How To Choose An Electric Fireplace – Key Considerations – Ultimate Buying Guide

Have you ever craved the luxury of a traditional wood or gas burning fireplace but not had the ability to install one? This is a common issue for many people who’s homes didn’t already have a fireplace built in.

The fact is that getting a traditional fireplace built into your home can be very expensive and requires special permits. Even some people who have old fireplaces built into their homes don’t use them because they are in disrepair or downright dangerous.

This is where an electric fireplace becomes a viable alternative. Electric fireplaces are safe, inexpensive and don’t require and special permits.

In the following guide we will be telling you about the different types of fireplaces available to you. We will also go over some important considerations to make before deciding on one. Some of the initial considerations include the size of the room to be heated and how the unit will receive power.

How do Electric Fireplaces Work?

As the name implies, these appliances run off of electricity. Depending on the model, you can simply plug it into a standard electrical outlet or hard wire it into the electrical system of your home. They use an independent heating element to raise the ambient temperature in a room.

They also mimic the ambiance and visual effect of actual flames. Using one or more rows of LED lights that project onto an internal screen, electric fireplaces imitate the look and movement of actual flames. So you get the heating factor and the visual factor without having to burn gas or logs.

You can use the heater independently from the replicated flames and vice versa. No wood chopping or burning of gas or logs required.

Things to Consider When Buying an Electric Fireplace

While the basic concept of these appliance is fairly simple, there is a lot to think about when it comes time to actually shop for and buy one. Some of the most important considerations to take into account include:

  • Realism – How real do you want the flames to look? Different models will provide different depth in terms of the realism of the flames
  • Room Size – If you want an electric fireplace for it’s heating capabilities, consider the size of the room that is to be heated. Some fireplaces can heat small 400 square foot rooms while larger models can heat 1000 sq. ft. rooms.
  • Power Supply – Some models can be plugged into a standard outlet while others need to be hard wired.
  • Periphery Features – There are models that come with thermostat control and remote control.
  • Budget – The price for these appliances ranges greatly so carefully consider what you are comfortable spending.


Inset/Insert Electric Fireplace

Best Choice


Suite Electric Fireplace

Best Premium


Stove Electric Fireplace

Best Value


Types of Electric Fireplace

Inset/Insert Electric Fireplace

An inset or insert electric fireplace is designed to fit within your existing fireplace or inside a cavity in the wall of roughly the same size.


  • Less Space – Since you would use an existing cavity in your wall, these types of fireplaces don’t tale up space.
  • No Smoke – As a type of electric fireplace, an inset or insert fireplace will not generate any intrusive smoke.
  • Realism – Because they can be set in your existing fireplace, they give a realistic feel and function.


  • Installation – If you don’t have an existing fireplace you may have to use a spacer kit which complicates installation.
  • Power Limitations – You may not have a nearby outlet to supply power to your inset electric fireplace.

Inset electric fireplaces are naturally great for anyone who already has a defunct fireplace in their home. They are great for heating medium sized rooms and are fairly energy efficient.

Overall Rating: 95/100

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Suite Electric Fireplace

Suite electric fireplaces can run off of either gas or electricity. They come with a hearth, an inset fire, a mantle and a back panel.


  • Easy Setup – Suite fireplaces usually include everything you need to start enjoying your fireplace right away.
  • Realistic Look – These units are made to accurately mimic not only flames; but traditional fireplaces as well.
  • Many Options – These types of units come in many styles and materials to match the décor of many homes.


  • May Require Inset – If you want the flame to be recessed into the wall, additional work will need to be done.
  • Price – Suite electric fireplaces can be more expensive than some other kinds.

A suite electric fireplace would be great for anyone who wants to complement the look and décor of their home because there are many style options to choose from. They are generally best for smaller rooms.

Overall Rating: 92/100

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Stove Electric Fireplace

Stove electric fireplaces simply mimic the look and design of a traditional wood-burning stove. They are usually freestanding.


  • Wider Viewing – Some models have doors that open up so you can see a wider view of the replicated flames.
  • Freestanding Design – Most of these models are freestanding so they can be moved from room to room.
  • No Venting – Unlike an actual wood-burning stove, you will not have to worry about ventilation.


  • Weight – A stove electric fireplace may be heavier than other types of freestanding electric fireplaces.
  • No Top Heating – Unlike actual wood-burning stoves, you can’t heat up kettles or other vessels on the top mantle.

A stove electric fireplace would be a great option if you want an old-world ambiance for your living room or bedroom. They are typically best for smaller rooms and are fairly energy efficient.

Overall Rating: 93/100

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Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace

These types can be mounted to a wall via mounting brackets. They are usually wide and thin much like a flat-screen TV.


  • Recessed Option – You can get these partially recessed into the wall as well so save even more space.
  • Plug-In or Direct Wired – While normally direct-wired, you can also find models with plug-in kits.
  • Easy Installation – In most cases, all you need to mount these fireplaces is a screwdriver, stud finder and a level.


