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How Does an Electric Fireplace Insert Work?

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There is an increasing movement among people with homes that have a traditional fireplace. Instead of burning wood inside of the traditional fireplace in their living room, they are making the decision to convert it into a fireplace that is completely electric.

For some people, this may seem odd. Why change a perfectly good fireplace into an electric one? It’s understandable why some people might think this way. Traditional wood burning fireplaces give us a sense of nostalgia while providing warmth and ambiance. What if I told you that the same wood burning atmosphere can be captured perfectly well by a deluxe electric fireplace? Also, what if I told you that this electric fireplace can fit directly into the fireplace opening of your wood fireplace, and look seamless all at the same time?

If this sounds interesting to you and you want to learn more, this post is going to cover many things about installing an electric fireplace insert into your existing fireplace that you probably didn’t already know. Read on.

This Post Covers The Following Items:

  • What Types of Non-Electric Fireplaces Are There? – There are a few different types of wood fireplaces. Some of these types you can convert into another type of fireplace. Some of these types you can’t. If you have an old wood-burning fireplace, check here to see if yours is one that can be converted with an electric insert.
  • What Types of Electric Fireplaces Are There? – An electric fireplace insert is only one type of electric fireplace. Learn about the several other types of electric fireplaces that there are. It’s possible that one of these other fireplaces might actually be a better choice for your home.
  • Why Is It Converting A Fireplace Into An Electric One Such A Good Idea? – For those of you that are having trouble making up their mind about converting their old fireplace into an electric one, this section will give you all the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
  • Instead of a Fireplace Conversion, Can I Put An Insert Under A Third Party Mantle? – For those of you that don’t need to do a conversion, but already have a mantle or know one that you want to get, this section will talk about the possibility of installing an electric insert into one of these third party mantles or even a mantle you built yourself as a DIY project.
  • Is Installing Electric Fireplace Inserts Difficult? – If you aren’t sure if you need to hire an expensive professional to install your electric insert or if you can do it yourself, this section is for you.
  • What Is The Process Electric Fireplaces Use To Make Heat? – So how do these electric fireplaces actually work to make heat and is it enough to thoroughly warm the entire home? Here we will go into all of the details of how electric fireplaces make heat and also how well they work.
  • What Is The Process Electric Fireplaces Use To Create The Visual Effects? – From Dimplex to MagikFlame and more, there are many brands of electric fireplaces and they all have different flame technology. Visual effects are important if you really care about a true fireplace experience, so this section will highlight the ways electric fireplaces the realistic flames of a real fireplace.
  • Tell Me More About MagikFlame Electric Fireplaces – Since MagikFlame are the only fireplace on the market to have realistic 3D Holoflame technology, this section will tell you everything you need to know about these powerful fireplaces.

What Types of Non-Electric Fireplaces Are There?

n this section, we will cover all the types of fireplaces that don’t run on electricity that you might already have in your living room. This can be a wood or a gas fireplace. We will also talk about whether they are something that you can do an electric fireplace conversion on them if that is what you have in your home.

First, here are the wood fireplace types:

  • Fireplaces With An Open Hearth – The most common type of wood-fuel fireplace is the open hearth fireplace. These are typical fireplaces with a large open firebox for you to build up logs to burn. These are the least energy efficient. They go through a large amount of wood while keeping a home warm. When installing electric inserts to convert them, these are the easiest to install them in because they slide right into the existing firebox. As long as the firebox is clean and nothing is inside, then the electric insert should fit in without any problems or extra work needed.
  • Enclosed Fireplace – An enclosed fireplace is one where the hearth isn’t open. Instead, it is completely enclosed, usually with a glass door on the front. For some of these systems, the heat output is actually a bit better due to more efficient burning of the wood. If you completely remove these fireplaces, you should be able to install an electric fireplace insert into the wall cavity that is leftover.
  • Fireplace Insert – Not to be confused with the electric inserts, these are fireplace inserts that are to turn an open hearth fireplace into an enclosed fireplace that still burns wood. People usually do this to make it slightly more efficient. Because these are inserts themselves, removing them should allow them to install an insert just like an enclosed fireplace.
  • Wood Stove – Technically, a wood stove isn’t really a fireplace. However, it is commonly in the same category as them because it is an internal appliance that burns wood like a fireplace. These are usually freestanding units with a door on front and a venting pipe leading the the roof and out of the home. As the wood placed inside burns, the entire stove becomes extremely hot. This radiates heat to warm the space around it. Because the stove is so hot, the flat top of the stove can be used to cook food by placing pots and pans directly on it. These are usually only found in cabins or other dwellings without electricity. However, if you have one of these in your home and want to do an electrical fireplace conversion, there isn’t much you can do. You are better off removing the stove completely and purchasing an complete electrical fireplace unit that comes with a mantle or is a wall mount unit.
  • Gas Direct-Vented – As the name implies, these fireplaces need ventilation due to the gas that is used for them. Along with that, you get a flame color that is somewhat similar to the flame color of a normal fireplace.
  • Gas Ventless – These fireplaces use a gas or propane that doesn’t need ventilation. With that lack of ventilation comes a price: the flame color will usually be a weird blueish color.

