What is the Best and Most Realistic Electric Fireplace We’ve Seen?
The MagikFlame electric fireplace is the most realistic fireplace on our list. It features a state-of-the-art patented holographic projection technology for creating life like visual flames like none other. This fireplace comes complete with sound for the most authentic fireplace experience we’ve seen. A scent module can also be added to simulate the smell of fresh-cut pine. This premium electric fireplace is unmatched in terms of realism and quality. It’s built by hand in the USA and features free technology updates for the life of the product.
Thinking of buying an electric fireplace? In this comprehensive new guide, you will learn how they work, their types, and what you need to know before buying a perfect electric fireplace.
- Best Electric Fireplace Insert
- Best Corner Electric Fireplace
- Large Electric Fireplace
- Best Small Size Electric Fireplace
- Best White Electric Fireplace
Interested customers usually ask if an fireplace is better than a traditional fireplace or gas fireplace. So, we have put together some considerations and benefits to discover — whether you are an architect, interior designer, or electric fireplace enthusiast — to assist your journey.
Shop Best Electric Fireplace
- Trinity Large White Electric Fireplace Mantel & Insert with Sound and Heater$3795.00
- Insert 28″ HoloFlame Fireplace with Realistic Flames, Sound and Heater$3295.00
- Morpheus Compact White Electric Fireplace Mantel & Insert with Sound and Heater$3795.00
- Artemis Modern White Electric Fireplace Mantel & Insert with Sound and Heater$3795.00
- Athena Large White Electric Fireplace Mantel Insert With Sound-and Heater$3795.00
- Churchill Corner White Electric Fireplace Mantel & Insert with Sound and Heater$3795.00
This guide has contributions by best electric fireplace manufacturers, insiders, and enthusiasts who eat, breath, and sleep electric fireplaces.
Best Electric Fireplace Definitive Guide
- Dozens of Manufacturers and Thousands of Products — How to Decide?
- What is best Electric Fireplace?
- Do Electric Fireplaces Require a Chimney or Venting?
- In Electric Fireplaces is the Flame Real?
- Are Electric Fireplaces Tacky?
- Breaking Down The Different Technologies in Electric Fireplaces
- How Does an Electric Fireplace Work? What Are the Various Types?
- Mechanical Electric Fireplaces
- Water-Based Electric Fireplaces
- Gel Fuel Based Fireplaces
- Holographic Electric Fireplaces
- How Do You Control an Electric Fireplace?
- Do Electric Fireplaces Produce Heat?
- How Much Space Do Electric Fireplaces Heat?
- Are Electric Fireplaces Efficient and What is Zone Heating?
- Types of Heaters Found In Electric Fireplaces
- How To Install an Electric Fireplace Insert
- Electrical Requirements and Considerations
- Are Electric Fireplaces Safe?
- Can You Install a TV Above Your Electric Fireplace?
- What Types of Electric Fireplace Form Factors are Available?
- Mantel Quality and Materials
- How to Choose the Right Size Electric Fireplace
- How to Calculate the Cost Per Hour to Operate
- What to Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Electric Fireplace?
- What is the Best Electric Fireplace in 2021?
- In Conclusion – Wrapping it Up
Dozens of Manufactures and Thousands of Products — How to Decide?
Whether it is a trendy home decor accessory or an innovative consumer electronic product a modern electric fireplace can bring a family together. Extensive research and drafted designs have been completed. Many insiders have shared features and benefits, including safety and pricing and overall insights not otherwise available on the internet. There is just one problem: How to identify and decide on the right manufacturer?
There are dozens of manufactures and thousands of products on the market with different features, technology, and capabilities. Our insight will aid in the understanding of different types of technology, features, and benefits along with flame realism, form factor, heat, price, and overall aesthetics for the best buying decision.
According to Google Trends, popularity is consistent over the last five years, as interest in these seasonal products remains solid. The trend could shift in the near future with an emphasis on global “green environment” solutions, local government regulations, and innovative electric fireplace technology that allows a fireplace to be controlled with a favorite mobile device. Therefore, differentiation and integration of electric fireplace technology are critically important in the decision-making process with flame realism being a big factor.
What is Best Electric Fireplace?
Electric fireplaces provide a realistic flame experience complete with burning coal simulation and heat. It’s a cost-effective installation that simply plugs into the wall and slides into a mantel surround. Electrics are a safer and convenient alternative to traditional combustion fireplaces that can be dangerous and expensive to maintain. Custom mantels can be built around an insert for an infinite amount of design options to fit any living space. Electric fireplaces are a forward-thinking option for new homes, remodels, and residential living spaces that want a more cozy feel. Commercial placements include hotel lobbies, restaurants, and hospitality environments.
