Electric fireplaces are experiencing an upsurge in popularity in recent years. And for good reason. They create a visual spectacle in any room you place them in. In addition, you can also use them to keep warm during the chilly months.
For this reason, we’ll explain these unique devices in greater detail. We’ll go over the benefits of electric fireplaces, the different types available, and we’ll even briefly touch upon their history. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of getting one for your home, this text should provide some additional food for thought.
Before we delve any deeper into the topic of electric fireplaces, we need to briefly examine their precursors. Traditional fireplaces are an evolution of the fire pit, the oldest form of indoor flame. As such, they have always served a dual purpose: functional and atmospheric.
In their early days, functionality reigned supreme. This means people originally built fireplaces without much care for the aesthetics. The main goal was to ensure that the room in question had a sufficient heat source. For this reason, early fireplaces usually occupied the centre of the room. Even though this position would soon change, the fireplace has retained that aura of being the central and focal point of any home. As you can easily guess, people also used those fireplaces to cook and to heat water for various household purposes.
In the beginning, the material of choice for any fireplace was stone. As time went by, masonry techniques improved, as did the design of the fireplace. Furthermore, builders started to incorporate brick and metal. All of this led to a shift in the purpose of the fireplace. Functionality was still important, but it started to take a back seat to visual appeal. Increasingly elaborate decorations became common and the fireplace came to be a status symbol. This situation has not changed to the present day.
It is really not difficult to guess the reasons which gave rise to the invention of the electric fireplace. If we had to sum it up in one word, it would be convenience. However, what might be a bit more difficult to estimate is how long they’ve been around. And that answer is – probably longer than you would initially assume.
In their earliest form, we can trace electric fireplace heaters to the beginning of the 20th century. To be precise, 1912 marks the year of the invention of the electric fireplace. This nifty invention allowed people to heat up entire rooms using electricity alone. This was a massive step-up compared to heaters which used fossil fuels or wood. However, it took decades before these heaters became truly popular and common among the general population.
But if we want to look at truly modern electric fireplaces, we could say their rise began in the 1980s. This is the time when manufacturers began to employ new technologies to make the simulated flame appear more lifelike. Technology marched on and we got to the point we are at today. Electric fireplaces look more realistic than ever and are also at the peak of their popularity.
When compared to their predecessors, electric fireplaces have numerous upsides. This will be a rather long list we will get to in a moment. But first, we would like to examine if there are any advantages that work in the opposite direction.
In order to answer this, we need to look at two key aspects: functionality and ambiance. These are the traits that electric fireplaces need to replicate in order to take on the role of their conventional counterparts.
And as far as heating goes, there are no issues. The electric version can heat up a room just as well as the traditional wood fireplace or the more modern gas-burning variant.
There are other benefits too. Electric fireplaces don’t require wood to burn. That means you save a lot of money that you would have spent on firewood. Plus, you don’t have to wrestle with getting the fire lit. A simple flip of a switch is usually all it takes.
However, the biggest draw of the wood-burning fireplace is the atmosphere it helps create. This has been the case for quite some time, as previously mentioned. And it is easy to see why.
For one, the visual appeal is undeniable. The roaring flame and the embers dancing around the firebox are a hypnotizing sight. It is a welcoming image and people instinctively feel relaxed and at ease. Then, you also have the sound a fireplace produces. The crackling fire is very soothing to the ear and creates a homey atmosphere.
These are very powerful associations and hold an inherent appeal. Simply put, people feel relaxed and safe around a fire. If you need proof of this, just consider the famous speeches American president Franklin D. Roosevelt gave between 1933 and 1944 via radio. It was a time of great crisis and FDR needed to reassure the nation. He did so by talking in a familiar and self-assured manner that resonated with the listeners. And how did the public call these address? The fireside chats, even though there wasn’t a fireplace in sight. This just goes to show how deeply rooted these notions are.
And in terms of atmosphere, the situation is perhaps a bit less clear-cut. The inescapable fact is that electric heater fireplaces do not have a real flame. And some may simply prefer the authentic experience.
However, it is also indisputable that electric fireplaces have made great strides in this regard. Manufacturers have invested a lot of effort and money into making them as faithful to the original as possible. Advanced technology even allows them to simulate the look and feel of more traditional fireplaces. And depending on how you install them, it can sometimes be awfully difficult to tell them apart.
In a nutshell, the only potential upside of a conventional fireplace is the feeling of a genuine flame. But, the electric version can look extremely realistic. It can even feature various flame effects, such as hot rock or log. Combined with other benefits, we believe they easily come out on top.
Now we come to the heart of the issue. If you’re thinking about getting an electric fireplace for your home, one of the first things you’ll want to know is what you’ll get out of the deal. Specifically, what benefits they have compared to the more traditional versions which use wood or natural gas. The short answer is – quite a few. And for the long answer, we’ve compiled the following list which explains these advantages in greater detail.
We already mentioned this trait earlier in the text, but now is the time to go more in-depth.
For all of its appeal, a wood-burning fireplace also requires a lot of effort to use. For one, you need to worry about the firewood. You need to buy it, have it delivered to your home, and store it somewhere. Depending on how you bought it, you might even have to chop it. Then, if you are keeping the bulk of it somewhere outside, you need to constantly bring in more logs.
After that, there is the maintenance. You have to remove all the ash and soot and also regularly clean both the fireplace itself and the chimney. For this, it’s possible you’ll need to hire outside help.
Now, these problems are not as pronounced when you have a gas fireplace. But, they are not gone completely. You still have to worry about the gas line and proper ventilation.
