How Do Electric Fireplaces Work?

Make your home more attractive and warmer by adding an electric fireplace. Choose a style that matches your decor, and you’ll have an instant showpiece in your living room, kitchen, or bathroom.

These heaters give you the cozy look and feel of a wood-burning fire without the hassle. There are no ashes to clean and no wood to chop. Instead, you get instant heat and ambiance with the click of a remote control. So electric fireplaces are the perfect solution to a chilly winter’s night.

How Do Electric Fireplaces Work?

Part of the beauty and appeal of electric fireplaces is their simplicity. A heater with a blower fan provides warmth. So even though the flickering flames don’t produce heat, you’ll still stay toasty. Let’s see how electric fireplaces work.

The Heat Source

Electric fireplaces generate heat in two ways:

  • Infrared technology
  • Heating element with blower

Infrared Technology

Infrared heaters are one of the most environmentally friendly options for an electric fireplace. That’s because they use all of the heat they produce. And here’s how they do it. 

Unlike heating elements with blowers, infrared technology does not heat the air. But instead, they convert electricity into radiant heat by sending out infrared radiation that only heats the objects it contacts. 

This infrared technology transfers sun-like warmth to people and objects. So you can think of it like a fire’s coal, which holds in its heat and then moves it around itself. 

Even our bodies are radiant. For example, if you go inside from your sunny backyard, the air will feel cooler to you. That’s because your body radiates heat to the room’s cooler air. Infrared heaters work the same way.

Infrared radiation warms your body as the sun does. It also warms objects in the room, like your sofa or coffee table. So the whole atmosphere feels warmer.

electric fireplace

Heating Element With Blower

The heating element with blower electric fireplace models works similarly to any conventional space heater. 

Very simply, a blower pulls air into the heating element, where it flows over the heating coils. Then a fan pushes the warmed air into your room. 

Some higher-end electric fireplaces work with 110 or 220-volt electricity to get more heat out of the same unit. These systems heat quickly, so your room warms in no time. 

Your electric fireplace can produce about 4,000 BTUs of heat, depending on the model. That’s enough to warm a 400-square-foot (37-square-meter) room. So while these units aren’t as powerful as a home furnace system, they are perfect for warming your living room or den. 

Variable Speed Fans

You can easily adjust the heat output by choosing an electric fireplace with a thermostat. Look for a fireplace with a variable-speed fan since fans are the primary way to control temperature. A slower fan speed means a lower temperature output. 

So, once the heating coils reach the desired temperature, they turn off. Then moments later, the fan slows down or stops so your room stays comfortable without feeling too warm or stuffy.

The Flame

Flames on electric fireplaces are created with light bulbs and a rotating row of small metallic fans (refactor). They look like real flames because a mirrored surface reflects the flame effect into the room.

Some early models of electric fireplaces had a fake fire look. But today’s versions come with dancing flames that even change color. These newer models use LED, 3D patterns that create the illusion of flame. And they’re very realistic!

Use the remote control to change the flame colors, speed, and brightness levels for a customizable fireplace. Some models have up to 12 different color combinations so that you can change the flame colors according to your style preference. Or whenever you’re ready for a new look.

Lower the flame’s brightness level to create a softer atmosphere. For example, you may want to enjoy a romantic dinner. Or you’re settling down for the evening and getting ready for bed. Whatever your mood, you can adjust the brightness of your electric fireplace flames to fit.  

electric fireplace

Crackling Sound

Some electric fireplace models come with a  device that makes a crackling noise as the refractor spins. So you get realistic flickering flames and a crackling woodfire-burning sound. Together they create the perfect environment for sipping cocoa after building snowmen.

Quieter Fan

Pay attention to the fan’s quality when purchasing an electric fireplace. Essentially, the better the unit, the quieter the fan. And that’s important because you’d rather hear the crackling fire sound than the blower. In addition, it makes for a more realistic and cozy atmosphere. So when you’re buying online, look for a quiet fan option.

Advantages Of Electric Fireplaces

Now that you know how electric fireplaces work, let’s see why you should buy one. There are many advantages to electric fireplaces over wood-burning ones. They are convenient, affordable, and clean, to name a few. In addition, these units offer home decor looks to fit any style while keeping your space warm.


Electric fireplaces are designed to plug and play. That means you don’t need a fuel source. But instead, you plug in free-standing models and start using them immediately.

Of course, if you choose a fireplace insert or a recessed wall model, a little more work is involved. But they are still easy to install and convenient to use. Who doesn’t want instant heat right at your fingertips? 


Since electric fireplaces don’t burn wood, there’s no mess to clean! So you don’t have to worry about wood chopping and storage. And there’s no messy pile of ash to sweep, either. 