They do not require costly permits or inspections, chopped wood or gas to operate. The investment also avoids annual chimney sweeps and maintenance — helping to ensure a “green” environment and healthier air for a family to breathe.
Expect a premium electric fireplace to deliver ultra-realistic 3D flame effects that look similar to their wood and gas burning counterparts. They also include sound and smartphone control for the pinnacle of convenience and unprecedented luxury of flame realism.
Do Electric Fireplaces Require a Chimney or Venting?
No. Electric fireplaces do not require any kind of chimney or traditional flue as used in combustion fireplaces.
Since there is no actual fire or smoke, venting these types of fireplaces is not required. This should reduce maintenance and labor expenses while improving air quality.
An electric firebox insert is a healthier solution for enthusiasts with allergies, asthma, and individuals that desire cleaner air in their homes. Electric fireplaces do not emit dangerous fumes such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde that could be expelled with old-fashioned combustion fireplaces. If air quality and safety are an important deciding factor in the buying decision, then an electric fireplace is an excellent option.
In Electric Fireplaces is the Flame Real?
Usually not. A majority of mechanical electric fireplaces use a combination of an electric motor and rotating shaft with mirrors to reflect LED lights through a silhouette and onto a panel behind the log set. In turn, simulating a flame.
Water or steam-based electric fireplaces create a more realistic flame effect than mechanical systems, while other fireplaces burn gels or other fuels that do produce real flames, but also emit fumes.
The latest developments in fireplace technology by cutting-edge manufactures like MagikFlame and Dimplex have furthered blurred the line between realism and simulated flames.
The state-of-the-art holographic technology by MagikFlame simulates actual flames that closely resemble the real thing. These flames are beautifully detailed and life-like, and deliver the illusion of authentic, traditional fireplace flames that other electric products cannot offer. In turn, premium electrics can provide the most realistic electric fireplaces for any living space.
Are Electric Fireplaces Tacky?
Low-end firebox inserts that use outdated and in-expensive technology to create flames can be considered tacky as it’s nothing more than a light show and detracts from an enjoyable experience.
High-end firebox insert manufacturers have invested in product research and development that has changed the fireplace industry. In turn, delivering a luxury or premium electric fireplace experience almost identical to the real thing — See holographic technology manufacturer, MagikFlame, for more detail.
Breaking Down The Different Technologies in Electric Fireplaces
Here are some popular types of electric fireplaces to consider:
- Mechanical – A rotating cylinder with LED lights
- Steam or Mist – Water is vaporized and tinted orange to simulate flames
- Gel – A combustible fuel source is burned as an alternative to gas or wood
- Holographic – video of real flames is projected onto a log set creating the illusion of real fire
How Does an Electric Fireplace Work? What Are the Various Types?
Mechanical: The most common type of electric fireplace on the market. It covers 95% of the lower-end electric fireplaces due to their simplicity to manufacture, low pricing, and inferior components. These fireboxes are typically found at big box stores and online retailers.
Mechanical electric fireplaces operate by using an electric motor to spin a cylinder with reflective “mirror-like” tabs. These tabs reflect colored LED lights through a flame silhouette and onto a translucent panel located behind the log set.
Since the flames are illuminated by LED technology, they are capable of producing flames in a variety of colors such as yellow, orange, and red. A combination of colors such as blue may simulate a gas-burning fireplace.
These types of fireplaces have many flame color options as LEDs are quite versatile. However, they really just offer a single flame in several different colors. They should not be mistaken for several different flames as commonly advertised.
Moreover, mechanical products have lights that can last for 50,000 hours or more, but the inexpensive electric motors are prone to wearing out and breaking. These bushing motors wear down over time and eventually stop working altogether due to friction amongst moving parts.
In most cases, these motors are difficult to replace. In turn, forcing the owner to buy new electric fireplaces when components “wear out” or service their own with replacement parts. We do not recommend this type of fireplace for individuals searching for a realistic flame or longevity as repairs may be required.
If a budget-based purchase with an artificial ambiance is the deciding factor in the buying decision, then this electric fireplace type is a popular choice.
|PRO: Low Cost – Less expensive to buy and are readily available.||CON: Artificial Flames – This low-cost tech creates fake-looking fire.|
|PRO: Huge Selection – Dozens of manufactures and 1000’s of choices.||CON: Lack of Flame Detail: No smoke OR rising burning embers.|
|PRO: Low maintenance – LED lamps are long-lasting and reliable.||CON: No Sound: Usually, no flame or log cracking sounds.|
|PRO: Moderate Longevity – Electric motors are somewhat reliable.|
Water-Based: Mist or Steam
These electric fireplaces are rarer than mechanical. Only a select few manufacturers, such as Dimplex, use water-based technology to create flames. These designs are typically patented. In turn, limiting the number of choices available to the consumer.