  • Additional Work – If you want yours to be partially recessed, more tools and expertise will be needed.
  • Not Freestanding – While taking these down from the bracket isn’t too difficult, they don’t have the convenience of movement like freestanding fireplaces have.

A wall-mounted electric fireplace would be perfect for apartments or anyone who wants to save space. There is also no permanent installation required with these fireplaces.

Overall Rating: 91/100

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Basket Electric Fireplace

Basket electric fireplaces give the appearance of an open flame burning in a fire pit. Some even come with fake electric logs


  • Rustic Look – These types of electric fireplaces are great if you are going for a rustic look.
  • Ash Bed – You can get these types with replicated ash beds that are meant to mimic the look of an actual open fire.
  • Can Be Used in A Defunct Fireplace – These are freestanding fireplaces so they can be used inside your current fireplace.


  • Low Heating Capacity – Usually, these types of electric fireplaces have a low BTU output.
  • Limited Heating Space – You usually have to be pretty close to these types of fireplaces to feel the warmth.

A basket electric fireplace would be best for small areas and rooms as they are usually rated for 400 sq. ft. rooms. They would also be a great choice if you like the look of an open flame.

Overall Rating: 91/100

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Radiant Bar Electric Fireplace

radiant bar electric fireplaces are freestanding devices that use radiant heat to provide quick warmth. They can be made to mimic the look of smoldering coal or logs.


  • Energy Efficient – These tend to be some of the most energy efficient electric fireplaces on the market.
  • Freestanding – No intensive installation is required and they can easily be moved from room to room.
  • Good Heating – If you are looking for fast, ample heating for a room, radiant bar fireplaces are a good choice.


  • Realism – These types of electric fireplaces tend to look more like radiators than they do actual flames.
  • Limited Heating Range – While the heat these fireplaces give off is usually intense, it is intense only in the immediate vicinity of thee device.

These types of fireplaces would be great if you are looking to replace your current heat source in a small room. They are convenient and energy-efficient as well.

Overall Rating: 94/100

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Different Types of Heaters

Electric fireplaces can provide heat. But different models provide heat in different ways. The two main heating types are fan forced and infrared. Fan forced heaters use a fan to blow air over a heating element in order to disperse warm air throughout the room. Infrared heaters convert electricity into radiant heat and can typically heat larger areas.

Fan Forced Heaters Pros & Cons


  • Inexpensive
  • Good for small rooms
  • Even heating


  • Limited heating capacity
  • More moving components

These types of heaters would work best for people who want to heat a small room about 400 sq. ft. in size.

Infrared Heater Pros & Cons


  • Good for larger rooms
  • Fewer moving parts
  • Efficient


  • More expensive
  • Must not be blocked by objects

Infrared heated electric fireplaces would work best in large, mostly empty rooms. They are good for large, open floor plans.

Both types can be effective in different settings. For smaller rooms with more furniture, go with forced air heating. For larger rooms with less furniture, infrared would be best.

Different Types of Flames

There are even different types of replicated flames you can choose from based on the model. Here are the main types along with their pros & cons:

Dimplex Opti-Myst / Multi-Fire / Prism:

These tend to be the most realistic as they use water vapor and LED lighting to make the flames look and move true to life.


  • Looks realistic
  • Ambient effects


  • Expensive

Classic Flame 3D SpectraFire Plus:

This type of replicated flame system can be installed as an insert. The flames look a little grainy and don’t move realistically.


  • Inexpensive
  • Can be installed as an insert


  • Grainy flames

Napoleon Allure:

Electric fireplaces that use Napoleon Allure technology tend to look realistic and are typically used in wall-mounted units.


  • Realistic look
  • Great for wall-mounted units


  • Pricey

The most realistic types of electric flames tend to be Dimplex Opti-Myst / Multi-Fire / Prism as they use the most complex systems to generated replicated flames.

Electric Vs Gas Fireplace

An electric fireplace may be a safer option for you and your family but electricity can be expensive in your area. Gas fireplaces may be more affordable to run but require more maintenance.

Electric Fireplace Insert vs Wall Mount

Inserts require a cavity or an existing fireplace so they would be good for anyone with a defunct hearth. Wall mounts can be very convenient if you have limited space.

Electric Suites Fireplace vs Wall Mount

Suite fireplaces are great if you have the space and want a realistic fireplace, hearth and mantle. Wall mounted units work great in apartments and small condos.

Electric Suites Fireplace vs Insert

Inserts won’t protrude out of the wall very much so they are good if space is limited. Suites need to be pushed up against a wall so they work better in larger spaces.

Radiant Bar Electric Fireplace vs Wall Mount

Radiant bar devices are great if you need quick heating in a small room while wall mounts can be hung over a mantle, bed or other pieces of furniture.

