistic as a real fire found in other forms of fireplace.
Our electric fireplace insert looks reasonably realistic for the price. With a higher budget we could have found something that looks more realistic but the most realistic inserts can get quite expensive.
The realism of an electric fireplace can come down to how much you’re willing to spend.
Although electric fireplace inserts don’t have real flames, there are benefits to this such as no venting requirements and ease of use.
We discuss the pros and cons and show more about how an electric fireplace insert works including what they can look inside later in this article.
Types Of Electric Fireplace Insert
This article predominantly covers electric fireplaces in their insert form; designed to fit into the opening of an existing open fireplace.
For example, we bought an electric fireplace insert that was the right width to fit in the opening of our kitchen fireplace (albeit with the requirement to cover up the open area at the top).
However, electric fireplace inserts may also refer to:
- Electric fireplace log sets
- Built-in electric fireplace inserts
Electric fireplace inserts are typically plug-in types (like ours) where the unit can be installed into an existing fireplace or cabinet/mantel/entertainment center etc, where the unit must be plugged into an electrical outlet.
Electric log sets are typically placed inside the firebox of an existing fireplace and plugged into a nearby electrical outlet. They’re smaller in size and don’t take up the whole opening of the existing fireplace.
Built-in electric fireplace inserts are a more permanent solution compared to standard plug-in electric inserts and typically need to be hard-wired into the home electrics. They can either be placed in existing fireplaces like plug-in types or installed in walls, and the direct-wiring typically allows them to put out more heat.
See our buying guides for more information on each type of electric fireplace insert:
Electric Fireplace Inserts For Existing Fireplaces Buying Guide
Electric Fireplace Log Sets Buying Guide
Built-In Electric Fireplace Buying Guide
Electric Fireplace Insert Parts
The main parts of a typical electric fireplace insert include:
- The frame
- Heater and controls
- Flame effects
- Power cord
The frame on an electric fireplace insert will differ between each model but typically consists of a front area that sits around and covers the opening of whatever it’s being inserted into.
The front area is also where we can attach the main trim that finishes off the unit, which itself can be trimmed with three strips of varying color.
The back of an electric fireplace insert typically consists of a box-like area where the heater and flame components are located.
For our model, the blower for the heater is located at the top area at the back and pulls in air through the back of the unit.
The heating element is located at the front behind the hood and is where air is heated up as it passes through from the back.
Our insert uses a conventional fan heater but other models may use infrared heaters instead.
The controls on an electric fireplace insert will typically be hidden away and in our case is located behind the vent hood. The switches control the power and the heat output while the dial works as a thermostat.
The flame effects on an electric fireplace are typically created by a set of rotating mirrors and lights (we discuss more about how electric fireplace inserts work in the next section).
The flames are projected onto a front screen and in the case of our model the base glows an orange color to help provide more realism to the media.
An electric fireplace insert will typically come with some form of fireplace media for added realism, whether that’s designed into the unit itself or loose.
Our electric fireplace insert came with three media to choose from, and we simply need to place them on the platform for added effect.
These media aren’t real, just like the flames.
Finally, electric fireplace inserts are powered by electricity only and so they will typically have a power cord, but may just have a cord without the plug if its a build-in version that needs wiring in.
The power cord on our electric fireplace insert comes out the side on the back of the unit.
Our model of electric fireplace insert also came with legs that we can attach to the base of it if we wanted to use it as a freestanding fireplace.
How Does An Electric Fireplace Insert Work?
An electric fireplace insert works by projecting the imitation of flickering flames onto the front screen of the unit using lights and rotating mirrors. Electric fireplace inserts that can also generate heat will have either a space heater or infrared heater.
An electric fireplace works much like all other forms on fireplace and uses:
- A series of lights and moving mirrors to project the look of flames onto the front panel of the unit.
- A heater, either in the form of a conventional space heater with blower or an infrared heater, to generate heat on demand.
The flames are typically always on when you turn on an electric fireplace insert but the heat can often be turned on and off independently so that you can enjoy the flames without the heat being generated.
Electric fireplace inserts typically use a light source (LEDs or bulb) that’s reflected off a set of a rotating mirrors, placed in a strategic order as to provide the imitation of flickering flames on the front screen of the fireplace.
Looking inside our electric insert we can see a set of LEDs located behind a strip.
The light from these LEDs reflects off the individual mirrors as they rotate around on the rod and onto the front panel of the fireplace unit.
In our model, there’s also a stationary mirror location further down the unit that helps provide the glow to the underside of where the media is placed.
Depending on the model of electric fireplace insert you’re using, it will typically either have a conventional space heater that utilizes a blower and heating element or an infrared heater, with the former being more common.
