Do Electric Fireplaces Look Realistic

An electric fireplace is much safer and more efficient than a gas- or wood-burning fireplace. But not many homeowners use them because they think the flames wouldn’t feel or look realistic. So, if you’re looking for realistic flames, should you even consider using an electric fireplace?

Electric fireplaces look realistic since they’re using 3D displays that create more depth. It’s so much better than the earlier versions of electric fireplaces that make you feel like looking at cheap 2D digital screens. Aside from this, manufacturers even use other devices for better sound effects.

There are several advantages to using an electric fireplace, and we’ll talk about all of them in great detail. Stick around because we’ll also compare it with other fireplaces that you can buy. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of what you can really expect from electric fireplaces.

How Do Electric Fireplaces Create Realistic Flames?

One of the most common misconceptions that people have when it comes to electric fireplaces is that it uses real flames to produce heat. However, this name is a bit misleading because it doesn’t use flames as a heat source.

It may be surprising for some because the flickering firelight we see in most of them is good enough to make us think that we’re looking at real flames. But this illusion is pretty straightforward, and it only uses the light that comes from a bulb or an LED.

The light that it produces bounces off of a silver refractor that has three-dimensional patterns. This setup creates an illusion of a flickering firelight that makes it look realistic. Other electric fireplaces use a digital display to replicate a real flame with logs, coal, and other materials that you see in a real fireplace. It may sound complicated, but it’s not that different from staring at a TV, albeit with more complexity and depth.

What adds realism to the flame is the crackling noise it creates as you stare into the fire. Manufacturers do this by including a device that makes these noises while the refractor turns, which is more than enough to trick unsuspecting guests.

There’s really nothing complicated about electric fireplaces; it’s just a combination of technology that we use daily. Using an electric fireplace will provide us with all the benefits that we get from real fireplaces. But you don’t have to worry about the hassle of using one and the risks of live flames inside our house.

Since they don’t require a source of fuel, you also don’t have to worry about the cleanup, which can be troublesome for homeowners using coal, wood, or fuel. Add all of these with the eliminated risk of carbon monoxide. That’s why it’s not that hard to understand why more and more people are looking into electric fireplaces as an alternative.

How Do Electric Fireplaces Work?

If electric fireplaces don’t use real flames, how can they produce the heat we want inside our room? And more importantly, will it even create the same level of heat that we get from gas- or wood-burning fireplaces?

Electric fireplaces take the cold air inside the room and use its coil to heat it before pushing it back into the room with a fan. The amount of heat that it can produce varies, depending on the size and wattage, but a small electric fireplace is enough to warm up a small to medium-sized room.

Now, when it comes to the level of heat they produce, we can say that electric fireplaces aren’t even close to what gas- and wood-burning fireplaces can generate. Electric fireplaces can produce heat anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 BTUs, while gas- or wood-burning fireplaces can produce anywhere from 7,000 to 60,000 BTUs!

However, that’s only the amount of heat, and it doesn’t always mean that higher BTUs can make a room warmer. Take a wood-burning fireplace that can produce 60,000 BTUs if you’re burning hardwood, for instance. Just by looking at it, it seems like a better way to keep yourself warm, right? Unfortunately, at least 90% of the heat that it produces goes out through the chimney.

Aside from this, gas- and wood-burning fireplaces are radiant heaters that don’t really make the room warmer. You’d have to be close to it to feel warm, even if the other parts of the room remain chilly.

Electric fireplaces are 100% efficient because they don’t need vents; they only push the warm air back into the room. Aside from this, it’s not a radiant heater that requires you to be close to it to feel the heat — they warm up the air. That’s why even if it doesn’t get as hot as real fireplaces, it’s more efficient in making any room warmer.

Are Electric Fireplaces Tacky?

Despite knowing how electric fireplaces create the illusion of flame, crackling sounds, and heat, some homeowners still doubt their overall appearance. Will it look like a cheap replica of a fireplace and make you feel like you’re staring at a screen?

We’ve mentioned that the technology behind the realistic flame is no different than looking at a TV, but with more depth. When electric fireplaces were first introduced, they were visibly fake, and you could tell in an instant that you were looking at a fake flame effect.

But newer fireplaces, as we’ve also mentioned, provide more depth using three-dimensional displays. With even more advancements in the display that we use for these, most people can no longer tell the difference between an electric fireplace and gas- or wood-burning fireplaces.

Can You Put an Electric Fireplace in a Real Fireplace?

If you want to replace an existing real fireplace with an electric fireplace, you don’t really need another space for it. You can install it in an open fireplace, but you’ll need a specific type for it — an electric fireplace insert.

There are two different electric fireplace inserts that you can install in a real fireplace: plug-in and built-in.

  • A plug-in electric fireplace insert works like any other appliance inside your house. It only needs a standard electrical outlet. The only problem is that you might need to create a new electrical outlet because it’s uncommon for open fireplaces to have a nearby socket.
  • A built-in electric fireplace insert fits most open fireplaces, and it provides you with a more permanent solution. The real challenge in using it is that you have to connect it to your home’s electrical system directly.

Either option will work great for any open fireplace. Still, we prefer a built-in electric fireplace because the absence of the plug makes it easier to install it without leaving a gap between the back of the unit and the actual fireplace.

Are Electric Fireplaces Worth It?

One of the biggest reasons many homeowners don’t like to use an electric fireplace is the quality of the fake flame that they produce. For them, regardless of the efficiency and other benefits they can get from it, nothing beats the experience of sitting beside a real flame that can keep them warm.

However, the displays for modern electric fireplaces got so good that it’s difficult to differentiate them from real flames. And since most of them are good enough to replicate the visual experience you can get from real fireplaces, will investing in it be worth it?

Electric fireplaces are worth your investment because it provides a care-free alternative to gas- or wood-burning fireplaces. You don’t have to worry about the use of gas, wood, or coal inside your house. We all know that there are risks whenever there is an unattended flame, and you’d have to go through routine maintenance inspections just to ensure that it won’t cause health issues.

Aside from this, you’re also saving yourself from the hassle of cleaning up an open fireplace, including the expense of the materials that you need to clean up any mess that wood-burning fireplaces can leave behind.

With all of these reasons combined, there’s really no reason why homeowners shouldn’t consider replacing their fireplaces with an electric fireplace. They may not be cheap alternatives, but they can definitely make your life easier.


Having a realistic flame for your fireplace is important because it’s one reason we opt to use a fireplace to keep us warm, right? It’s also a huge deal-breaker for many people, especially if they saw an older electric fireplace that uses cheap digital displays. But it’s no longer the case with modern electric fireplaces that combine various technologies.

Some got so realistic that most people can’t tell the difference between them and gas- or wood-burning fireplaces. There are even more reasons to consider it, especially with everything they can do for you in terms of safety and maintenance.

Looking For Electric Fireplaces?

Are you looking for the best electric fireplace? We’ve got you covered. Check out our article on the top 5 best electric fireplaces on the market and find your perfect fit today! The Fireplace Lifestyle team has done all of the research so that you don’t have to. You can just sit back, relax, and enjoy reading about these incredible fireplaces. Our goal is to help people like yourself find their dream fireplace with ease. So take a look at what we have to offer – we know it will be worth your time!

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