Perhaps you live in the city where apartments don’t offer open fireplaces. Or maybe you live in the wide suburbs and your home has a traditional fireplace installed but you’re too lazy to start a fire and clean up when it dies, every night. Whatever the case, you’ve found that it’s time to get yourself an electric fireplace. The only thing is, you don’t know if it would warm your room the way you want it to.
Concerned or just plain curious? Read on to find out if an electric fireplace heats well, if at all, and how it stacks up against a traditional open fireplace with a chimney and all that jazz.
Heat From A Traditional Fireplace
Before talking about how much heat electric fireplaces give off, let’s first go over traditional fireplaces. Of course, when we say traditional fireplace we mean the one installed on a wall in, commonly, the living room. In a traditional fireplace, heat is produced by burning logs in a grate. Smoke exits via the chimney and ashes settle on the firepit. This method of home heating has existed as far back as the 11th century, when the chimney was invented in Europe, and remains a popular house fixture even up to today.
Its form and function haven’t been changed much throughout the centuries. This is because log-burning is the simplest method of keeping warm. As such, a traditional fireplace is not the product of technology and is, in fact, a throwback to old times.
So, why is it still popular? Why is it still something home-buyers want in a house? Well, aside from giving the living room a cozy, romantic feel, a traditional fireplace produces a lot of heat. Theoretically, it can produce around 100,000 BTU of it. That seems a lot, but take note that losses haven’t been factored into this number yet.
Consider the chimney. As an application of thermodynamics, hot air freely rises up towards the vertical chute, meaning that a lot of heat goes up with the smoke. Just because of this phenomenon alone we are left with about 20,000 BTU of usable heat. In short, traditional fireplaces are not efficient. One can even produce a net heat loss in the house when not in use — when naturally occurring hot air continues to leave through the chimney. Efficient traditional fireplaces that can produce up to 50,000 BTU of heat exist, but as you can imagine those are very expensive. Yes, a the typical isn’t efficient in heating up a room, but the warmth brought not just by the tangible heat but also by the ambiance of dancing flames on the firepit is undeniable.
Heat From An Electric Fireplace
Electric fireplaces have been around since its invention in 1912, taking popularity in the 1950s as an alternative heat source after a successful marketing attempt. Taking inspiration from the beauty of traditional fireplaces, electric fireplaces differentiate themselves from heaters by their aesthetics, which include having the appearance of a firepit in some instances, or a fire grate, and having synthetic, non-burning logs that light up to mimic the look of burning wood logs. Usually powered by AC, electric fireplaces can act as displays when not in use. They can also be put inside traditional fireplaces that are no longer working and work as such.
Using the same technology as a hairdryer, a typical 110V electric fireplace can produce about 4,500 BTU of heat, with a 220V electric fireplace doubling that to produce about 9,000 BTU. Because of today’s technological advancements allowing for minimal losses in the conversion of electric power to heat, almost 100% conversion rate can be observed.
Of course, the heat produced is less than half of what traditional fireplaces offer, but consider the advantages of saved space. With an electric fireplace, you don’t need a chimney. Thanks to its portability you can bring it into any room and make full use of its zone heating capabilities.
It can warm up to 400 sqft of space evenly. It doesn’t require the remodeling of a house. It doesn’t require maintenance and you don’t need to buy consumables for it. Most importantly, it is safe to use around children and pets. There’s no risk of burns, accidents involving fire irons, and inhalation of smoke.
As a bonus, you can turn the heat on and off independent of the lit synthetic logs and ember bed, for when you want the mood of a traditional fireplace during the hottest summer night. You can also control the temperature if you want.
An electric fireplace will warm and give ambiance to your room adequately, but it won’t live up to its older sibling, the traditional fireplace, when it comes to measurable heat. Of course, if you factor in all the advantages of buying an electric fireplace instead of having a traditional one installed in your living room — safety, mood lighting with controllable temperature, zone heating — the electric fireplace comes out on top.