Water-based products operate by using an ultrasonic fogger to create a fine water mist. They contain billions of 5-micron water droplets that rise into the air and halogen lights tint the mist orange to create the illusion of fire.
Halogen light bulbs are used to establish a tint of orange color on the grey mist to simulate an actual fire as seen on the Dimplex Opti-Myst fireplaces.
These bulbs produce heat that causes the water droplets to climb into the air utilizing the laws of liquid dynamics. As a result, it creates a somewhat realistic flame effect, but lacks in details like rising burning embers and grey smoke.
There is no doubt that mist-based fireplaces are considerably more realistic than mechanical fireplaces. Keep in mind, mist systems require more maintenance and a continuous water source when using this type of electric fireplace and there is a lack of flame diversity. When the water runs out, your fire stops. Constant re-fills is required to maintain the fire effect and is a drawback to a water based system.
As an example, the transducer discs used in foggers have tiny holes that the water droplets pass through. These tiny holes can easily get clogged with minerals and calcium found in hard water diminishing the fire effect. These discs may need to be periodically replaced for best performance.
Therefore, to maximize the longevity of water-based fireplaces, it is critically important to use only filtered or distilled water that is mineral and contaminant-free.
Water-Based System Drawbacks:
Since the technology relies on a water reservoir to provide the “fuel” for the fire — as soon as the water runs out — your fire stops. Continuously re-filling the water reservoir can be tedious and somewhat defeats the purpose of a low maintenance device. One could run a water line directly into the reservoir, but this is an added complication and expense.
Perhaps, the biggest drawback to water-based systems is the type of lights. While other electric fireplaces use high-efficiency and long-lasting LED technology, water-based systems use hot burning halogen bulbs. These halogen bulbs create heat, use more energy, and burn out faster than LED lights. These lights are also expensive and potentially troublesome to replace.
Due to the technology used in water-based fireplaces, they are only capable of simulating one flame. The variety of colors and flame versatility isn’t an option like mechanical fireplaces for different looks. These flames appear more realistic than mechanical. Yet, the lack of flame variation leaves much to be desired for creating a desirable family atmosphere.
Our position is that water-based systems are lacking solid value for your electric fireplace investment. Low-cost ultrasonic foggers coupled with a plastic molded log set and LED lights don’t equate to a product costing upwards of $1,500 or more. While it does produce more realistic flames than the mechanical system it’s not as varied or realistic as a modern holographic fireplace.
Water Vapor (Mist and Steam) Summary
|PRO: Realism – More realistic flames than mechanical fireplaces.||CON: Selection – Lack of flame variation – single flame appearance.|
|PRO: Cost – More cost-effective than Holographic fireplaces.||CON: Options – No Sound and an extremely limited number of choices in the marketplace.|
|PRO: Low maintenance – LED lamps are long-lasting and reliable.||CON: Bulbs – Halogen bulbs burn hot and require quick replacements (expensive).|
|PRO: Moderate Longevity – Electric motors are somewhat reliable.||CON: Runtime – Flame effect stops when the reservoir is empty – frequent refills.|
Gel Fuel-Based Fireplaces
Gel fireplaces are not exactly electric, traditional wood or gas-burning fireplaces. They burn alcohol-based gel as the fuel source.
Unlike traditional fireplaces, they do not require a chimney, gas hookups, or electricity. These types of fireplaces do not require electricity, so they are easier to install.
The gel-based flame visual is realistic — more than mechanical and water-based systems since the fire is actually real.
However, you have the significant drawback of the fire emitting dangerous fumes into your home degrading air quality — similar to a combustion fireplace. This is not desirable for people with allergies or adverse to chemical smells and emissions.
Additionally, this type of fireplace requires the added accessory of alcohol-based gel refills that are made by a limited number of manufacturers. In turn, “locking” you into the product and endless refills.
Gel-based “real flame” fireplaces also have the danger associated with having a real flame in your home, which needs to be monitored for safety and it can not be left active while unattended. This is inconvenient for many users and is not as safe as an electric fireplace.
Heating capability and control over that functionality is limited with gel fireplaces versus traditional electrics. For instance, the heating function cannot be turned off for an ambiance-only mode, which is a major shortcoming of this technology.
Gel fireplaces are not nearly as efficient at warming a room as an electric fireplace, which is suited for this purpose. Gel fireplaces appear more realistic than mechanical and water-based systems, but only have a single flame and emit dangerous chemical fumes.
We do not recommend a gel fireplace unless you are searching for installation convenience without an electrical requirement. The add-on consumable gel cans and refills are frequently needed to maintain performance.
