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What’s The Conversion From Watts to BTU & How does it Affect My Energy Bill?

watts to btu

Here is the conversion from watts to BTU: 1 watt is equal to 3.41 BTU/h. If you have the watts, you multiply them by 3.41 to get the BTU/hour. If you have BTU, you divide it by 3.41 to get the watts. Watts to BTU gets you from electricity to heat. In order to fully understand the watts to BTU conversion, you need to put it into some context.

It’s easy for talk of electric fireplaces to devolve into a lot of technical talk. Watts. BTU. Kilowatt hour. When you shift from thinking about a fireplace in terms of home decor and interior design to the technical bits about electricity and heating, the shift can be difficult. You choose the Morpheus for its modern lines or the Athena for its classical style – and then it’s time to put on your engineer’s hat and determine what having an electric fireplace in your living room means for your usage and cost.

This article will help you untangle all of that. First, it will provide simple and clear definitions for a lot of these terms. Then, it will apply those terms into ways to understand the electricity that your electric fireplace uses and what it costs.

Watts to BTU

  • About the electrical terms used when talking about fireplaces
  • How to do these energy conversions
  • What this means in practical terms for your electric fireplace
  • How this works with a MagikFlame

A glossary of electrical terms

Here is a glossary of electrical terms. You do not need to know all of them. I am placing the most important ones in Italics. The others are there to help you know those central terms deeper.

Energy is the ability to do work. The work we want out of an electric fireplace is heat. Your costs are measured in energy, your benefits in heat. Thus, you need to be able to move between those two measures. Unfortunately, we measure energy, work, and heat with multiple units. These definitions will help you untangle some of the confusion that results from that.

watts to btu
Kilowatt hour electric meters, power supply meters. 3d rendering

Unit of power

Unit of powerUnits of power are a way we can measure the amount of power, heat, or energy. Below are the most common units of power that we use.

SI unit – The SI is the modern metric system. The SI comes from the International System of Units. Why SI instead of IS? The French developed it and called it Système international (d’unités) or SI.

The SI system measures electric current in amperes. This method of measurement is abstract, moving every measurement into the decimal system. A prefix goes in front of the measurement to show that the unit is larger or smaller by powers of ten. Small units include centi and milli while larger units include kilo, mega, and giga.

Decimal – Decimals break all numbers into parts of 10. The metrics prefixes are added onto the base SI unit. So, we get kilowatts, millimeters, and nanograms.

Derived unit – A derived unit is one of 22 measurements that come from the SI system but are not part of the SI system. A number of these terms are used in measuring different parts of electricity. Joule, watt, and volt are among them.

Joule – A joule is a measurement of energy, work, or heat. It is equivalent to one watt per second. This tends to be the smallest measurement of energy that non-scientists use. There are approximately 1055 joules in a BTU.

WattA watt is rate measurement illustrating the rate of energy, a unit of power equivalent to 1 joule per second. The watt was adopted because people needed a practical way to measure electrical power.

James Watt – James Watt is the Scottish inventor after whom they named the watt after. Note that he did not discover the watt. Instead, scientists did this to honor him. He did greatly improve the steam engine and develop the concept of horsepower.

KilowattA kilowatt is 1000 watts and equals 1.34 horsepower. To put this in practical terms, a square meter of Earth close to the Equator will receive on kilowatt of sunlight on a clear day at noon.

Horsepower – Horsepower (HP is the abbreviation) is a way to measure the rate at which work is done. One horsepower is what a good horse can pull, or the power that will lift 500 pounds of weight by one foot in one second. One HP is 745.7 watts. (There is a SI horsepower as well, at 735.5 watts). This measure made sense when steam engines were directly competing against pulling horses.

Kilowatt hour (kw/h)Kw/h is a measurement of energy over a piece of time. One kw/h is 3,600,000 watt seconds. One watt second is a joule A light bulb will measure its energy in watt hours. A power plant will measure its energy in megawatt hours or gigawatt hours. (Point of interest: Technically a watt hour exists, but we don’t use it.)

Ampere – An ampere measures the current or flow of electricity. Scientists measure it in relation to the energy a single proton in an atom puts off.