On the other hand, electric fireplaces have none of these issues. You simply plug them into an outlet and you are good to go. After that, lighting up the fireplace is as simple as pressing a button. You also do not need a chimney and there is hardly any maintenance to speak of.
We already mentioned that electric fireplaces do not lose heat through the chimney. In fact, you have almost no heat loss whatsoever although classical physics dictates there are always losses in the process of converting electrical energy to heat energy. This is still good news for your wallet. Less heat loss means you need less money to run them, even after taking into account the inefficiency of energy conversion. Plus, you also save on maintenance and cleaning.
What’s more, this affordability doesn’t only come in the long term. The initial cost is also significantly lower. The unit itself is much cheaper and needs very little to no installation. On the other hand, if your home doesn’t already have a traditional fireplace, putting one in is a major project. It requires a hefty investment, not just in money but also time.
Environment, Health, and Safety
Due to their power source, electric fireplaces produce completely clean energy. As a result, there are no emissions which would be harmful to the atmosphere. What’s more, a growing portion of electrical energy comes from renewable sources. This means the benefits to the environment are twofold.
On a similar note, because they do not release any particles when they are in use, electric fireplaces do not harm the quality of the air in your home.
Finally, they are much safer to use. There is no open flame or gas that could escape into the room. Plus, the parts you could easily touch do not get nearly as hot as they do with conventional fireplaces. This is especially important if you have kids running around the house.
The way electric fireplaces work also provides new opportunities. This has allowed manufacturers to incorporate several useful features into their design.
First up, let’s take a wood fireplace as an example and assume it is your primary source of heating. Throwing in a log every now and again is no problem when you are around. But what about when you go to bed? The fire will go out and you’ll wake up to a cold room. And when you do get it going again, it’ll take some time before the room reaches a pleasant temperature.
But that does not have to be the case if you have an electric fireplace. Virtually all models come with a convenient timer. This means you can set it to turn on a little bit before you wake up. Then, you’ll have a nice warm room to greet you when you get out of bed. You can also use this feature to the same effect whenever you need to leave your home during the day.
Secondly, the ability to quickly and easily control the temperature is another huge benefit of buying electric flame heaters in Australia. It’s certainly not the coldest country in the world so you might only want a little bit of heat. Having full control means you can adapt quickly to the weather.
Let’s look at an example. You’re having friends over so you get a big fire going. But as people start to show up, you realize it’s too hot. With a wood fireplace, this means you have to pull half-burnt logs out of the flame. And you need to do this in front of the guests, while you’re all dressed up. But if you go for an electric fireplace, there is no hassle. You press one button on the remote and switch to a lower heat setting in an instant.
Let’s look at one more unique benefit of buying an electric fireplace in Australia.
You don’t need heating all year round. In fact, you’re more likely to use the air conditioning during most of the year. But that does not mean you can’t enjoy the atmosphere this fireplace creates.
Namely, the flame effects and the heating operate separately. So when it gets warm outside, you can simply shut off the latter and still enjoy the cosy ambiance.
When we talked about the affordability of electric fireplaces, we said that you could also save money on the installation. But this has an added benefit. Because the installation is so simple and you don’t need a chimney, it is very easy to move these units around.
You may also want a wall mount electric fireplace. These unique fireplaces only require you to drill a few new holes whenever you want to move them. Others need even less work. Depending on their size, they can provide a true portable heating solution. Under the right circumstances, you might even be able to use them for electric outdoor heating, although you have other options for this as well.
While all electric fireplaces share the above mentioned traits, they are far from identical. Therefore, we can still divide them into several types. And we will pay the most attention to two distinct varieties.
So, should you buy a freestanding or wall-mounted electric fireplace in Australia?
It all depends on your building. The building’s architecture often dictates which one is a better fit for you.
A wall-mounted electric fireplace is usually the more compact of the two, although they also come in various shapes and sizes. They tend to be smaller, which gives them a slightly higher level of versatility. This means you can find a place for one in practically any room in your home, from the bathroom to the bedroom. And because they go on the wall, they do not take up any floor space. Therefore, the size of the room becomes a non-issue.
On the other hand, we have the freestanding models. These are often referred to as an electric fireplace mantel in Australia. The great thing about these models is that they serve a purpose other than heating.
To be specific, a fireplace will always draw attention, even when it’s not in use. Eyes will naturally gravitate toward it. And the mantel top is the undisputed centrepiece. This gives you a unique opportunity when it comes to decorating your house. Whenever you have an item you want people to notice, you only need to place it on this shelf. Family photos, awards, and anything else you’re proud of – when you put it on the mantel, it will catch everyone’s eye.
Since freestanding electric fireplaces do require some floor space, they are better suited to larger rooms. But since they are portable, you are free to move them around your home until you find the perfect spot.
Finally, we’ll briefly mention the third type of electric fireplaces. We call them inserts. They fit inside an existing conventional fireplace and transform it into the electric variety. This allows you to keep the old structure but still enjoy the benefits of modern technology.
Hopefully, we’ve managed to answer any lingering questions you might have had about electric fireplaces. This modern take on an ancient invention proves once again that you can always improve upon good ideas. Modern technology has eliminated virtually all downsides of traditional fireplaces. What’s more, it has also brought many new benefits.
Additionally, we also hope we’ve given you a bit of inspiration when it comes to the interior design of your home. An electric fireplace can enrich any room and give it that unique atmosphere. It is an affordable solution which can really go a long way.
If this strikes a chord, then you’ll be happy to hear that Luxo Living can help turn your plans into reality regardless of where you live in Australia. Our online furniture store offers everything from fireplaces to garden furniture, so check out the catalogue today.
Published: 24 Sep 2018