Gel Fuel-Based Fireplace Summary
|PRO: Realism – Extremely realistic flame – it is real.||CON: Air Quality – Unhealthy chemicals burned for poor air quality.|
|PRO: Installation – Easy to install. No venting or electric requirement.||CON: Safety – As it is a real fire and flame – it’s much more dangerous.|
|PRO: Cost – Less expensive than holographic fireplaces.||CON: Consumables – Investment of gel refills or replacements from a single manufacturer.|
|CON: Audio – No sound.|
Holographic Electric Fireplaces
Perhaps, the most modern and realistic electric fireplace on the market. This type of fireplace delivers the most realistic flames of any electric fireplace technology, accompanied by a wide variety of flame visuals and sound — which combine for a very realistic experience to suit any mood.
A holographic fireplace has the visual details of a real wood fireplace or gas burning fireplace without creating an actual fire — so there is no danger or mess.
It works differently from other fireplaces on this list. Rather than relying on a mechanical effect to make its flame, it uses a video of actual fires to create the basis for flame aesthetics.
By utilizing holographic technology, this type of fireplace projects actual flames onto a physical log set. The log set sits inside your fireplace cavity and appears to actually burn. The log or fuel bed contains long-lasting LED lighting that flicker and pulsate realistically to create the look of smoldering embers, all while appearing to actually burn with this specialized technology.
Holographic electric fireplaces deliver immersive details in the flame quality such as the organic movement of the fire, the coloring of the flames, simulated smoke, and rising burning embers. They also combine sound with video flame technology to make for a very realistic experience. As a result, these types of fireplaces are the most realistic on the list.
Additionally, holographic fireplaces by MagikFlame can utilize pine scent atomizers for a fresh pine smell, similar to real, fresh-cut firewood. The natural pine oil is derived from actual pine trees and is not artificial. It can be safely used in your home without degrading air quality.
Perhaps, the biggest drawback to this technology is price. This type of fireplace is expensive to manufacture because of the cost of the technology found within the product.
For instance, they contain complex video imaging devices to store and playback video loops and are coupled with technology like Bluetooth, WiFi and smartphone app compatibility for ease of use.
Overall, if realism and varied flame selection along with the sound is a key buying decision factor, then there is no doubt a holographic fireplace is a way to go. Keep in mind, this technology is considerably more expensive than the rest of the list. If you can not install a traditional fireplace into your home or wish to convert, but require realism we highly recommend a holographic electric fireplace that is capable of warming your home and providing a true-to-life experience while delivering the stress-free benefits found with the look of real flames
Holographic Electric Fireplace Summary
|PRO: Authenticity – Most realistic flames by far.||CON: Price – Much more expensive than other technologies.|
|PRO: Detail – More flame detail, burning embers, and smoke effects.||CON: Position – Viewing angle is more of a concern.|
|PRO: Options – Much larger flame selection and ability to simulate wood and gas fires||CON: Manufactures – Only one manufacturer makes fireplaces with this new technology.|
|PRO: Audio – Log crackling and popping sounds.|
How Do You Control an Electric Fireplace?
Many ask “how do you turn on an electric fireplace?” There are a variety of ways to control your electric fireplace depending on the manufacturer and the specifics of your particular fireplace. Many fireplaces are controlled with a built-in panel of buttons directly on the front console of the fireplace like this ClassicFlame Insert. This is convenient as the controls are readily accessible but require you to walk to the actual fireplace to operate.
They do require physically being at arm’s reach in front of the fireplace. These tactile controls can be used when a remote is not available. Typically, these buttons will allow you to control the speed and color of the flames and some have the ability to control the flame brightness levels. Shown below is a more modern approach of controlling a fireplace with a touch screen found on the MagikFlame fireplace.
The most popular method of controlling electric fireplaces is with a remote control. This is a standard expectation. The problem with the traditional infrared remote control is that you must be in the direct line of sight of your fireplace in order for it to operate. Most remote controls do not illuminate at night or in a dark room.
Modern electric fireplaces like a MagikFlame utilize an interactive back-lit touchscreen that is extremely visible and useful in both bright and dimly lit rooms. These touch screens are similar to smartphone screens. They are intuitive to operate.
Advanced electric fireplaces like a MagikFlame will offer smartphone control over Bluetooth so the fireplace can be controlled in any room. Fireplaces with app compatibility are preferred to electric fireplaces with outdated, traditional remote control IR technology.
Do Electric Fireplaces Produce Heat?
Yes. The technology used to produce heat varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most electric fireplaces do have on-demand heat and that means that the fireplace can be operated with or without the heat. BTUs are the standard measure of heat output. Typically, the higher the number the more square feet the heater can warm.
Seasonal flexibility to turn the heat off during warmer seasons or in warmer climates is a powerful reason to go with an electric fireplace. You have complete control over heat settings. Electric fireplaces with optional heat can be enjoyed year-round with or without the heat making this a desirable option with few drawbacks.