2 Sided Vs 3 Sided Electric Fireplace

3-sided fireplaces are built-in and the flames can be seen from the right side, left side or looking straight on. 2-sided fireplaces are also built-in and usually installed in a dividing wall where the flames can be seen on either sides of the wall – also called see-through electric fireplaces.

3-sided would be good if you want to heat a single room while 2-sided would be good if you have a dividing wall you want to install a fireplace in.

What Are The Best Electric Fireplace Brands Out There To Consider?

There are two very popular and reputable brands which are Dimplex and Touchstone. Touchstone makes great wall-mounted fireplaces and Dimplex is known for making classic built-in and stand alone fireplaces.

How Much Energy Does An Electric Fireplace Consume?

If you are only using the flame function, it will cost about $0.03 to run per hour. If using both the flame and heating function, the price can be as high as 18 cents per hour.

Do They Use A Lot Of Electricity?

They usually consume about 1500 watts of power.

What is a good BTU for electric fireplace?

For larger rooms, a unit that can put out 9000-1000 BTU’s would work. For smaller rooms, you may only need about 4000 BTU’s.

Which electric fireplace gives the most heat?

Quartz infrared heaters tend to give off the most heat. But in general, hard-wired models will be able to give off a lot of heat.

What makes an electric fireplace look real?

LED lighting playing off of applied water vapor usually make for the most realistic looking and moving flames.

Best Electric Fireplace For Small Room

A basket or radiant bar electric fireplace would work well in a small room about 400 sq. ft. Though the heating capacity may be limited.

Best Electric Fireplace For Large Room

Infrared fireplaces that are hard-wired tend to work best for larger rooms about 900 sq. ft. These models tend to consume a lot of hourly energy though.

Best Electric Fireplace Insert

Homedex and Costway make some the best electric fireplace inserts although customer service may be poor with these brands and the warranty may be short.

Electric Fireplace FAQ’s

Q: Do all electric fireplaces look fake?

No. Dimplex and Prism units can look very real with different flame colors and accurate movement.

Q: Are electric fireplaces worth the money?

If you get the right size for your room, they can be very energy-efficient and heat the room better than regular wood-burning or gas fireplaces.

Q: Is There An Electric Fireplace With A Real Flame?

No. One of the main points of these appliances is to remove the danger of an active flame in the home.

Q: Are Dimplex electric fireplaces expensive to run?

Not necessarily. They make very efficient models and if you choose your size and BTU output carefully, you will find that they aren’t very expensive to run.

Q: How long can an electric fireplace stay on?

You can run your electric fireplace as long as it is plugged in. However, you should try not to leave it running while sleeping and turn it off whenever it’s unnecessary for heating.

Q: Can you leave an electric fireplace plugged in?

You don’t have to as most operate with a dial, thermostat control or remote control. In fact, some are hard-wired so they’re always plugged in. But if yours is not hard-wired, it’ good practice to unplug it any time it’s not in use.

Q: What are the pros and cons of electric fireplaces?

The pros are that they mimic the look and feel of traditional wood-burning fireplaces and that they don’t require any venting because they don’t produce smoke. The cons are that they may produce uneven heating in a room and that some models look unrealistic.

Q: Do electric fireplaces have fans?

If your electric fireplace uses a forced fan heating system, it does have a fan. But only to disburse warm air throughout a room.

Q: Why is my electric fireplace not working?

One of the most common causes of electric fireplace failure is a burnt out fuse. If the remote seems to be working fine and there are no blown fuses, the problem could be with the circuit board.

Q: How do I get more heat from my fireplace?

Using a fireback, a damper or installing a fireplace door could help you generate more heat.

Q: Why does my fireplace not heat the room?

The damper may be the problem. Close it a little bit at first to see if that helps. If it doesn’t you may have to shut it completely.

Q: Can I leave an electric fireplace on all the time?

It is not advisable to leave an electric fireplace running at all times. It could burn out the device and run up your electricity bill.

Q: How large a room will a 1500 watt heater heat?

A 1500 watt heater is good for heating rooms about 150 square feet.

Q: How many BTUs do I need for a 12×12 room?

A 12 x 12 room will require about 5,000 BTU’s for even heating.

Q: How many BTUs do I need to heat a 20×20 room?

A 20 x 20 room will require between 18000 and 20000 BTU’s.

Q: Is it OK to put a TV above an electric fireplace?

In most cases, yes. Most models will exhaust heat from the front or bottom of the device so placing a TV on top should be fine.

Q: Do electric fireplaces crackle?

Some models will replicate the sound of wood crackling as it smolders in a fire. If this is a feature you want, be sure that any model you are considering comes with this sound replication feature.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! A complete and comprehensive guide to electric fireplaces. Remember to carefully measure the size of the room you want to put your electric fireplace in before you make a purchase. Match the size of your room to the BTU output of the device.

Then, consider all the different models, types and features at your disposal. If you follow this guide you’re sure to land the perfect electric fireplace so start your shopping now!