Very few people would disagree that a working fireplace, as shown in Figure 1, provides a level of aesthetic appeal and warmth to any room.
Figure 1 - Electric fireplace
The problem is that although they look very appealing the traditional wood burning fireplaces are not efficient room heaters. In some cases as much as 95% of the heat produced goes directly up the chimney.
Secondarily, the traditional wood burning fireplace requires a lot of effort to create that perfect fire. Wood logs must be properly dried and stored and then taken through the house to the fireplace location. Starting the fire can be a challenge at the best of times and then there is the clean-up of the remaining ash. Wood burning fireplaces must have the chimneys cleaned at least once a year to remove the potential hazard created by a build-up of creosote.
Then, there is the problem of cleaning soot from fireplace surrounds and mantels!
If you are enthralled with the appearance of a lit fire in a fireplace but do not want the problems associated with a wood burning fire you have an alternative – electric fireplaces.
Electric fireplace inserts can be purchased in a variety of different configurations:
- Traditional log sets that look like burning logs that are installed on the grate of your fireplace, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 - Electric log fire
- Complete fireplace inserts that are placed directly in the hearth of a wood burning fireplace, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 - Electric fireplace log insert
- An electric fireplace mantel and surround, as shown in Figure 4. If you do not currently have a fireplace, but have always dreamed of having one, this is the most economical method. There is no floor or wall preparation required and of course there is no requirement for any type of vent or chimney.
Note: If you are considering purchasing an electric fireplace insert make sure you measure the internal dimensions of your hearth. This includes the width at the back and front and the clear height available.
Note: As electric fireplaces burn cool to the touch you can trim any gaps between the electric fireplace insert and the masonry walls of the wood burning fireplace hearth.
Figure 4 - Electric fireplace mantel and surround
Note: If you are installing your electric fireplace insert as a permanent installation in a previous wood burning fireplace you may want to consider using a chimney balloon, as shown in Figure 5, to completely block any air ingress through the chimney.
Figure 5 - Chimney balloon
Additional information on building a wood burning fireplace.