Volt – Voltage measures the flow of electricity between two points. Most regular batteries are 1 to 1 ½ volts. Your electric socket in North America is 120 volts. The third line on the electric train track is 600-750 volts.

BTUs (British Thermal Units)British Thermal Unit measure heat, and heat is the same as energy. One BTU is equal to the heat that will raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit (at sea level).

BTUs per hour (BTU/h)BTUs per hour is a way to measure the rate at which energy moved. To give some conversions, one watt is about 3.4 BTU/hour. One horsepower is about 2,544 BTU/hour.


Unit converter – Above you can see a wide range of units that measure the same or slightly different things. Different industries measure power in different ways. To bring two measures of energy together – like a heating fireplace and an electrical plug – someone needs to convert one unit to be the same as the other. Unit converters are programs where if you put in one unit (horsepower) and get out another (watts). Often people use conversion table or a conversion calculator for this task.

Hour conversion calculator – An hour conversion calculator is used to turn hours and minutes (10 hours and 17 minutes) back and forth to metric time (10.29 hours). We need this because many of the measurements require SI hours.

We also talk about hour conversions when we measure rates. A rate measures energy over time, so a kilowatt/hour is a rate. As is a joule/second. This single number contains explanations of two things at the same time.

Power converter – A power converters are calculators that lets you switch back and forth between units of energy. These units include watts, kilowatts, BTUs, and horsepower. These power conversions make it possible to communicate where people are using different units of power. Using this makes power conversion possible.A power converter is also a machine that turns AC (alternating current) into DC (direct current) and vice versa.

Doing the energy conversions

You need to find a number to start with – and BTU is a good place to start. If your energy is measured in watts, you will have to convert watts to BTU. The easiest way is to start with an online conversion calculator to take watts to BTU. A MagikFlame has 1500 watts which converts to 5118 BTU per hour. This BTU per hour conversion allows you to move from discussing energy to discussing heat. If you want to do it yourself, multiply your watts by 3.41 to get your BTU/h, or divide your BTU/h by 3.41 to get watts. But the online converter makes the watts to BTU job easier.

Then, you calculate the amount of BTUs you need to heat the spot that you desire to heat. You need enough BTUs or your heater will strain and cause cold spots. Or you can use the fireplace as supplemental heating with an existing heating system also warming the room. A BTU calculator will determine how many BTU you need to heat the area needed. You should find which heating zone you live in on a map.

Different heating zone need different amounts of energy to heat a home. Here is an approximation for the US:

  • Zones 1 & 2 (hot) Florida / South Texas: 30-35 Btu/sq. Ft.
  • Zone 3 (warm) Lower South / California: 35-40 Btu/sq. Ft.
  • Zone 4 (moderate) Upper South / Coastal Northwest: 45 Btu/sq. Ft.
  • Zone 5 (cool) Mid-Atlantic / Midwest / Mountain West: 50 Btu/sq. Ft.
  • Zone 6 (cold) New England / Northern Midwest and West: 55 Btu/sq. Ft.
  • Zone 7 (very cold) Upper Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota: 60 Btu/sq. ft.

So, if you have a 2,000 square foot home in the Mid-Atlantic, you would multiply 50 BTU times 2,000, which would be 10,000 BTU per square foot. This number would be adjusted to reflect the amount of insulation and solar exposure you get. That means your heating capacity (generally furnace plus fireplace) needs to equal 100,000 BTU.

Most common furnaces produce from about 70,000 to 120,000 BTU/h. A MagikFlame electric fireplace produces 5,200 BTUs (or enough to warm 1000 feet). To use it wisely, you would need 95,000 from your furnace.

Monthly energy consumption of an electric fireplace

If you are building a new home or doing a remodel on an existing one, it’s a great time to add a fireplace. A fireplace adds ambience to your home décor. Whether you have an architect and home builder plan one in, or if you plan yourself for a blank space on the wall and an electrical outlet, a fireplace can fit to provide both atmosphere and warmth.