Most electric fireplaces have the ability to control heat output. Some electric fireplaces have a high, medium, and a low setting for adjusting the heat output while other more advanced fireplaces have a built-in variable thermostat for precisely controlling the heat output with a dial or other input method.
Some electric fireplaces do not have built-in heaters like some wall-mount linear fireplaces. This may save you some money when purchasing an electric fireplace if heating is not essential for you.
Many electric fireplaces do contain heaters and we have found the price difference between options is not significant.
How Much Space in Square Feet Do Electric Fireplaces Heat?
Electric fireplace heaters will typically heat rooms between 400-1,000 sq/ft depending on the type of electric heater. Fan-forced coil heaters will typically heat a room up to 400-500 sq/ft while higher-end infrared heaters will warm a room up to 1,000 square feet.
Are Electric Fireplaces Efficient and What is Zone Heating?
Yes. Electric fireplaces heat only the room you are in. This is called, “zone heating”. It is an efficient way to cut the heating bill.
For instance, it can cost as little as .01 cent an hour when using the fireplace in ambiance only mode and about .10 to .25 cents an hour while in a heating mode which typically consumes 1.4-1.6 kW of power. This can vary depending on the cost of electricity in your city.
Types of Heaters Found In Electric Fireplaces
There are two types of heaters that are commonly used in electric fireplaces. The most common in lower-end fireplaces are fan-forced coil systems. This type of heater is less expensive to manufacture. High-end electric fireplaces will come with an infrared quartz heater, which is more efficient at heating large spaces. Both types will work as a supplemental heat source. Let’s take a look at the two technologies:
1. Fan-Forced Coil Based Heaters:
Fan-forced coil heaters are perhaps the most abundantly found in electric fireplaces because of their simplicity to manufacture and low cost to produce.
Typically, these heaters will warm smaller areas that are between 400 to 500 square feet. These types of fireplace heaters work by drawing in cool air from the room, passing it over electrically heated coils, and using a small fan to blow heated air directly into your space. The drawback of this type of technology is the fan does make audible noise and it does not have the heating capacity of an infrared quartz heater.
With this type of technology, one should avoid obstructing the heater air path. Be cautious to keep flammables such as curtains, carpet, and furniture safely out of the way.
2. Infrared Quartz Heaters:
Infrared quartz heaters are also called “radiant heaters”. This type of heater operates differently than fan-forced coil heaters.
Generally, they are more efficient at heating larger spaces up to 1,000 square feet.
Infrared quartz heaters operate like the sun. It emits an invisible ultraviolet (UV) light that warms a surface.
This type of technology is generally used in high-end electric fireplace heaters and creates a natural heat sensation without drying the air.
How To Install an Electric Fireplace Insert
There are a variety of ways to install an electric fireplace. Mount on the wall using a drywall kit and plug into a socket. Others are built into mantels that can be pushed up against the wall. Some even prefer to install built-in wall fireplaces for a clean design appearance.
Ask your handyman how to build a frame for an electric fireplace insert for a custom installation. Most fireplace inserts have illustrations and diagrams in the owner’s manual covering installation methods and requirements.
An additional considerations for non-traditional installations includes indoor locations, such as bathrooms, bedrooms, entryways, attics, basements, cabins, mobile homes, and boats. They are ideal for residential and commercial spaces alike.
Electric fireplaces are made for indoor use only and should not be installed outdoors.
Electrical Requirements and Considerations
Most electric fireplaces should plug directly into a wall, while others are hard-wired. They usually operate on 110 volts and do not require specialized high-voltage 220 volt plugs. A dedicated circuit is recommended.
Electric fireplace heaters can draw 1,500 watts or more. When this amount of current is drawn through an inexpensive extension cord or power strip it can overheat and potentially be hazardous creating a real fire.
A quick tip is to plug your electric fireplace directly into your wall outlet with a 15 to 20 amp dedicated circuit. Avoid plugging in other lights, televisions, and devices from the same outlet as the fireplace.
We recommend using a licensed and insured electrician when installing an electrical socket for your electric fireplace or hardwiring it directly into your home’s power supply. Plugging multiple devices into a singular outlet could trigger a circuit breaker to trip.
Make sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your electric fireplace.
Are Electric Fireplaces Safe?
Yes. Electric fireplaces are safer than traditional combustible fireplaces – since they do not actually create fire or burn — as they are simulated.
Generally, it is acceptable to have children and pets in proximity to an electric fireplace. The caveat is keeping a nominal distance from the heating element, which can get warm.
Compliance assists with confidence. American fireplaces are usually UL certified, so you know they are safer for use in your home. UL certification helps ensure compliance when a unit is operated properly from a testing laboratory.
Additionally, it is highly unlikely for an electric fireplace to spark a real fire compared to wood burners, mainly because there are no real embers in a fake fireplace.
