An electric fireplace creates a great many design options.

An electric fireplace creates a great many design options. (Photo: Frank Espich)

A fireplace improves the atmosphere of your home, but fireplace installation can be costly and require a great deal of maintenance. If you don’t have a chimney or simply want to avoid the hassle of a wood-burning or gas fireplace, electric fireplaces provide an alternative to traditional systems.

They come in many different styles, but generally, electric fireplaces use mirrors, Mylar and LED lights to mimic the look of flame. An electric fireplace log might be metal, wood or rock.

How is an electric fireplace installed?
Electric fireplaces require much less hassle than traditional wood-burning or gas fireplace inserts. Since they need no gas lines, chimney or other infrastructure, you can install an electric fireplace anywhere you have a power outlet, and in homes where fireplaces are not an option.

Since they don’t emit harmful fumes such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, electric fireplaces require no chimney, venting or the monitors and maintenance involved in a ventless gas fireplace. They also produce no soot or ash, so they’re easy to clean and maintain.

Most homeowners can DIY electric fireplace installation _ all you need is a power outlet, and it can be as easy as hanging it on a wall. With more complex home decorating ideas in mind, such as insetting it in a wall, you might need a carpenter or electrician to handle those details, but the fireplace element requires no professional expertise.

Because electric fireplaces don’t burn or use combustible fuel, they don’t corrode and wear out very slowly, allowing them to last many years longer than their fiery counterparts.

What are the drawbacks of an electric fireplace?
Don’t count on an electric fireplace heater to warm your home. Most electric fireplaces emit about as much heat as a few pilot lights – hardly enough to warm up even a small room.

Although recent technological advances have improved the aesthetics of electric fireplaces, their simulated fire still tends to look fake compared to authentic flames. Since they depend on a power source, electric fireplaces won’t light or heat your home in the event of a power outage or storm.

Also, electric fireplaces involve higher operational costs. On average, an electric fireplace uses $1.84 of electricity every eight hours. How can an electric fireplace help home decorating?

Electric fireplaces come in a wide variety of designs, ranging from sleek and modern to a traditional wood look, making them ideal for a wide range of fireplace decorating ideas. Or you can forego modern fireplace design and install an electric fireplace insert in an existing brick or masonry fireplace opening to create a very traditional atmosphere. This creates all the charm of a brick fireplace mantel and even a spot to hang the stockings for Santa!

Where can I buy an electric fireplace?
You can buy an electric fireplace at either a big-box store or a specialty fireplace hearth retailer. The big-box models usually tend to cost less, but specialty outlets often have a wider selection, more expertise to help you pick the best model for your needs and higher quality brand names.

By Paul F. P. Pogue, Angie’s List (TNS). Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit