Electric Fireplaces Pro's and Con's

Jan 24, 2005

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The Bottom Line Electric fireplaces are easy to install, fit virtually anywhere, draw little power, provide a sense of reality, and require very little maintenance, so why not?

If you live in an apartment building, a condo or even a basement apartment and want the ambiance of a real fireplace, the electric fireplace is the way to go. Prices have fallen like all other electronic equipment over the past ten to fifteen years. You can currently purchase an electric fireplace, including a wooden mantle for less than the cost of most low end refrigerators.

No installation costs, no holes in the wall, no gas piping, and no expensive high cost wiring. You can now pick up an electric fireplace, including the mantle of your choice, drive it home or have it delivered, set it up against the wall of "your choice", plug it in and it's functional.

As a gas fitter who has always viewed these things as toys, I can now understand their place in the world. People don't always have access to gas, an outside wall or the need for additional heat to a certain area of their home. I never thought I'd find myself saying this but, electric fireplace have a place in this weird world of ours.

Are they realistic? I can't lie. I walked into one showroom years ago and told the sales rep that the fire looked like it was a bit starved for air. As the flame looked a little blue and floating too much. I suggested that the venting system in the showroom may have been inadequate. He literally laughed at me and said, "It's an electric fireplace." I was not only embarrassed, I was floored. As a consultant to gas fireplace manufacturer's I was literally taken in by a fake fireplace, momentarily, or otherwise. So yes, I believe electric fireplaces look realistic and since my embarrassing moment in the mid-1990's things have only gone uphill.

Okay, you've picked one up, brought it home, and now you have to install it? Set it up against any wall, plug it in and begin to enjoy it. That's it for most of them. They only require a normal 120V outlet. Plus they usually include a small electric heater that can deliver about 4,500 btu''s per hour of heat to the room, if desired. If not desired, you can enjoy the ambiance of a very authentic looking fireplace without the loss of heat or the need for combustion air.

They are ideal for condo's, apartments and rooms where it would be difficult to add venting. They are portable, so if you want to take it with you, unplug it and move it.

They require virtually no maintenance and are therefore perfectly suited to the lifestyles of the urban dweller.

Do I endorse them? Yes......for certain types of people and lifestyles. Do I see them as a future replacement for wood or gas fireplaces? Not within the immediate future, but not outside the realm of possibilities within the future. When we consider green house gases, dwindling energy resources and urban development that forces more and more people to live almost on top of each other, it's easy to imagine our future ancestors taking advantage of electrically based fireplaces.

Eventually, human kind will have to accept that natural gas, propane, and oil are not available in an endless supply. Electric fireplaces will operate upon the only renewable resource that this planet will know.

The only CON against electric fireplaces at the moment is that those on the market have very limited life expectancy and they are expensive to have repaired.

Higher demand for them will continue to improve competition and therefore improve quality. Whatever your reason for looking at electric fireplaces, remember they are the ultimate fake fireplace. Not wood, not coal, not gas, just an aesthetically pleasing combination of lights.


The Gasman

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