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Are electric fireplaces safe?

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Electric fireplace safety tips

If you’re building a new home or refurbishing your living space, you might be considering your options in terms of heating. Electric fireplaces have become a popular choice in place of traditional wood-burning fireplaces because they’re easy to install and operate.

An electric fireplace heater is designed to look like a traditional wood-burning fireplace. However, it uses electricity to generate heat and is flameless. Electric fireplace heaters are very safe to use, but there are some safety features and tips you should know. We rounded up the best electric fireplace picks for you to consider, too.

Shop this article: R.W. Flame Recessed and Wall-Mounted Electric FireplaceXbeauty Electric Fireplace Freestanding Stove and Walker Edison Wren Classic 58-Inch Fireplace Entertainment Center

How do electric fireplaces work?

An electric heated fireplace uses electricity to run, either by plugging into an outlet or being wired into the wall. There are two main types of heating methods used in electric fireplaces:

  • Forced fan: This type of electric fireplace uses electricity to heat up metal coils. A fan system then blows over the coils to distribute the heat out into the room.
  • Infrared quartz: Rather than blowing hot air, this type of fireplace uses infrared light to generate heat.

Generally, forced fan fireplaces work better for smaller rooms while infrared quartz fireplaces are more effective for heating large spaces. Another benefit of infrared quartz is that it won’t dry out the air in the room, while forced fan fireplaces tend to reduce the humidity level.

Electric fireplaces do not use flames. However, most of them use LED lighting and mirrors to simulate flickering, realistic flames just like a traditional fireplace.

Types of electric fireplaces

  • Freestanding electric fireplaces are typically portable, to a certain extent. The downside is that, since they take up floor space, they're not suitable for small rooms.
  • Electric fireplace inserts are installed inside a fireplace opening, so they take up less space and work better in smaller rooms. Many options have a sleek and modern look to them.
  • Electric fireplace mantels are the most traditional-looking models, typically with a ledge that you can decorate with ornaments and other knick-knacks. 
  • Corner electric fireplaces are great for taking advantage of empty corners and saving space in a room. 
  • Electric fireplace TV stands double as heaters and support for a TV. Some also include cabinets for extra media storage.

Pros of electric fireplaces

There are many benefits to choosing an electric fireplace, including:

  • Ease of use: With an electric fireplace, you don’t need to worry about stoking the fire and waiting a long time to feel the heat. Operating an electric fireplace is as simple as turning on a switch. Unlike a real fire, it’s also easy to turn the heat up or down as needed with a remote control. You can even use a timer to turn your electric fireplace on and off automatically at specific times. With some fireplaces, the remote control also lets you adjust flame brightness and intensity.
  • Ease of installation: Traditional wood-burning fireplaces require chimneys or vents. Unless your house already has a chimney, this can be an expensive installation and you may be limited as to where you can place it. Electric fireplaces, however, can be installed almost anywhere as long as you can connect them to a power source.
  • Low maintenance: Traditional fireplaces need to be cleaned out after every use and chimneys require regular inspections and cleaning. Electric fireplaces require little to no maintenance other than regular dusting.
  • No smoke or fumes: Electric fireplaces do not emit any smoke or pollution into the air. The lack of soot and ash also keeps your furniture and carpets safe from staining.

Cons of electric fireplaces

Traditional wood-burning fireplaces do have some advantages over an electric fireplace, including:

  • Energy consumption: With wood-burning fireplaces, you need a stock of logs to burn. But apart from that, it doesn’t cost you anything to put on a fire. With electric fireplaces, you’ll see the cost reflected in your energy bills and the cost can be high depending on how frequently you use it.
  • Electricity dependency: Electric fireplaces can only be used when you have power. During blackouts or bad weather, you may find yourself without electricity and, therefore, unable to use your fireplace.
  • Reduced ambiance: It comes down to a matter of preference, but many people prefer real flames, crackling sounds and the wood-burning scent from a real fire. While an electric fireplace can replicate these things, it’s not quite the same as the real deal.

Are electric fireplaces safer than space heaters?

Electric fireplaces and space heaters work almost exactly the same way. The difference is the level of heat and flame effects you can get with an electric fireplace.

So, space heaters are not inherently more dangerous than electric fireplaces. However, the ability to move a space heater around easily makes them more prone to being used incorrectly.

How to use your electric fireplace safely

Electric fireplaces are very safe due to the safety standards applied to electrical appliances today. But, like any electric appliance, they present a fire risk. So, to use your electric fireplace safely, make sure you:

  • Get an overheat auto-off feature: Most electric fireplaces have this feature as standard. It means the fireplace will automatically switch itself off if the fireplace begins to overheat and has an increased risk of sparking a fire.
  • Do not leave the fireplace unattended: It’s a good rule of thumb that electrical appliances shouldn’t be left in use when you’re not home. Keep electric fireplaces off while you’re out and switch them off before you go to bed.
  • Keep flammable materials away: Electric fireplaces should not be used to warm or dry clothes. Keep decorations away from the heating element and make sure nothing flammable hangs off the mantel and onto the fireplace.

Best electric fireplaces

SEI Furniture Canyon Heights Faux Stacked Stone Electric Fireplace

This electric fireplace with mantel looks exactly like a traditional wood-burning fireplace, complete with a stacked stone effect. It can provide heat for rooms up to 400 square feet in size and lifelike imitations of flames and embers.

R.W. Flame Recessed and Wall-Mounted Electric Fireplace

If you want a more modern electric fireplace, this sleek 36-inch model fits into wall recesses and comes with a remote control for flame brightness and color. With this electric fireplace insert, you can choose between 12 different flame color modes and five flame speed modes to set your preferred mood. The brand also offers large electric fireplace options up to 68 inches wide.

Xbeauty Electric Fireplace Freestanding Stove

This freestanding electric fireplace stove is portable, so you can move it around the home and take it with you if you move. A thermostat lets you adjust the temperature and the auto shut-off ensures the fireplace won’t overheat.

Walker Edison Wren Classic 58-Inch Fireplace Entertainment Center

This rustic electric fireplace TV stand accommodates TVs up to 65 inches, featuring a small electric fireplace with two adjustable shelves. The engineered wood entertainment center has a richly textured surface, available in 12 neutral finishes. This electric fireplace cabinet comes in 58-, 70- and 80-inch versions. 

Ameriwood Home Overland Electric Corner Fireplace

This electric corner fireplace is built from engineered wood with a rustic brown finish, accented by faux stone around the insert. There are six storage cubbies, and the mantel accommodates TVs up to 50 inches wide. You can choose from three brightness settings and adjust the temperature with the included remote control or use the panel on the front of the insert.

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Lauren Farrell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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