What Types of Electric Fireplaces Are There?

Here are the typical electric fireplaces homeowners put in their homes:

  • Electric Mantle Unit – A mantle unit is when the electrical fireplace comes with a mantle that surrounds it. These mantle units usually come disconnected so that you can pick out a mantle style that fits the interior design style of your home. Within this type of fireplace there are two subtypes: wall units that sit on the ground but up against a flat wall and corner units that sit on the ground tucked into a corner.
  • TV Stand Fireplace – Sometimes, people have slightly less space in the room where they want their fireplace and choose to get a two in one entertainment center and fireplace.
  • Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace – This fireplace does exactly what it says it does. You can mount it on the wall, similarly to a TV. You mount it with brackets that attach to the wooden studs inside of your wall for a secure hold. With these fireplaces, you don’t have to just hang them, you can also install them into the wall so that it is fully recessed or just partially recessed.
  • Freestanding Unit – Basically, one of these units is no different than a standard space heater. The big difference here is that the unit has been built to look more like a fireplace. While these are very convenient because you can easily move them from room to room, they usually don’t work nearly as well as a full fireplace unit and the sq. ft. area they can keep warm is very limited.
  • Electric Fireplace Insert – This is the unit that you are most likely thinking about using to convert a non-electric fireplace into one that is electric. For many companies, these inserts are the same fireplace as the mantle unit above, simply without the mantle. Because of this, you can often get these inserts if you want to use it with a different mantle than the ones the fireplace manufacturer offers. Of course, this will be dependent on the dimensions of the fireplace and the inner wall of the mantle.

Why Is It Converting A Fireplace Into An Electric One Such A Good Idea?

If you have one of the wood fireplaces listed above that have the ability to be converted, you should be aware of how many downsides there are to using these fireplaces as your main heat source. The downsides include:

  • It Is a Fire Hazard – Soot building up in the flue of the chimney is one of the biggest fire hazards in a home with these fireplaces. Soot is flammable. As it builds up, more and more fuel is ready to start a fire. This is why people have to get their chimneys swept out by a professional several times per year. Even if you are good about cleaning the chimney, there is still a chance that a log on fire can fall into the room and catch something on fire. Sometimes even a random floating ember can float away and hit something combustible.
  • It Is a Chore To Operate and Maintain – Just to start warming your house, you have to build a fire. Every day you need to do the chore of cleaning out the ash from the firebox. Just to keep the fire burning hot enough, you have to regularly move logs around for better airflow or put additional logs on when they burn out.
  • It Can Cost You a Lot Of Money In Wood – Unless you are living in the middle of your own forest with plenty of wood to spare, you’ll likely need to buy quite a lot of wood if you want to stay warm all winter. All of these piles of wood will add up to a heaving price to heat your home, not to mention even finding enough space to store your unused firewood.
  • Risk of Smoke Inhalation or Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – While a good amount of the smoke and carbon monoxide vents out through the chimney, there is always a little bit that makes it way into your home. This can cause some serious health concerns and if it is really bad, can even be lethal. On top of the health concern, there is an unpleasant smoky smell that is alway in your house when your fireplace is burning. It can also linger and cause your furniture to smell bad even days or weeks later.

Some people think that the solution to getting away from the pain of a wood-fuel fireplace is to get a fireplace that is fueled by gas. This comes with its own set of annoying problems:

  • Terribly Coloring – It is almost impossible to find any gas fireplaces that have flame colors that look right. When you have a direct vented fireplace, the gas can look orange like a real fireplace, but the orange is almost neon and never looks quite right. When you have a vent-free fireplace, the color is blue. This completely lacks any authenticity and while the blue glow might intrigue some, most eventually regret it after having it for a while.
  • Flames That Don’t Flicker – Even if the gas fireplaces in question have a log set in the bottom of them, the flames still don’t ever seem to flicker like real fireplaces do. There is just a weak stream of fire that has more in common with a Bunsen burner than a roaring fire.
  • Still A Safety Issue – Yes, these are quite a bit safer than wood fireplaces, but they still have their concerns. A flame is still present, this means there is always a risk of something catching on fire around the fireplace and turning into something very dangerous. Gas can also produce some carbon monoxide which is why some units require ventilation. There is no smoky smell like wood fireplaces, but that is instead replaced with a bad gassy smell.