Another advantage of an electric fireplace is that you won’t require a chimney or flue. And that means there’s no chance of birds or mice making nests in your walls. Unfortunately, a family of birds nested in my chimney in the early spring of one year. We were so worried about starting a fire the following winter that we paid a chimney cleaner to verify that the birds had moved out first. 

So an electric fireplace means no bird mess or ashes to clean. And, of course, there’s also no extra cost of a chimney sweeper.

Finally, you won’t lose any warmth up the chimney or flue. Instead, all the heat stays in your room, right where you need it.

electric fireplace


Since the surface of electric fireplaces stays cool even while heating your room, they are safer for children and pets. In addition, they use lights and projection to create a flame look, so you don’t have to worry that your toddler will burn themselves. On the other hand, if your child accidentally touches a wood stove, there could be grave consequences.

Of course, even though electric fireplaces have convenient designs for supplemental heating, you still want to keep the area around them clear. This extra space creates better heat and airflow to keep your room warmer.

Furthermore, there are no smoky fumes or dangerous gas in use with electric fireplaces. So you don’t need to worry about carbon monoxide poison or other cancer-causing agents. Instead, you’ll feel confident supplementing your room’s warmth without adding smoke or gases. 


Once you install an electric fireplace, you never have to purchase wood or gas. So right away, you start saving money. 

Next, select the correct size electric fireplace for your room to save even more energy. Choose 750-watt units for smaller rooms or 1,500-watt units to heat a larger space. This supplemental zone heating choice makes it easy to use precisely the amount of energy you need to stay warm and save money.

Supplemental zone heating lets you keep certain areas of your house warmer than others. So if you have an empty bedroom, you can save money by closing its heating vents. You still enjoy a heat source in your most occupied rooms while saving on overall electric costs.

electric fireplace

How Much Energy Does An Electric Fireplace Use?

Based on the national average rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a 1,500-watt fireplace uses about 18 cents per hour. And that’s running at maximum power. So, using your heater for two hours daily will only cost approximately $10.80 per month

That’s just over $40 for four winter months. Now that’s a low cost for the added ambiance you get from the flickering flames and cozy warmth of an electric fireplace. 

Use this handy and free calculator to see estimated electric fireplace costs in your home. Just input the appliance power, how many hours you plan to use it, and your electricity price. Then click “calculate” to get an immediate cost estimate.  

Tip:  Find your electricity price per kilowatt hour by checking your most recent electric bill. This amount does vary depending on your location.

Home Decor

Beyond the supplemental zone warmth, electric fireplaces offer elegant designs perfect for any decor. They come in three main styles, so you’re sure to find the perfect one for your home. 

  • Freestanding
  • Fireplace Insert
  • Wall Mounted or Wall Recessed

The sleek styles and flame color options let electric fireplaces blend perfectly into your home’s design. For example, change the flame to pink for a softer touch. Or make it yellow-orange to brighten a kitchen’s decor. Your style = your choice.

electric fireplace


Freestanding electric fireplaces can look similar to wood stoves. This is because they’re made of steel and come in several color choices. But you can also select wooden or brick firebox surrounds, complete with a mantel.

So you pick the right style and color for your home decor. Then unbox your fireplace, do some minor assembly, plug it in, and you’re ready for warmth. The modern designs add instant pizazz to any room and are so convenient, too!

Use the mantel to display photos or favorite collectibles to personalize your space even more. In fact, you can even place a TV on the mantel for a built-in look. You’ll enjoy realistic-looking flames for movie night!

These electric fireplaces are powerful enough to warm your space. But they are also quiet so they won’t disturb your rest or study. In addition, you can quickly move these freestanding units to another room, which makes them versatile for apartments, condos, and seasonal indoor/outdoor spaces.

electric fireplace

Fireplace Insert

Choose a fireplace insert to convert your unused wood-burning fireplace to electric. Side handles make it easy to fit the insert in place. And the air vents ensure that you’ll get good heat flow while staying safe. 

Easy-to-follow instruction manuals make installation quick so you can enjoy your new electric fireplace in no time.

Wall Mounted or Wall Recessed

Can you imagine sitting in a claw-foot bathtub across from a beautiful fireplace? Now that’s a high level of relaxation and comfort.

Select a wall-mounted electric fireplace for your bathroom. Or for your office or any room where you’d like to maintain the maximum floor space. The two mounting options maximize your home decor opportunities while adding warmth.

These thin wall units produce as much heat as the freestanding and insert models. But they offer clean lines for a modern look.

electric fireplace

Experience Your Own Electric Fireplace 

Are you ready to purchase an electric fireplace for your home? Now that you know how they work browse our selection for your room’s perfect look. 

There’s no flame danger, no messy wood chips or ashes, and no dangerous gases. Instead, you get a stylish room addition for supplemental zone heating all winter long. These affordable units are a great addition to any space. So let us know how you plan to use yours!