Your energy consumption matters. You pay directly in your electricity and gas bills for the energy you consume. Much of our energy comes from dirty sources that release carbon dioxide when burned. This carbon dioxide is one of the main chemicals that lead to climate change. This phenomenon is not only warming but is leading to islands going underwater, farms getting little rain, and people being pushed off their land. We need to lessen our energy consumption (or get it from greener sources in order to fight climate change.

A MagikFlame electric fireplace is an incredibly efficient form of energy. Whether you heat your home with electricity, gas, or wood, the fireplace uses less energy than most central systems. By lessening the amount of energy you use, you are saving money and helping the environment.

Another way to conceptualize your energy is through zone heating. All parts of your home do not need to be heated evenly. You can create cold zones (garage), cool zones (bedrooms), and hot zones (kitchen and living room) on your smart thermostat. This further restricts the output of your heating systems, lowering costs.

watts to btu

How this works with MagikFlame

So, watts to BTU/hr is 1 watt to 3.41 BTU/h. On average, 1,500 watt or 13 amp electric fireplaces cost an average of 18 cents per hour. Given average costs and use, this fireplace costs $10.80 to use per month. If the fireplace is run on low, that number drops to $7.80. If you only have the visual flame on and not the heat, your costs drop tremendously to 50 cents per month. The costs for central heat to heat the same area is between $65-$120 per month. The savings can build up quickly over time. **Numbers shared above should be considered estimates and not absolute savings**

MagikFlame has a cost calculator for you. You enter your energy costs, the wattage of your heater, the usage you envision and its duration, and it will create a cost estimate that is tailored to your home.

Lower wattage means less heat and lower costs. Higher wattage means more heat and greater costs. What you want to do is to get the right wattage to heat your house (as measured in BTUs). When making electricity, we lose a percentage of the energy to waste. A coal plant produces heat as well as electricity. That heat is waste, unless it is put to good use. Some towns are heated that way. We want to find efficient systems which produce the wattage while producing less waste.

Infrared Quartz Heater

A MagikFlame uses an infrared quartz heater. This heats through light, a much more efficient way of providing heat than heating a central unit and blowing it around the room. Infrared light is itself more efficient, and add onto that the infrared heater has no moving parts. No fan blows. This saves a lot of energy in the running of the machine.

The infrared heater works by beaming infrared light (that you cannot see) out of the heater. Whatever the light strikes will heat. This could be you, or furniture, or the wall. You feel warm immediately because the heat warms your clothing or skin. When it heats furniture or walls, they retain the heat and slowly release it. This feels like a real fire. If you are facing a fire, your front is warm and your back is cool, helping to simulate the atmosphere of a fire.

Another way the MagikFlame fireplaces conserve energy are through using LED lights instead of the old incandescent bulbs. It also comes with multiple heat settings.You can adjust the temperature to make it perfect for you. Doing this means that the fireplace is not running on full heat all the time, saving you energy and money.

The infrared quartz heater is safer, too. It creates light not heat, so the fireplace itself will be cool to the touch. This means if children or animals bump into it, they will not be burned. The heat it projects will not burn books, pillows, or paperwork laid next to the fireplace.

In this article, we have discussed the terminology around electricity and how the different terms relate together. We have pulled out the most important terms and applied them to the real-life system of heating your room with an electric fireplace. Finally, we have discussed efficiency and the benefits of a MagikFlame infrared quartz fireplace.

About MagikFlame

To learn more about MagikFlame, check out these links:

  • The MagikFlame story tells about how the founder used his movie FX experience to develop a better flame. Holographic technology is the special touch that moves a two-dimensional flame facsimile to a living, dancing fire.
  • MagikFlame reviews are direct from our customers. Our customers are happy with every aspect of the fireplace, from the 30 realistic flames to the savings on heating bills.
  • How MagikFlame is built tells about our Made in America processes. MagikFlame partners with local companies to build both the fireplace insides and the mantel-pieces that surround it. Everything is made with the highest-quality American workmanship.
  • The MagikFlame best electric fireplace buying guide tells you all about electric fireplaces and what to look for. Whether you choose to buy a MagikFlame or a different brand, this piece will give you solid information to help form your choice.
  • Payment plans and financing are available to make our fireplaces more affordable. The energy savings from a MagikFlame alone can make up a solid part of its low monthly payment.

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