In this post, you will learn:
- What makes a “smart fireplace”
- The advantages
- The disadvantages
- About voice control features
- How to incorporate a connected fireplace in an integrated home
- If gas or electric is better
- How to save on utility bills
- How to choose the right fireplace for you
- How to choose your MagikFlame fireplace
Getting all the details right isn’t easy. Did you remember to turn down the thermostat? Did you walk the dog one last time before going to bed? What about setting the alarm? Whether you are going to bed or getting up in the morning, there’s always so much to do that it’s easy to forget something.
When you have a smart appliance, that’s one less concern. You simply manage it with your remote control. If you are away from home, you can use a smartphone, which is probably always with you. There’s no need for hands-on manual control.
What Is a “Smart Fireplace”?
A smart appliance features built-in technology that enables it to follow directions you send via a cell phone from remote locations. You can turn the fireplace on or off, select flame styles, adjust the sound or adjust the heat output with a smartphone app from work, your car or wherever you happen to be.
What Are the Advantages of a Connected Fireplace?
- Energy savings – It’s always a positive to save on monthly bills. With a smart fireplace, savings are a snap. You no longer have to pay to heat an empty room. If you forget to turn down your fireplace when you’re heading out for the day, just use the smartphone app to do it remotely.
- Comfort – Use your smartphone app to start your fireplace when you’re on your way home. When you walk into the room, it will already be warm, cozy and filled with ambiance. There’s never any need to run home on your lunch break to check that your fireplace is off, because all you have to do is check the app.
- Easy to use – Like a programmable thermostat, a connected fireplace is designed for ease of use. The app provides an easy-to-read and user-friendly dashboard, so there’s no learning curve. You can turn down the heat, shut off the blower or adjust the flame height in seconds by phone.
- Easy updates – If your smart fireplace is a MagikFlame, you will receive automatic updates to your fireplace via its Bluetooth connection. Updates include new flame styles free of charge.
- Peace of mind – Your connected fireplace helps you save energy and money. It maintains your comfort level according to your preferences. The remote control app is intuitive and intelligent. That’s a lot of peace of mind in your pocket.
Are There Disadvantages to a Fireplace Smartphone App?
One possible disadvantage of using the remote app for your fireplace insert can arise when someone comes home unexpectedly. Unless you communicate, they could be working at cross purposes with your fireplace settings. Perhaps you turn it off, not knowing that a family member needs to stay warm. Maybe they unknowingly turn it off with the fireplace remote when you have set it to warm the room for your arrival.
Another possible snafu with controlling your fireplace remotely can come up if your phone runs out of charge. If you cannot use the phone, you cannot control the fireplace functions remotely. In a similar way, if you have no cell service at your remote location, you lose the ability to communicate with your living room fireplace.
If an unexpected power outage occurs, you won’t be able to turn on your smart home appliances, either with your phone or a wall switch. When you get home, you might be disappointed when the room is not as cozy as you had hoped.
Finally, if you forget you left a window open near your fireplace, your energy savings may fly out the window. Instead of coming home to a pre-warmed, cozy living room, you might find that all the warmth has escaped outdoors. Thus, while a fireplace remote is useful, other factors can interfere.
What About Voice Control Features?
It’s a simple matter to outfit your fireplace with control features such as Amazon Alexa. You just add an Alexa Wifi smart plug between the power outlet and the electrical cord. Voice commands like, “Hey Alexa, turn on the fireplace,” or “Alexa, turn off the heater” save you the trouble of getting up from your comfy armchair to manually carry out these commands.
This type of Wifi smart socket also enables other voice-activated systems like Google Assistant. With a control system like Amazon Alexa and a smartphone app, your fireplace is a more versatile and convenient component of your smart home array.
Can You Incorporate Fireplace Controls in an Integrated Home?
An integrated smart home features a network of smart appliances that homeowners can control via a smartphone app or over the internet. Many brands, such as Google Nest, offer a number of gadgets that can work together as a home automation system.
In an integrated home, you don’t have to personally worry about when to turn on the lights, tuning the radio, or activating a kitchen appliance. A system like Google Home does it for you, either with presets or upon a voice command.
Since a fireplace phone app works upon a similar principle, it can certainly fit into your Google Home or Smartthings automation array. You can adjust the settings remotely with a smartphone or with a voice command when you are nearby.
If you are looking for a plug-in that connects your fireplace to your security system, smart thermostat or entertainment console, the technology is yet to come. However, apps like Smartthings consolidate all your compatible devices into a single hub on your smartphone. With all your devices controls on one app, adjusting your home environment from work or school is especially convenient.
You might also come across a “smart switch,” typically a wall switch that replaces an existing one. Depending on the type of smart switch you’re using, the device can respond to voice commands in person. It may also be Wifi-ready for a smartphone app. A good-quality smart switch costs around $50 at checkout. Make sure it will work with your fireplace before you buy.
Your Fireplace – Gas or Electric?
Smart Gas Fireplace Upgrades
If you’re waffling between buying a gas and an electric fireplace, the comparison points range from energy efficiency to ease of installation. In most cases, a quality electric appliance is a hands-down winner.
Possible exceptions include an outdoor fire pit, a stainless steel portable fire ring or an open-air log set. For safety reasons, these should be gas-powered.
In terms of smart features, gas appliance manufacturers seem to be scrambling. In many cases, you have to purchase smart technology separately to be able to control a gas fireplace remotely.
One option is a millivolt programmable thermostat with a compatible smartphone app. This virtually obsolete technology is available as a separate purchase. This plug-in or battery-powered millivolt controller is only compatible with specific gas log sets, so checkout your gas fireplace to be sure it will comply.