If you leave home for an extended amount of time or if children are present, we recommend unplugging your fireplace for maximum safety.
Finally, always be aware of children that play around an electric fireplace and guide them to another area of the room. Also, keep water and vases away from your electric fireplace as well.
Be sure to follow sensible safety protocols and read the owner manual for proper operation and safety warnings. Electric fireplaces are safer to use and operate than traditional fireplaces.
Can You Install a TV Above Your Electric Fireplace?
Yes. Many new electric fireplace owners ask if it’s safe to mount a TV above an electric fireplace. If heat is not blown straight up it is safer to mount a television above the fireplace. Ensure that your fireplace blows its heated air through the front of the unit and preferably at the bottom of the insert or firebox.
In some situations the television itself can sit directly on top of the mantle or it can bolt onto a wall with a TV mounting bracket.
What Types of Electric Fireplace Form Factors are Available?
- Wall Mounted Linear Fireplaces
- Built-In Fireplaces
- Electric Fireplace Inserts
- Electric Log Sets
- Media Mantels or T.V. Consoles
- Freestanding Fireplace Stoves
- Wall Mantel Packages
- Corner Fireplaces
Wall Mount Electric Fireplaces:
A wall mount fireplace is amongst the easiest to use and install. They are ideal for apartments and condominiums because they can be seamlessly removed.
These types of fireplaces come with mounting brackets that install onto drywall using wall anchors and specialized screws. Typically, the only tools required for the installation of a wall mounted fireplace are a level and screwdriver.
The manufacturers, Amantii or Touchstone are both popular choices for linear fireplaces. Sometimes with these, you can customize the ember bed in your electric fireplace. This is brand-specific and generally includes various log set aesthetics, wood types, crystal gems, and crushed fire glass or “dragon glass”.
Built-In Electric Fireplaces:
Built-in electric fireplaces are fireplace inserts that have been installed directly into a wall. They are traditionally flush with the wall as the insert exists between the studs. This type of installation has a clean, streamlined appearance, as part of the wall structure. It does require professional installation.
Built-in electric fireplaces are generally frame-less and you will find many linear fireplaces that have this form factor.
Electric Fireplace Inserts:
Electric fireplace inserts are also known as a “firebox”. These are a standard form factor for many electric fireplaces. They are an ideal choice for a homeowner who is converting a traditional combustible fireplace like a wood-burning or a propane gas burner, into a safe and efficient electric.
Generally, a fireplace insert can be placed directly into the fireplace cavity and trimmed in to appear like a built-in wood burner fireplace. Use an experienced and licensed electrician to install electrical outlets into your existing cavity for the cleanest appearance and to hide unsightly power cords.
Electric Log Sets:
Electric log sets are a simple and low-cost way of converting an existing fireplace opening into a quasi electric fireplace. They have a set of LED lights inside of them that will flicker and pulsate to simulate smoldering and burning embers in the ember bed. Some will even project a fire effect on to the wall behind the logs that somewhat simulates a flame.
However, these are not as realistic as electric fireplace inserts, but they are effective for small and simple installations on a budget. Many electric log sets contain space heaters to take the chill off of a room.
Media Mantels or TV Consoles:
This type of form factor is also referred to as an “entertainment center” or “media console” fireplace. It is perfect for enthusiasts who are searching for easy storage for electronics. This could include set-top boxes and video game consoles that are integrated into an electric fireplace.
Typically, media mantles will include electronics storage and a space for a TV directly above it. They usually feature an electric fireplace directly in the center.
Ideal for media organization and smaller homes or for those looking to conserve space.
Freestanding Fireplace Stoves:
Freestanding electric fireplaces include stoves. The design is a traditional, steel, old-fashioned aesthetic commonly found in cabin or rustic homes.
Electric versions are generally built out of plastic, but visually look like an old-style fireplace stove with burning coals. Some designs are intentionally weathered to look classic. Freestanding stoves are ideal in country and rural homes.
Wall Mantel Packages:
Wall mantel packages are the classic or traditional electric fireplace mantel that is ideal for the living room or family room of any living space. They are widely considered to be the centerpiece of the room.
Generally, a fireplace insert is surrounded with a wood surround called a mantel. The mantle is pushed up against a wall to appear like a built-in hearth.
The convenience with wall mantel fireplaces is the simplicity of being plugged into a wall. They are ready to use without professional installation — perfect for DIY enthusiasts.
The wood mantel can be painted to exactly match any living space. Wall mantel fireplaces are portable for a seamless transition from room-to-room.
Furthermore, this type of mantle can be assembled in approximately 20 to 30 minutes. They require an electric screwdriver and do not require any other tools or professional installation.
Corner fireplaces are similar in design and function to wall mantel fireplaces, but are specific to a corner wall.
