Electric fireplaces are a very popular form of fireplace thanks to their relatively low cost to purchase and install, ease of use, realistic looking flames and decent heat output.
However, as electric fireplaces run on electricity there can be a number of downsides to using electric fireplaces compared to other types of fireplace.
So what are the main pros and cons of electric fireplaces?
|Ease of use||No real flames|
|No mess||Can’t be used without electricity|
|Little maintenance||Can look tacky|
|Relatively low cost||Must be near electrical outlet|
|Can look realistic||No real fire sounds|
|Different types available||No real fire smells|
|Easy to set up||Non-serviceable parts|
|Minimal install costs||Shorter life span|
|Can heat very well||Can’t heat a whole house|
|Can be easy to move|
|Flexible in location|
|Useable in apartments|
|No harmful emissions|
|Flames aren’t hot to touch|
We’ve used a number of electric fireplaces over the years and one of the ones we’re currently using is an electric stove (which we love).
We’ve explained these pros and cons of electric fireplaces in more detail below.
Electric Fireplace Pros
- Many different types of electric fireplace available. There’s a whole range of electric fireplace available to suit your needs, including:
- Electric stoves
- Electric TV stands
- Electric log logs
- Wall mount
- Electric mantels
- Electric inserts
With so many different types of electric fireplaces available for every situation you’re bound to find an electric fireplace that will suit a specific location in your home.
- Easy to set up. Many electric fireplaces simply need to be plugged into one of your standard home electrical outlets and they will work straight out of the box.
- Ease of use. With electric fireplaces there’s no setting up requirements, or downtime if you get it wrong. Simply press a few switches and you can be enjoying both the flames and heat in no time at all.
- Low cost of purchase. Compared to other types of fireplace, electric fireplaces can be a relatively low cost purchase. For example, our electric stove cost $100, while our real wood stoves cost over $1000 each.
- Low cost of installation. While many electric fireplaces won’t cost anything at all to install (such as the freestanding ones), those that do require some installation, such as on a wall or in an existing open fireplace, won’t break the bank to do so.
- Can look very realistic. Flame technology on electric fireplaces has come a long way in recent years to a point where many models can provide very realistic looking flame effects.
- Can put out great amounts of heat. Even our small electric fireplace that uses a conventional fan heater is able to heat up our living room considerably over a number of hours.
- Very little maintenance required. The only maintenance typically associated with electric fireplaces is periodically cleaning it to ensure that the vents aren’t blocked, and changing a blown bulb.
- Flexibility in placement around a home. As electric fireplaces don’t produce any byproducts, there’s no need for a chimney or flue. This gives you far more flexibility in where they can be placed around your home.
- Some models can be easy to move around a home. You can move many freestanding models of electric fireplaces (such as stoves) around your home with ease. We move our electric stove around our home to whichever room we want to heat.
- No mess after each use. Unlike wood burning fireplaces or stoves there’s no mess created by the fires. An electric fireplace will be as tidy when you turn it off as when you had turned it on.
- Can be used in apartments. Many apartments won’t have a chimney or flue to be able to enjoy a real fire. Electric fireplaces can be used whether you live in an apartment or house.
- Take with you when you move. Installing a wood fireplace, stove or gas fireplace can become a permanent fixture for a home. Simply unplug and remove an electric fireplace from where it was installed and you can take it with you when you move home.
- Great features. Many electric fireplaces can come with an array of features such as remote control and/or thermostatic control, which allow you to adjust the settings from the comfort of your seat and help keep your rooms at a constant temperature respectively.
- Enjoy the flames without the heat. Many electric fireplaces allow you to enjoy the flames without the heater being on. We love using our electric stove even during the summer months simply to enjoy the flames without the need for heat.
- Lower running costs. Depending on prices in your area, using electricity can save money compared to other types of fuel. Furthermore, electrical fireplaces allow you to heat one room in your home without the need to turn on the central heating.
- No harmful emissions. The only thing that electric fireplaces release is heat. There’s no real fire and so there are no harmful byproducts that are created and need to be vented from your home, such as smoke and carbon monoxide.
- The flames aren’t hot. While fireplaces that utilize real fires will be extremely hot to touch, the flames on an electric fireplace won’t be too hot to touch, which makes them great for use around young children and/or pets.
Electric Fireplace Cons
- The flames aren’t real. A downside of electric fireplaces is that because they run on electricity the fires inside aren’t real.
This means that an electric fireplace has to generate the look of flames using an array of lights and rotating mirrors (more about how an electric fireplace works here).
- Heaters can be noisy. Electric fireplaces that use conventional fan heaters will use a blower to force the warm air out into the room. These blowers can be noisy depending on the model of fireplace (we have an article explaining more about electric fireplace noise here.)
- Must be located near an electrical outlet. As all electric fireplaces run on electricity they must be placed near an electrical outlet so that they can be plugged in to work. Extension cables shouldn’t be used with an electric fireplace, and we have more information about electric fireplace outlet requirements here.
- Can’t heat a whole house. While other forms of fireplace can in some situations be able to heat a whole house, electric fireplaces won’t be able to.
Electric fireplaces with conventional fan heaters will typically be able to heat areas up to 400sqft, while those with infrared heaters can typically heat rooms up to 1000sqft.
- Can’t be used when electricity is out. Unlike other types of fireplace you can’t use an electric fireplace when there’s no electrical supply currently available.
- Cheaper models can look tacky and unrealistic. Electric fireplaces can be very cheap compared to other forms of fireplace, but the lower the cost of the fireplace the more cheap and tacky you can expect it to look.
While we’re happy overall with our $100 electric fireplace, some bits, such as the fake logs, don’t look too realistic in our opinion.
- Many non user-serviceable parts. Many electric fireplaces (including ours) don’t have any parts that we can service or change ourselves if something goes wrong.
If a component has a fault under warranty then the whole unit can be replaced, but if it were out of warranty (typically 1 year long) then we’d have to pay for a whole new electric fireplace.
- Shorter life span. Electric fireplaces are full of moving electrical and mechanical components and so the life span of an electric fireplace can be much shorter compared to other types of fireplace such as wood stoves. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many parts may not be replaceable or serviceable.
- No real fire sounds. As both the flames and heat in an electric fireplace are generated artificially, there’s no real flame sounds.
However, some electric fireplaces can be bought with optional sound systems to help provide more of a realistic experience, but it won’t be quite the same thing as hearing a real fire.
- No real fire smell. Along with no real fire sounds, an electric fireplace also isn’t able to generate any real fire smells, which can be what helps make the ambience of a wood fire so appealing.
There are many reasons why electric fireplaces are a great purchase for any home.
These include the large number of different types of electric fireplace available to suit every need, ease of installation and use, realistic looking fires with no mess, quick and easy heat, and a handful of great options including thermostatic and remote control.
However, although there are a number of positives for using an electric fireplace, there are also a number of downsides to using them compared to using other types of fireplace.
As there’s no real fire in an electric fireplace, the flames aren’t real. Both the flames and heat are produced artificially and so you’ll never quite get the same experience as having a real fire. This means that there are also no sounds and smells of a real fire.
Furthermore, electric fireplaces can’t be used if there’s a power cut and you’re looking for a way to help keep warm.
Overall, electric fireplaces are a great type of fireplace to buy (which is why we have a number of them) but have some limitations in terms of realism and heat.
For more information about electric fireplaces see our complete electric fireplace buying guide.