As the winter chill rolls around, we all start looking for ways to heat our homes. One of the most efficient, yet elegant solutions is the fireplace. However, knowing which fuel type or style of fireplace is half the battle when selecting the perfect fireplace for your home.
Although there’s nothing quite like the crackle of a traditional wood fireplace when it comes to maintenance, ease of installation and cost-effectiveness, electric fireplaces win hands-down.
Let’s take a look at why you should consider an electric fireplace over other fuel types in our electric fireplace buying guide.
We prefer the simplicity of electric for most homes.
Electric vs. Gas vs. Wood
When it comes to selecting your fireplace, you must first decide which fuel type is right for your home. The three most common fuels are gas, wood and electric.
Typically utilising timber or other organic materials to sustain the flame, wood fireplaces are great at generating a lot of heat while providing natural ambience to the area. They were originally designed for people living in colder areas that had a sustainable ‘fuel source’ such as forest, rather than a connection to the electric and gas grid.
Although it’s hard to beat the natural crackle and pop of a wood fireplace, their high level of maintenance and constant need for fuel are major drawbacks. Installation of a wood fireplace can also be expensive and time-consuming, especially in an established home, due to the structural changes that need to occur to accommodate the chimney. A wood fireplace is best installed when a house is being built, rather than in an existing property without the proper ventilation systems already in place.
A compromise between the ‘naturalness’ of a wood fireplace and the simplicity of an electric fireplace, gas fireplaces use either natural gas or propane gas to heat their surroundings.
They only require the twist of a knob to turn on and the temperature can be easily controlled. Gas fireplaces also require little maintenance and are very cheap to run over a long period of time.
However, like a wood fireplace, gas fireplaces can be extremely expensive to install since they require ventilation and a qualified technician to install the new gas lines through your house to the outside source.
Although the flames and sounds of the fireplace are simulated, electric fireplaces offer people a cost-effective way of having a fireplace without the hassle of maintenance and expensive installation.
They operate like a normal heater, where the temperature is easily controlled, require no maintenance and can be installed simply by plugging it into the socket and turning it on. There are no installation costs, unless you pay an electrician to install it, and can be bought for significantly less than their gas or wood counterparts.
Better yet, some models allow you to select whether they output heating or not, meaning you can still have the ambience of a fireplace when you normally wouldn’t have a fireplace running, such as in summer.
Which is right for me?
Gas or wood fireplaces: New or unbuilt homes, places without access to electricity or gas
Electric: Established homes, people that don’t want to spend time or money maintaining the fireplace, apartment and business owners that can’t have a gas or wood fireplace
The bigger the unit, typically, the more heat it will produce.
Heating Output Explained
Similar to other electric appliances like your microwave, electric fireplaces are rated in Watts. A general rule of thumb is that 10 watts are enough to heat one square foot – if a room is adequately insulated and doesn’t have an above average (2.4m) ceiling height.
For example, using this rule, a 1500W electric fireplace could sufficiently heat a 150 square foot room (14m²), about the same as an average sized bedroom with a queen-size bed in it for perspective.
However, if you’re home has improved interior insulation and double glazed windows, you will be able to heat a larger area using a similar size electric fireplace.
Compared to gas and wood fireplaces, electric fireplaces offer less heat output than other fuel types, making them unsuitable for heating a full-size home. Instead, they should be used to complement other heating solutions or used just to heat certain rooms.
Which size is right for my home?
Apartments and small units: A single 1500W electric fireplace will be able to sufficiently heat the majority of your home if placed in a central location. For larger apartments or units, a more powerful 2000W electric fireplace may be needed.
Average-sized houses: Unfortunately a single, 2000W unit won’t be able to heat your entire home, therefore it’s important to consider which rooms you wanted to be heated as a priority. Communal area such as the living room or kitchen are ideal places to install your electric fireplace.
Large houses: Similar to an average-sized home, you’ll need to be selective on where you install your electric fireplace. Rather than using it as the sole source of heat in your home, it should be used to complement other heating methods. Consider placing it in ‘high-traffic’ areas such as the dining room or lounge room.
How much does it cost to run?
In Australia, energy prices differ from state-to-state, with the average being around 28 to 30c per kWh. To find out how much it will cost to run your electric fireplace (or any other appliance):
1. Divide the wattage of your appliance by 1000
eg. 1500W electric fireplace ÷ 1000 = 1.5kW
2. Next multiple the kW value by the cost per kWh for your state or electricity company
eg. 1.5kW x 0.28 (28c) = 0.42 (42c)
3. You can now multiply the hourly cost per kW by how many hours you think you’ll use the electric fireplace. This can also be expanded to days, weeks or years.
eg. 0.42 (42c) x 5 (hours) = $2.1
eg. 2.1 (cost per 5 hours of use) x 90 (entire season of winter) = $189 to run your electric fireplace every single day of winter for 5 hours per day
Wall mounted electric fireplaces suit a contemporary decor style.
Fireplace Mounting Options
As the name suggests, wall mounted electric fireplaces hang off the wall using brackets, similar to how you’d hang a flat-screen TV off a wall.
Some models come with exterior mantels and facades to match your décor, while others simply hang in front of your wall.
A ‘clean look’ can be achieved if the cords and socket can be hidden by the fireplace
Stays off the floor
Can be hung at any height above another furnishing such as a kitchen bench
Larger units will need two people to lift into position
The brackets need to be level or the fireplace will be slanted
May require tools to install with such as sockets, drill or screwdriver
Some freestanding models come with a mantel to give it a ‘traditional’ fireplace appearance.
Freestanding electric fireplaces give you the flexibility to position them wherever you want within your home. This means they can be easily put in storage during the warmer months and then bring it back out when it’s cold.
Highly maneuverable, allowing you to move them from room-to-room
- Mantels and facades can be added to freestanding units
Can be put in cabinets and storage units to create a seamless appearance
Some units come with pedestals to raise the fireplace off the ground
Needs to be within the range of a power socket
Smaller units can be tripped over while sitting on the ground
Other types of electric fireplaces
Built-In: These are designed to be installed into an existing recessed gap in the wall. The main consideration is that you will need an electric fireplace that is created to the exact dimensions of the recess or the ‘look’ will be ruined.
Converted units: When maintaining a traditional wood fireplace becomes too much, rather than removing it, an electric one can be installed in its place, offering an authentic look similar to a built-in style electric fireplace.
Now that you have a fair idea of what style and wattage of electric fireplace you need for your home, it’s time for the best part, shopping for the right one!
Explore The Myer Market’s wide range of electric fireplaces now. We have styles and power outputs to suit every home. Shop with confidence with our No Regrets Returns, earn Myer one credits with every purchase and use Myer giftcards with your purchase.