While wall mantel fireplaces have a perfectly flush rear section, corner mantel fireplaces have a triangle-shaped back which fits the contours of a room where two walls come together at a 90-degree angle.
A corner fireplace is a nice touch for small rooms or off-set viewing positions. A TV can be placed above the fireplace.
Mantel Quality and Materials
A furniture grade mantle will be made from high quality wood. Mantels paired with premium electric fireplaces often use a variety of wood types.
The MDF core with a real wood grain veneer and hardwood crown molding are ideal embellishments for a hand-carved appearance. Stained wood grain veneers are indistinguishable from actual stained wood and deliver a luxury finish. Lower-end fireplace mantels will be made from MDF on it’s own and lack in quality and finish compared to multi-wood mantels found with higher-end fireplaces.
How to Choose the Right Size Electric Fireplace
Electric fireplaces make a great addition to the living room, dining room, bedroom, den, and home office. The size of the fireplace will often be dictated by the size of the room.
For instance, smaller homes or contained spaces like apartments or condominiums might be better suited with a smaller mantle such as a media or TV console or corner unit. Larger homeowners should consider large mantels that will elevate the insert up off of the base of the mantel for a more luxurious appearance.
Mantles can be paired with televisions. If you have less square footage available in your home, then consider a smaller mantle from about 53-45 inches wide. Consider the volume of space to heat. Try an infrared system for larger rooms and a forced air coil system for smaller spaces.
How to Calculate the Cost Per Hour to Operate
Try this formula to understand the expense to operate an electric fireplace:
(Watts / 1,000) x kw/hr = total cost per hour
First, identify the maximum amount of watts your electric fireplace consumes. This will be written on the fireplace itself or in the owner’s manual.
Next, identify your local rate for a kilowatt-hour (kw/hr) on your monthly utility statement from your power company.
Take the total watts and divide by 1,000 to convert watts into kilowatts. Then, multiply the kilowatts by the kw/hr rate from your power bill. This equals your total cost per hour to operate.
For example, if you have an electric fireplace that consumes 5,000 watts and your kw/hr rate is .15 cents, then your total cost would be .75 cents per hour to operate the fireplace.
EXAMPLE: (5,000 watts / 1,000) x .15 = $0.75, or 75 cents per hour
Lastly, to calculate the total daily cost multiply the total cents per hour by the number of hours you use the fireplace each day. The result is how much it will cost to run your fireplace daily.
To make these calculations easier without the math be sure to check out our convenient cost calculator tool located here.
What to Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Electric Fireplace?
1. What type of flame technology do you want?
If you’re looking for an inexpensive electric fireplace, then select a mechanical system as these are the least expensive. However, these types of fireplaces lack flame realism. For a more realistic flame, consider a water-based vapor fireplace or perhaps a gel fireplace. For the most realistic fireplace experience consider a holographic electric fireplace that looks close to the real thing with little to no maintenance.
2. What’s my budget?
Depending on your choices of flame aesthetic, heating, and control — the price will vary. Prepare your budget in advance to understand how to make the best buying decision.
3. Do you require heat?
Calculate the square feet you want to heat and choose a fan coil-based system or an infrared quartz heater. Coil-based systems heat smaller rooms of 400-500 sq/ft and use a small fan. Infrared quartz heaters are slightly more expensive and are suited to heat large rooms. These are a good supplementary heat source for up to 1,000 sq/ft.
4. What type of insulation do I want? DIY or professional?
Do you want to plug a fireplace into a wall and be ready to use? If so, consider a wall-mounted, freestanding, or mantle package with an insert. You can build an insert directly into a wall to look like a built-in with professional installation for a more permanent solution.
5. What style are you interested in?
Do you like the clean and modern look of a linear fireplace or prefer the look of a traditional or freestanding unit? There are many modern frame-less and wall mounted electric fireplaces to choose from as well as the more traditional wall mantel style fireplace that looks like a built-in hearth.
What is the Best and Most Realistic Electric Fireplace?
The best electric fireplace is the MagikFlame HoloFlame electric insert. MagikFlame is the only manufacturer on this list to use patented holographic technology. The real value is the theme park-like flames that appear to burn on the log set not otherwise available.
By using real video of an actual fire, the flames appear real because — they are real.
The flames are holographically projected onto a physical log set which contains LED lights flickering inside that simulate burning embers. Combined with the holographic flame technology, this fireplace is very realistic and borders on real.
The MagikFlame features 30 ultra-realistic flames that simulate gas and wood burning fires, and come complete with log crackling and popping log sounds for an authentic experience.
The infrared quartz heater in this unit is capable of warming up to 1,000 square feet and the LED lighting will last up to 50,000 hours. These efficient lights produce approximately 90% less heat than halogens and use less than 1/6 of the energy of incandescent light bulbs and up to three times less energy than a typical compact fluorescent lamp.
