Buyer’s Guide: Electric Fireplaces
Bring warmth and ambiance to your home—the easy way—with an electric fireplace. Ahead, get top tips for navigating the many options.
If you long for the glowing warmth of a crackling fire but installing a gas or wood-burning fireplace would be impractical in your home, consider an electric alternative. Unlike gas and wood fireplaces that require chimneys for ventilation, electric fireplaces can be installed in any room—no vent needed. They don’t create fumes or soot, which makes them safer than traditional fireplaces, and yet their flickering flames are remarkably realistic. They can be quite affordable, too.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of an electric fireplace, keep reading to learn the most important shopping considerations—and don’t miss our favorites among the best electric fireplace options on the market.
- TRADITIONAL PICK: SEI Furniture Calvert Alexa-Enabled Smart Electric Fireplace
- RECESSED PICK: Valuxhome Electric Fireplace
- STOVE-STYLE PICK: Duraflame 3D Infrared Electric Fireplace Stove
While a handful of today’s electric fireplaces are for looks only, meaning they produce light but no heat, the majority generate warmth in much the same way a space heater does. Some come with thermostats to help maintain a steady temperature in the room, while others feature basic settings, such as “Low,” “Medium,” or “High.” All electric fireplaces offer the illusion of flickering flames, but heat options come in three basic types.
- Fan-Type Electric: Many of the electric fireplaces on the market today are fan-type models that heat a room by blowing air over a series of hot coils and out of one or more vents located along the bottom or sides of the unit. Fan-type fireplaces offer supplemental heat for rooms up to 450 square feet in size.
- Infrared: Rather than heat the air, infrared fireplaces heat the objects in the room. Like the rays of the sun, infrared heat is heated light, warming whatever it shines upon. Infrared fireplaces can heat rooms up to 1,000 square feet, but you must be in the direct line of its light rays to feel the warmth.
- Convection: Electric convection fireplaces allow air to circulate naturally. Cool air enters through a vent near the bottom, flows upward over the heated ceramic plates, and then flows out through an upper vent into the room. Some convection fireplaces come with a fan to help direct the flow of air, and they can heat rooms up to 600 square feet. Electric convection fireplaces without fans heat a smaller area near the fireplace itself and are best suited to rooms without drafts.
The Illusion of Fire
Advances in LED light technology, in combination with the use of small rolling mirrors, create the illusion of genuine flames in today’s electric fireplaces. But why stop at realism? Some units let you select flame color, such as gold to match holiday decor or green for a spring look; you can even choose purple or pink flames to match your décor or to set a specific mood.
Installation and Design
Easy installation is a big selling point of electrical fireplaces. They simply plug into a wall outlet. The caveat, however, is that an electric fireplace that produces heat should only be plugged into a dedicated outlet.
Most models require very little else in the way of installation:
- Wall-mounted fireplaces resemble flat-screen TVs and can be hung via brackets (usually included).
- Recessed units, similar in appearance to wall-mounted panels, are designed to fit into a wall cavity, so that the surface will be flush with the wall. This involves cutting into and re-framing wall studs to accommodate the unit.
- Freestanding mantle fireplaces mimic the look of traditional fireplaces, complete with mantles and hearths made from a variety of materials, including medium-density fiberboard (MDF), plywood, hardwood, and even slate or ceramic. They can be positioned along a wall to look as if they are built in place. Mantle fireplaces also come in corner configurations to fit into the corner of a room.
- Freestanding stove-type fireplaces offer the rustic look of a wood cookstove and can be positioned anywhere in the room.
While electric fireplaces are pretty straightforward, you can find some fun bells and whistles, such as:
- Remote controls.
- Programmable timers that turn the fireplace off after you fall asleep, or turn it on before you wake up in the morning. – Touchscreen controls.
- Nightlight features that emit the softest glow.
- Bluetooth speakers to play the sound of a crackling fire or your favorite tunes.
Our Top Picks
1. TRADITIONAL PICK: SEI Furniture Calvert Alexa-Enabled Smart Electric Fireplace
The SEI Furniture Calvert Alexa-Enabled Smart Electric Fireplace combines the convenience of electric heat with the look of a traditional wood-burning fireplace. This freestanding, fan-type fireplace features a classic mantle and elegant floral trim and it offers supplemental heat for rooms up to 400 square feet. It comes with a remote and features a thermostat, a programmable timer, and adjustable flames. It stands 40.25-inches high, 44.5 inches wide, and has a depth of 14 inches.
2. MODERN PICK: Valuxhome Electric Fireplace
For supplemental heat and a sleek look, it’s hard to beat the Valuxhome Electric Fireplace. This fan-type electric fireplace features “High” and “Low” heat settings, a timer, and a remote control, and it heats rooms up to 450 square feet. The panel—which recesses into the wall to sit almost flush with the wall surface—is 60 inches long, 21.65 inches high, and 5.5 inches deep.
3. STOVE-STYLE PICK: Duraflame 3D Infrared Electric Fireplace Stove
For the traditional style of a wood-burning stove without the hassle, the Duraflame 3D Infrared Electric Fireplace Stove fits the bill. This little infrared fireplace is a powerhouse that can heat rooms up to 1,000 square feet. It’s patent-pending 3D flames realistically mimic a real wood fire, and the unit comes with an adjustable thermostat and a remote control.