Electric fireplaces (with real looking flames)

The advantages of an electric fireplace

Electric fireplaces come in a vast array of models. It creates a nice cosy atmosphere. Gone are the days of sitting in front of the fire and staring at the flames, but the artificial ones can be made too look almost exactly like the real old models, complete with mantelpiece.

Advantages of electrical fireplaces

Electric fireplaces can now be used for heating instead of wood, gas, coal or other fuels. The advantage of it is that there are no maintenance costs involved, as you would find with the wood burning models. There are no chimneys that have to be sweeped, often in bad weather and there is no pollution from the neighbours that are using their fireplaces all at the same time. There are also no worries about maintaining a supply of wood or fuel.

They don't need ventilation and there are no ashes to clean out and try and get rid of. There are no safety checks necessary. There are also no radiators that can burst or leak and all the consequences that go with that, especially when you are away for some time.

They are mostly also portable if they are not installed into the wall. The disadvantage is that they cannot be exposed to weather and they are sometimes more inefficient than conventional heaters, especially when they are installed into the normal hearths. When installed into the wall to mimic an old fireplace, the wall absorbs a lot of the heat, unless there is sufficient insulation that prevents just that.

The flames cannot be made to look real, although there are claims of such real-looking substitutes. Research is going on to develop the real-looking substitute. They are still to be made available on the market. Electric fireplaces can also be used in summer, for the atmosphere it creates, but without the heater switched on. The power they consume is typically 1.4 to 1.6 kW, which can heat a 37 m2 (400 sq. ft) room and they are steadily becoming more efficient.

With the electric models you can have a wooden surround, which wasn't always possible with masonry fireplaces. Prices start from a little under £200, but with the more advanced models you can have more realistic flames, remote control, thermostat and other advanced features. Remote control is especially handy when you don't have to get out of bed to tend to a conventional fireplace.

There are basically no moving parts, so there is none of the wear or break down that you would find with gas or coal burning models, which make them more reliable. You also don't have the problem of smoke in the house and gasses, with all the dangers that goes with it, such as carbon monoxide poisoning or explosions. With the price of oil at its current level and fluctuating, it makes more sense to invest in an electric fireplace than one operating on gas. The lifetime quotes are generally 50% longer than for gas systems, thus making it more cost effective over its entire lifetime.

An electric fireplaces is not eco-friendly. It does have it's own carbon footprint. To counter that you may consider installing solar panels and maybe also store the energy. You can install enough panels to power your fireplace and other appliances, which would mean heat at any time at no running cost. Solar panels are getting cheaper and it already competes with coal in terms of the cost when it comes to power generation. It will, however, take some time before the benefits of the cheaper technologies reach the consumer.

Another advantage of this type of heating is that you can readily use it in a listed building or in any of the sensitive areas, such as Heritage sites. There are no alterations necessary to fit it, such as pipe-work, flues or any of the layout or planning issues that go with gas versions. It's also yours if it's not installed into a wall, which means you can take it with you when you move.

They don't need to take up additional space, as there are many models that can be wall-mounted or installed in existing old fireplaces. Then there are the very popular models with a surround that is a shelf and media cabinet and stand. The fireplace is in the centre, surrounded by your media players, books and your TV on top.

Maintaining the electrical fireplace

Regularly check that the wires and electrical components are in good condition and safe. Wires with melted insulation must be replaced. Avoid using abrasives when cleaning your fireplace to prevent scratches. Glass cleaner is also not to be used. Regularly clean the firebox and controls with a brush. Bulbs may fail sometimes and you will notice it if you use it every day. To replace them is easy and these are standard bulbs, but if not you can take the dead one to a lighting or hardware shop as a sample.