The built-in heater is 5,200 BTUs and features an infrared quartz heating technology for maximum heating efficiency and low power bills.
For ease of control, the MagikFlame electric fireplace operates with a back-lit touchscreen which is easy to use even in dimly-lit environments and controlled via a smartphone app using Bluetooth. The current app works only for iOS and is available only on iPhone’s (as of the writing of this article.)
MagikFlame is the most realistic electric fireplace and a perfect focal point for any living space. It’s highly reviewed and recommended by users all over the United States.
However, the price is a bit more because of its technology and the fact that it is American-made and not mass produced overseas (insert only).
What About Dimplex and Amantii Fireplaces?
There are few fireplaces manufacturers that innovate with new fireplace technology that set them apart from the crowd.
After MagikFlame, Dimplex Fireplace comes in second as they have several technologies like their Opti-Myst fireplace and their Revillusion line that are a bit different from other fireplaces.
If budget is a concern with a luxury electric fireplace by MagikFlame, then Dimplex might be an alternative. Watch out for expensive bulb replacements on halogen-based mist fireplace systems. Amantii is a manufacturer of contemporary electric fireplaces and makes many popular linear models that lead the space.
Frequently Asked Questions About Electric Fireplaces
1. Is it safe to sleep with an electric fireplace on?
Yes. Much more so than a traditional fireplace. However, with any heater ensure the fireplace is operating in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Which electric fireplace is the most realistic?
MagikFlame with holographic technology is almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
3. What is the best electric fireplace insert?
It depends on your requirements. For the most realistic fire effect we prefer the MagikFlame as well. If you are willing to extend your budget, this is the best choice for flame aesthetics and ease of use.
4. How do you fix the flame on an electric fireplace?
Fireplaces with replaceable bulbs are easy to swap out and fix. Obtain replacement bulbs from the manufacturer and follow the instructions to replace your bulbs to fix your electric fireplace.
5. Do electric fireplaces have real flames?
Most of the time no. The exceptions are gel fireplaces which are a cross between traditional and electric. Most electric fireplaces simulate the look of fire.
6. Do electric fireplaces need a chimney?
Since the flames are simulated they do not require venting.
7. What kind of bulbs are used?
Most electric fireplaces use LED bulbs as they are long tasting and energy efficient. Some electrics will use halogen bulbs which cost more to replace.
8. Can you paint an electric fireplace?
Most wood mantel electric fireplaces can safely be painted with non-flammable paint.
9. Do electric fireplaces put out heat?
Many do, some do not.
10. Does an electric fireplace add value to my home?
Yes. Installing a fireplace will set your home apart from style, luxury, family atmosphere, and relaxation. A nice electric such as a holographic unit will make your home more memorable.
11. Can I put an electric fireplace on the carpet?
Yes. Just be careful not to obstruct the heater with anything flammable and keep curtains and other furniture out of the path of heated air.
12. Can you leave an electric fireplace on overnight?
Yes, most of the time. It is safer to use when attended. Many electrics utilize a sleep timer to turn the fireplace off after you fall asleep; say in 30, 60 or 90 minutes.
13. Do electric fireplaces use a lot of electricity?
No. Electrics utilize zone heating and are far more efficient than full home heating systems.
14. Can I put an electric fireplace in my existing wood fireplace?
Yes, if you buy a fireplace insert.
15. Does an electric fireplace need its own circuit?
Yes. A dedicated circuit is recommended.
Where Do You Buy Electric Fireplaces?
Now that you are an expert on electric fireplaces where can you buy one? If you are looking for luxury, variety, and selection — MagikFlame at magikflame.com is the winner.
MagikFlame has the latest in fireplace technology at factory-direct prices. You can also choose to buy your electric fireplace on Amazon (Amazon.com/MagikFlame) for convenience.
You can also consider other electric fireplaces at big-box retailers or independently owned and operated fireplace retailers in your city for a first-hand showroom experience. We prefer online as most options are available.
In Conclusion – Wrapping It Up:
We hope that you have found this electric fireplace buying guide to be helpful as well as relevant to assist your buying journey. This content has been written in coordination with fireplace insiders and manufacturers who know the industry inside and out and are experts on the subject matter. If you have any questions relating to purchasing an electric fireplace including its benefits and features or installation, please call a fireplace expert at MagikFlame at 888-801-1918 seven days a week.
MagikFlame is NOT affiliated with Dimplex, Amantii, or Touchstone.
The opinions on this page are solely the opinion of the author.
This article was written by Howard Birnbaum, the owner of MagikFlame.
As the owner, there is financial incentive to purchasing a MF fireplace.
Always check your facts, and make your own buying decisions.