Another option in smart gas appliance controllers is the i-Flame by Flame-tec. It can turn compatible gas log sets on or off, plus adjust the heat, through a smartphone app. A basic on-off I-Flame controller costs around $63.
The Heat & Glo IntelliFire app is another smart control option. It is an app for smartphones that includes voice command capability. It is designed to work with Heat & Glo gas fireplaces and fireplace inserts. You have to purchase a Wifi module, which costs around $170, to get connected.
Other manufacturers such as Durablow, Duluth Forge, and SkyTech make and market add-on smart controllers with Bluetooth apps that work with specific natural gas or propane fireplaces. They range in price from about $60 to over $300.
When you are comparing the various control devices that are available as upgrades for a gas log set, beware. The term “smart remote” does not always mean it is compatible with Bluetooth or Wifi. The term can refer to a controller that you use to operate more than one of your household devices when you’re at home.
If you want the freedom to fine-tune your fireplace when you are not at home, this type of smart controller won’t deliver. Instead, you need a remote with a Wifi or cell network connection.
Smart Electric Fireplaces
An electric heater is a simpler system than a gas fireplace. It is easier to install. Often a freestanding fireplace is a plug-and-play appliance that you can put against any wall, no matter whether interior or exterior. It doesn’t need a gas supply line or a chimney. All you need is a standard wall outlet.
Many manufacturers offer an app you can download that enables smartphone control. Nearly as many of these manufacturers offer their smart control app as an upgrade with a purchase price that is over and above what you pay for the fireplace itself.
Some companies that manufacture high-quality electric fireplaces equip them with the latest technology as part of the package. For instance, MagikFlame fireplaces come complete with a hand-crafted wood surround, 30 flame styles, crackling fire sounds, and smartphone compatibility for a single cost. The app download is free.
What’s more, the same leading manufacturers that integrate this smartphone app technology into their equipment make smart use of this wireless connectivity. MagikFlame, for example, sends customers updates directly to their phones. Products that do not include the app do not facilitate this type of direct, person-to-person communication.
Smart Electric Fireplace Savings
The many ways electric zone heating helps you save include:
- Eliminating the need to purchase wood or natural gas/propane
- Requiring no expensive chimney or venting retrofit
- Offering DIY installation
- Acting as zone heaters, warming only the sq. ft in the room you are using
- Converting 100 percent of the energy they consume into home heating
Estimates of what an electric zone fireplace costs to run vary due to different utility rates and BTU output. However, at its highest setting, a 5,200-BTU fireplace like MagikFlame costs no more than 18 cents per hour to operate.
A smart electric heater brings additional savings to your monthly utility bill. Because you can control it with your smartphone, you never need to waste money again by heating up an empty room. If you did forget to turn off the fireplace before going to work, and it runs for nine hours in an unoccupied room, you would be wasting over $16.
If this doesn’t seem like much, you would be surprised how quickly the bill adds up. If you inadvertently left your fireplace on for nine hours just twice per week, you’d be paying more than $128 for wasted electricity at the end of the month. On the flip side, by switching it off with your smartphone from work, you’ll be saving $128 per month or $1,536 on your energy expenses annually.
Thus, a connected fireplace gives you much more control over your monthly budget. You have the means to adjust your home heating from wherever you happen to be. You don’t need to be within a few feet of the appliance like you do with a simple Alexa voice command system. You can be halfway across the world and still have a handle on your heating bill.
Choosing the Right Smart Fireplace
Some of the common concerns that drive homeowners searching for a smart fireplace include:
- Lowering utility bills
- Environmental impact
- Fire safety
- Air quality
- Aesthetic appeal
- Care and maintenance
A fireplace with an infrared heater is an excellent choice for lowering your utility bills. First, it is 100 percent energy efficient. In contrast, a vented gas fireplace, on average, is only about 70 percent efficient. Thirty percent of the fuel it burns goes up the chimney.
Radiant infrared heating, which warms people and objects within a room rather than the open spaces themselves, is a quicker, more efficient way to heat an enclosed space.
When weighing your environmentally friendly options, look for an electric fireplace with a radiant infrared heater, such as MagikFlame. It converts up to 1,000 sq. ft of living area to a cozy oasis of warmth.
The modern fireplace you ultimately purchase should completely quell your safety concerns. You should never have to open up the firebox to add fuel, so there is no chance of dangerous flying sparks.
The fireplace exterior should not become hot to the touch, so it doesn’t endanger your children or pets. You should be able to place items on the mantel, knowing they won’t get overheated or combust.
When it comes to air quality concerns, an electric fireplace is risk-free. No combustion equals zero emissions. Unlike a vent-free gas stove, which emits small amounts of toxins into your living space, an electric fireplace like MagikFlame does not. You don’t have to compromise the health and well-being of your household to enjoy a cozy, crackling fire.
Because no actual combustion takes place in electric fireplaces, manufacturers use various strategies to simulate them. LED lights reflecting off a spinning refraction device is one method. Some use steam or chemicals to mimic actual flames.
MagikFlame is the only company that employs a patented HoloFlame technology to recreate the reality of flames within its firebox. Glowing embers, realistic flames and crackling sounds provide you with the complete experience of a wood fire without the emissions, mess, and environmental impact of conventional wood fires. You can even add faux stone for a more rustic design.
Faux stone notwithstanding, if you still aren’t sold on the aesthetics of a non-combusting fireplace, look at your options in person. Not all flames are created equal. Your most realistic options will become immediately clear. Technology such as HoloFlame makes an aesthetic impact that will astonish you.
All of these benefits – energy efficiency, zero environmental impact, safety, and aesthetic appeal – may still not be enough to convince you. You don’t want to add another home maintenance worry to your already full plate. Rest assured, though, that the best in electric units is maintenance-free. All you have to do is dust it off as needed and enjoy.