An infrared heater radiates heat out into the room and you’ll feel the warmth on your skin.
A space heater pulls in air from the back of the fireplace and forces it out the front using a blower.
The air is pushed through a heating element that heats up the air before being released into the room.
There will be a set of controls on an electric fireplace insert that allows you to control both the flames and the heat, but the buttons themselves are often more catered towards the heat output.
For example, there are three switches on our electric fireplace insert.
One turns the fireplace on (and therefore turn the flames on), while the other two switches control the low and high heat output from the heater.
There’s also a thermostat dial that allows us to keep a regulated temperature within the room.
The fireplace insert will automatically turn the heater on and off to keep the room at the desired temperature we’ve set.
An electric fireplace insert may also come with a remote control as well, depending on the model.
A small number of electric fireplace inserts can be bought that don’t have a heater installed.
An electric fireplace insert differs from other types of electric fireplace in that they’re designed to be installed within another feature such as an existing masonry fireplace or bespoke media center.
Electric fireplace inserts typically need sufficient space and clearance out the back of the unit to other objects for air circulation and as a result these types of electric fireplace keep airflow through the appliance more centred, as the sides can typically be covered when installed.
See our dedicated guide on how electric fireplaces work for more information.
Electric Fireplace Insert Pros & Cons
The main benefits of electric fireplace inserts are that they allow an existing fireplace to be converted to electric, often without the hassle of altering the masonry fireplace, and can be removed when required. However, installations in existing fireplaces may require an electrical outlet to be installed in the firebox.
|Electric Fireplace Insert Pros||Electric Fireplace Insert Cons|
|Convert old fireplace to electric||Electrical outlet in fireplace typically required to hide power cord|
|Suitable for bespoke installations||Fake flames|
|Complete package in one unit||Blower noise|
|No venting required||Not always very realistic|
|Can also often be used freestanding|
See our dedicated article on electric fireplace pros and cons for information on the benefits and disadvantages of electric fireplaces in general.
Electric Fireplace Insert Installation
The right size electric fireplace insert will be required for the existing masonry fireplace that you’re installing it into.
If you’re looking to build a bespoke media or entertainment center then you can also design around the electric fireplace insert you already have, or plan to get.
Since removing an old gas insert from our kitchen fireplace, we’ve been looking to install an electric insert.
We bought our electric fireplace insert as it was the right width to install within this fireplace.
As this existing fireplace has an usually large height compared to the width for the opening, we’re currently looking at ways to cover this area up, such as with a new surround and back panel.
See our other article on how to install an electric fireplace insert for more information
Electric Fireplace Insert Replacement
Electric fireplace inserts are electrical appliances and not all parts may be serviceable or replicable.
As a result, you may need to replace an electric insert after a number of years of use.
As electric fireplace inserts are often installed in spaces that have a set width, height and depth it’s therefore important that any replacement electric fireplace insert will also be the right fit, or even have the same set of dimensions as the one being replaced.
In order to measure for a replacement electric fireplace insert you can either:
- Check your current model electric fireplace insert and purchase a new one with the same dimensions.
- Remove the existing electric insert and measure the space the new one needs to fit into (such as the opening of an existing fireplace).
See our other article on how to replace an electric fireplace insert for more information
Are Electric Fireplace Inserts Safe?
Electric fireplace inserts can be a very safe form of fireplace as there’s no real fire and no harmful emissions produced, but the appliance must be used in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
However, as with all forms of electric fireplaces, the safety in using an electrical appliance can never be guaranteed.
The main things to ensure with any electric fireplace is plugging it into a suitable electric outlet (not an extension cord) and not blocking any of the air inlets or outlets.
Always consult the owner’s manual of a particular model of electric fireplace for specific safety precautions.
See our main article on electric fireplace safety for more information.
Are Electric Fireplace Inserts Energy Efficient?
As with all other types of electric fireplace, electric fireplace inserts can be very energy efficient when displaying just the flames. However, electric fireplace inserts can use a lot of energy when the heater is also turned on.
We’ve covered electric fireplace energy efficiency in general in another article.
Are Electric Fireplace Inserts Worth It?
Electric fireplace inserts are worth it if you’re looking to convert an existing fireplace from wood burning or gas to electric and want the new fireplace to cover the whole opening of the existing fireplace. They’re relatively easy to install and can transform an old fireplace.
We’re working to install an electric fireplace insert in our kitchen fireplace (that used to have a gas insert) and are looking forward to seeing the results.
What Is The Best Electric Fireplace Insert?
See our buying guides for the latest and best electric fireplace inserts: