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What Are BTUs?

Working with consumer electronics or appliances and understanding all of the technical acronyms and meanings is a daunting task — including one of our favorites, BTU. 

Whether you are looking for a year-round solution for a new home, remodel, hotel, or rental property, or simply looking to add a heating system or electric heat to a living space, BTUs are the standard measure of heat output. Typically, the higher the number the more square feet the heater can warm. This can be managed with a thermostat to ensure proper temperature and comfortable usage.

What does the BTU Heater acronym stand for – what does it mean for your home?

BTUs are an acronym that can be defined as British Thermal Unit (BTU). This acronym is used globally, not just within a single geographic country such as the United Kingdom (UK). 

Additionally, in the United States, we use Fahrenheit and inches for common system measurements.

Another example, is in our normal lives at home, we try to have a daily calorie count to assist with measuring food intake and its impact on our health. 

When counting calories, we keep track of the energy we put into our bodies — we also measure by our body weight. When counting BTUs, we keep track of how much energy the electric fireplace or appliance can process heat in the room — this can include square feet.

The British Thermal Unit is a way of measuring thermal energy and it could be leveraged to assist with measuring with energy efficiency, as needed.  A single BTU is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. 

Heaters also use the BTU measurement in a couple of ways:

  • Heat Input – The amount of fuel the heater can consume per hour
  • Heat Output – Measures how much heat or other energy an appliance or electric fireplace is generating — very useful when determining if a unit heater can heat a living space

Finally, we should keep in mind another measurement — Watts or Wattage. A watt is a measure of power or the rate of energy consumption by an electrical device when it is in operation. It is calculated by multiplying the voltage x  amperes. 

How many BTUs are needed?

BTUs are an important factor when selecting an electric fireplace for the bedroom, space heater, electric heater, HVAC, air conditioner, electric garage heater, electric space heater, or another unit that is a heating or cooling system for a home and comfort zone. It’s an important factor not only for warmth and safety, but it could impact your utility bills. As it relates to electric fireplaces, MagikFlame has a useful utility bill cost calculator tool that could help identify energy savings and costs associated with operating an electric fireplace or space heater of your choosing.

How many BTUs are needed to warm a room depends primarily on the size of the space. Consider measuring the length and width of the room with a measuring tape and multiplying the numbers together to identify square footage. 

After identifying the square footage, consult a BTU chart or calculator ( has a BTU calculator) that breaks down the amount of heating or power needed to keep a cozy and comfortable living space. 

Does more BTU mean additional heating?

There is more to sizing a heater than just square footage. We have established that in some cases, higher BTUs mean more power and energy. Consider other factors to adjust the BTU total before shopping for an electric fireplace or heating unit:

  • Ceiling Height: As we think of floor square feet, we should consider the ceiling as well. When BTU recommendations are provided based on the number of feet, typically, 8-foot ceilings are used as a benchmark. If the volume of air is increased, then more BTUs are needed. Include ceiling height when calculating BTU requirements.
  • Climate: Warmer and colder climates increase the ambient air and desired temperature. Furnaces, heat pumps, and venting can help to manage the airflow and distribution. Region does matter and the number of BTUs and watts usage are impacted as well.
  • Unit Location: Sunlight may cause a unit to work harder. Consider adding 10% to the BTU total for units within direct sunlight. 
  • Insulation: Single-family homes that are new or remodeled may have lower BTU needs than the average home — as it would require less energy to heat the space. 
  • Windows: Insulating power for windows is less than insulated walls. The larger the window, the more BTUs are needed. Consider up to an additional 10% to ensure sufficient heating. Shading such as drapes or curtains should assist with light-blocking to aid living space cooling.
  • Home Layout: Smaller and compact living spaces typically use less energy. An enclosed room or space with the same square footage, but has a multi-story floor plan may need more energy than a spacious, open floor plan home. 

What happens if you don’t have enough BTUs?

If you have too few BTU’s your heater may be in-capable of heating the desired area to the preferred temperature in an efficient manner. Ensure that your space heater has enough BTU output to warm your space in possible conjunction with your HVAC equipment. Avoid exceeding power draw by doing calculations and reading many faqs for electric units to aid a bridge for any BTU gap. If there aren’t enough BTUs, it may take a very long time to warm the room. If this is the case, supplement with your home’s built-in heating system. We suggest consulting an electric fireplace expert if you have questions. Call us or a heating specialist to understand all options, which could include energy alternatives such as natural gas, propane, or another fuel type.

What does BTU mean for an electric fireplace?

As we have highlighted, there is more than square footage to consider regarding BTUs for your living space and electric utility bill. Using some of the tools we have provided or consider a load calculation service. This process could evaluate the room, the location, construction features, and living space design. 

MagikFlame electric fireplaces are freestanding or corner units that include a built-in electric heater (5,200 BTUs) that can be used as a secondary heat source up to 1,000 square feet. The portable units can estimate a heating capacity of 10-15 watts per square foot as a baseline range. The MagikFlame draws 12.5 watts when the heater is on full and less when the thermostat is turned down to a lower setting. To convert watts to BTU, multiply watts by 3.4 (use the MagikFlame cost calculator)

The MagikFlame holographic fireplace is perhaps the most modern and realistic electric fireplace on the market. This type of fireplace delivers the most lifelike authentic 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. 

Built-in models can be plugged directly into a 120V outlet and produce the desired 5,200 BTUs per hour with ease, making this electric fireplace not only efficient but aesthetically pleasing to any living space.

See more in the MagikFlame best fireplace buying guide or speak with an electric fireplace expert about more BTU, infrared heaters, blowers, and venting questions or to ask sales questions. 

Overall, when researching an electric fireplace, space heater, or gas grill, don’t let the BTU rating be the most important factor. Consider BTUs as a primary factor that is influenced by several secondary factors. If a capable heater along with a real flame aesthetic is a key factor then consider a MagikFlame fireplace. 

The primary cooking area or family room and the number of BTUs per square foot are important in any buying decision. To make an informed decision, consider the unit features, including the warranty before putting down your credit card. The BTU metric is a fuel and energy efficiency measurement.  Warm only the room you’re in with zone-heating to lower your utility bills with your new-found knowledge of this technical term.

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