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Just because your home doesn’t have a built-in wood-burning fireplace doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy warmth, romantic crackle, and the mesmerizing dance of flames. Today’s electric fireplaces not only look realistic and provide heat, they are free of traditional fireplaces’ danger and mess. With an electric fireplace, there is no smoke, ash, or firewood, and there is no worry about falling asleep while the fire’s still crackling.
But choosing an electric fireplace can be tough. There are so many models available and details and features to understand before bringing home your faux flames. Where should you begin?
Just start here. At BestReviews, we make shopping easy. We do the research, test the products, get tips from the experts, and interview real-life customers, so you don’t have to. Because we never accept free products or perks from manufacturers you can trust that our reviews are unbiased, honest, and accurate, always.
If you’re ready to relax in front of a fire without the bother of ashes, flues, fire-starters, or piles of wood, check out the matrix above for our top five electric fireplaces. Or read on for everything you need to know about choosing an electric fireplace, before you click buy.
Electric fireplaces have two basic heating systems: forced fan and infrared quartz.
These units have a fan that blows over heated coils, sending warm air out into the room. Forced-fan fireplaces produce around 4,600 BTUs of heat and are best for spaces up to 400 square feet.
These units are more high-tech. Instead of hot coils, they use infrared light, not to heat the air but to transmit warmth directly to the objects near the fireplace. Infrared-quartz units pump out up to 9,600 BTUs of heat and are a good choice for larger rooms, generally up to 1,000 square feet. Another benefit of infrared-quartz fireplaces is that they don’t reduce the room’s humidity level.
While electric fireplaces do produce cozy heat, they don’t warm much beyond their immediate area. Consider your fireplace a source of supplemental warmth, not a major part of your home’s heating system.
While even a few years back, the flames of electric fireplaces were rather unconvincing, today you’ll find units so realistic you might worry about burning your hand in the flames. (Don’t worry, you can’t.)
There are a variety of methods used to simulate the “flames.” Most often a colored LED bulb shines onto a mirrored, spinning “rotisserie” that bounces the light into random patterns that resemble the flickering of real flames.
Most electric fireplaces allow you to adjust the flame effect from a soft glow to a roaring fire.
Typically, you can run your electric fireplace with or without heat. No need to forego the beauty of dancing flames just because it’s hot outside; simply turn off the heat and enjoy the cool “fire.”
There’s an electric fireplace that’s right for your home no matter what your décor or existing layout. Let’s take a look at the many different styles that are available.
Plug-in inserts fill an existing fireplace that already has a mantel.
These electric fireplaces are plug-in units fitted into a television/entertainment center.
Perfect for an existing, unused gas or electric fireplace, these units resemble real logs piled on a grate. They slip right into the existing fireplace and plug into the nearest wall outlet.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Touchstone 50-Inch Onyx
Top-of-the-line performance aside, the Touchstone 50-Inch Onyx is truly a sight to behold. Imposing but not dominant, with five different flame and brightness settings, it’s no wonder owners have installed the Touchstone in dens, studies, lounges, and bedrooms – just about anywhere you can think of. Its auto-off timer can be set anywhere from 30 minutes to eight hours. Several customers we surveyed were so happy with this unit that they bought another. It’s tough to beat that kind of customer satisfaction at any price.
As the name suggests, these units come with their own mantel and look like traditional fireplaces.
These compact fireplaces are a great choice for small rooms.
Electric stove fireplaces resemble old-fashioned wood-burning stoves.
Mounted on a wall, these sleek fireplaces add contemporary style to a room.
Most electric fireplaces plug into a standard 120-volt outlet. A few require a 240-volt outlet, however, so be sure to check before buying. Plug your fireplace directly into the wall outlet, not an extension cord or power strip.
If you want to run the fireplace without heating the room, or if you want supplemental heat without the flame effect, this is a necessary feature.
This allows you to adjust the intensity of the “flames,” from a small flicker to a roaring fire.
A thermostat adjusts the amount of heat your electric fireplace emits.
As with any fireplace, keep flammable objects a safe distance away.
With a timer, you can set your fireplace to run as long as you’d like. It will automatically shut off when the time is up.
A brightness control lets you dim the flames to a soft glow or brighten them to an intense light.
Just about every electric fireplace includes a remote control. However, some merely have an on/off switch, while others also let you control flame intensity, heat level, and brightness.
Just like real fireplaces, electric fireplaces come in a variety of widths and heights, so choose the size that best balances your room: a larger unit in a large room, a smaller unit in a small space.
This safety feature switches the fireplace off if it begins to overheat.
Although electric fireplaces don’t have real flames, they can heat up the glass or fireplace housing. With a cool-touch unit, the glass won’t get hot, which is an important safety feature if you have pets or children.
Some electric fireplaces include an air purifier to filter out dust, allergens, pet dander, and mold.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
AKDY 28-Inch Electric Firebox
The AKDY 28-Inch Electric Firebox has a large, curved glass front, logs, and an ember bed that will complement many different decors. If you have an existing standard fireplace, this insert will fit like a glove. The single-stage fan is adjustable and controlled by a thermostat. Owners say the fireplace is quiet and warm. And with the remote control, you can set the temperature, adjust the brightness, and turn the fireplace on and off from the comfort of your armchair or even your bed.
Measure the space where you want your fireplace to go, including clearance of nearby windows, doorways, or walkways. You don’t want to find out too late that your fireplace is too large — or too small — for the location.
If your space is limited, a wall-mounted or corner unit gives the benefit of a fireplace without requiring much room.
Make sure your home’s electrical wiring can handle the fireplace. Most electric fireplaces simply plug into a regular outlet. However, some require installation that is more extensive.
What is your decorating style? There are electric fireplaces in every design, ranging from primitive to modern.
Most electric fireplaces have 700 to 1,500 watts. For a small room, 700 watts is sufficient. But you’ll want a 1,500-watt unit if your room is large.
If you are a renter, or want a unit that can be moved from room to room, choose a small, portable fireplace. Mantels are usually heavy and difficult to move, so these units are best for a permanent location.
Electric fireplaces are great for renters. No permanent installation is required, many are small in size, and when it’s time to move, you can take the fireplace with you.
You can find electric fireplaces for as little as $150.
On the other end of the spectrum, some high-end models cost close to $1,000.
In general, for a fireplace with good features, a realistic flame, and an attractive appearance, the sweet spot is $200 to $500.
Q. Are any permits required to install an electric fireplace?
A. Nope, just plug in and enjoy. Wired-in, permanently placed units might require the services of an electrician for installation, however.
Q. Do electric fireplaces require a vent or a chimney?
A. No, that’s one of the beauties of these devices. No vent is necessary, and there is no smoke or fumes to pollute the air.
Q. Do electric fireplaces require a lot of maintenance?
A. Other than occasional dusting of the mantel and outside surfaces, an electric fireplace is nearly maintenance-free.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.