Because of all of these issues, it is always a better idea to use an electric fireplace insert to transform wood or gas fireplaces into a high quality electrical fireplace. Here are many of the benefits you can look forward to:

  • Hassle-Free – You don’t have to deal with any of the hassle or work that wood fireplaces are known for. It is as easy as turning your fireplace on and going about your day.
  • No Safety Worries – You have peace of mind that nothing is burning in your home or causing toxic emissions to fill the air inside of your house.
  • Remote Access – Electric fireplaces come with a remote control. Some high end ones have their own smartphone app that you can also use with a tablet. The remote control can easily set the thermostat to a temperature that meets your level of comfort. If your fireplace comes with more than one flame effect, then you can choose whatever flame effect fits your mood.
  • Supplemental Heat – If you have a home with a lot of square feet, like a large house with many rooms, you can get more than one fireplace and use them as a zone heating setup. For high end fireplaces, the electric fireplace heater can usually handle 1,000 or more square feet. So just space the fireplaces in your home in different rooms or about 2,000 sq. ft. apart for extremely large homes. By doing this, you only have to turn on fireplaces when you are in that zone and leave doors shut between them. You will use much less energy this way keeping yourself warm. With this setting, there is no need to use an expensive HVAC central heating system in the winter.
  • Big Savings – Whether you only need one fireplace for your entire house or you set up zone heating like mentioned above, you will have a lot of savings on your heating bill. The savings can eventually add up to cover the cost of the electrical fireplace you bought in the first place.
  • Realistic Experience – The best electric fireplaces offer a realistic simulation that is hard to tell it isn’t an actual wood-fuel fireplace.

Instead of a Fireplace Conversion, Can I Put An Insert Under A Third Party Mantle?

Yes, if you were to get a mantle that you prefer from a third party, it is easy to install an insert under one of these. You just need to check the dimensions before so that you can make sure it is a pretty close fit. It is okay if the insert is slightly smaller than the mantle opening, but it isn’t okay if it is too big.

You can also place an insert into a mantle that you have custom built yourself. In this case, built the mantle to perfectly fit the insert you will be buying.

Is Installing Electric Fireplace Inserts Difficult?

Yes, most of the time. You just slip it into the old fireplace, plug-in to a 120 volt outlet and you are ready to go. With many plug-in fireplaces, you can also hardwire it directly as well.

If you need to first remove an enclosed fireplace, this can take a bit more time but is still relatively easy.

What Is The Process Electric Fireplaces Use To Make Heat?

Air is sucked in from the room where a heating element, like an infrared quartz heater, warms the air. After the infrared heater warms the air, it is then pushed back into the room through a quiet blower. This process works very quickly.

What Is The Process Electric Fireplaces Use To Create The Visual Effects?

How electric fireplaces produce simulated flames depends on the company and model. There are many brands to choose from: MagikFlame, Dimplex, ClassicFlame, DuraFlame, and more. While some of these are available on Amazon, not all of them are available on Amazon and need to be bought directly from the company. Also, be sure to get a brand name fireplace, not a cheap generic fireplace that you find on Amazon. People always regret doing that.

While the name DuraFlame is known because of their fire starting logs, the two most popular brands on this list are Dimplex and MagikFlame. Dimplex has a few decent models, the Dimplex Opti Myst, the Dimplex XHD, and the Dimplex Revillusion. While the XHD and Revillusion have their own technologies, the Opti Myst uses water vapor with colored lights projecting onto it to simulate a 3D fire.

However, if you want the best electric fireplace visual effects, you want a MagikFlame product. Inside of the electric firebox of these products, there sits a fireplace log set where completely realistic hologram flames are projected onto them. They flicker and even have embers that float around.

Tell Me More About MagikFlame Electric Fireplaces

MagikFlame fireplaces have three very impressive features that easily make them the best choice to go with:

  • 30 holographic flickering flames to choose from.
  • Realistic crackling log sounds to make the fire feel even more real.
  • An internal 5,200 BTU heater that can push out a lot of heat to meet your needs.

Check out a few of MagikFlame’s products, including their insert if that is what you are in the most need of for a fireplace conversion:

Here are some more resources regarding MagikFlame:

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