Electric Fireplace Efficiency and Cost Comparison


Electric fireplaces offer a clean and convenient heating option for many American homes. They have become increasingly popular over the last ten years and are now available in various sizes and designs. Unlike other heating options, electric fireplaces work almost anywhere in the home, and they’re easy to install, burn clean, and are surprisingly energy efficient.

Electric fireplaces are very efficient, losing only 1% of their heat in the home, compared to 75% of lost heat through the chimney with gas, logs, or wood-burning fireplaces. Cost-wise, electric fireplaces are also cheaper to initially purchase, and their efficiency makes them a far better value than alternatives.

With the cost of gas and the inefficient way that firewood heats homes, many homeowners look to the electric fireplace as a heating alternative. This article focuses on four main questions:

  • Do electric fireplaces save on heating bills?
  • What is the heat output by comparison?
  • How do all three units compare to each other?
  • What is the overall cost comparison?

Do Electric Fireplaces Save on Heating Bills?

The short answer to this question is, “Yes,” according to VolunteerEnergy. There are several reasons for the savings, with the main one being it causes your home’s primary heating source to run less.

Since “only 1% of heat from an electric fireplace or heater is lost,” it makes this option more energy efficient. Up to 75% of heat from natural gas, logs, or a wood-burning fireplace will dissipate up the chimney or into the vents. Meanwhile, electric fireplaces need neither of these options to operate safely. 

The main thing to consider between electric and natural gas fireplaces in terms of operating costs is the cost of gas and electricity in your specific area. Because these prices fluctuate, some years, it may cost more to run the electric fireplace than to allow a gas furnace, for example, to be the only source of heat. However, in most cases, the electric fireplace will save homeowners, apartment dwellers, and condo tenants money on heating bills.

If you are wondering about space heaters, an electric fireplace is safer to operate than any space heater and an electric fireplace is more efficient than any regular heater.

What Is the Heat Output Comparison?

Heat output is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. At first glance, it looks like gas heating options will keep the room warmer because, on average, electric fireplaces produce between 1000 and 7000 BTUs. Alternatively, a gas fireplace can create between 19,000 and 48,000 BTUs. However, two factors need to be considered before accepting this comparison:

  • 99% of the heat from the electric fireplace remains in the home.
  • Between 75% and 80% of the heat from a gas fireplace is lost while venting, which brings the 19,000 BTUs closer to 4750 BTUs.

Another point to remember is that electric fireplaces have a built-in thermostat that causes them to turn off when the room reaches a programmable temperature. This feature provides another cost-effective and energy-efficient option to help you save on your bill.

How Do All Three Units Compare to Each Other?

Although we’re comparing heating options, the comparisons made between units aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. Each unit has pros and cons, and only the homeowner can determine the actual value of each.

For example, at least in part, where you live will dictate which unit you prefer because not only is the weather different throughout the United States, but natural gas and electricity prices fluctuate each year and vary from state to state.

Further, the insulation factor in your home will determine how long the heat remains in the room, so that, too, is a factor that this article cannot address. However, there are enough similarities between the three supplemental heating options that we can discuss so that you may start your search with a lot of information that will help you ask the best questions for your particular situation.

Electric Fireplace

There’s no question that an electric fireplace is more straightforward to operate and manage than either the traditional wood fireplace or the modern natural gas fireplaces. Electric fireplaces are also safer because there’s no chance of a spark catching a curtain or a carpet on fire. 

The electric option is more cost-effective by comparison for the following reasons as well:

  • Though they typically have fewer BTUs, they heat the room at a faster rate. That’s because there’s no heat loss due to venting or chimneys. This quicker rate means they will run less frequently, thereby using less electricity.

  • They use less energy overall. Energy comes in many forms. You don’t have to pay for the physical energy you use to cut, stack, and deliver the firewood on top of all of the cleaning that has to occur when the wood fireplace is in use.

  • Portable electric fireplaces can be moved for targeted heating rather than heating rooms that are not in use.

  • They’re inexpensive to install. After assembling the unit, all you need is the electrical outlet.

  • Electric fireplaces come in various sizes and models, from wall-mounted to those built into a wall.

  • Electric fireplaces don’t emit smoke, carbon monoxide, or carbon dioxide, so they’re a safer option for the family and the environment.

  • Because they don’t use a chimney, no yearly inspections or chimney sweep bills are required.

In fact, the only problem with using an electric fireplace is that if the power goes out, and the home’s primary heating source is also electric, there’s no backup heat source.

These fireplaces come in a variety of models and are sold in heating stores everywhere and online. They’re typically sold in sizes from under 30 inches (76.2 cm) to units that are over 60 inches (152.4 cm). Many people purchase the larger size to serve a dual purpose: heat the family room and serve as a TV console. The Ameriwood Home Farmington Electric Fireplace TV Console is an example of this option.

Gas Fireplace

Gas log burning has a more authentic look and feels than electric fireplaces do, so if room ambiance is the goal, the wood or natural gas burning fireplace may be the best option. If costs and the heating efficiency of the model is the central concern, traditional gas fireplaces may not be the best choice, and here are a couple of reasons why:

  • The initial cost of a gas fireplace is significantly more than an electric fireplace.
  • Gas logs require professional installation.
  • Yearly maintenance is needed for gas logs.
  • Gas fireplaces heat the metal that houses them and, therefore, can cause burns if touched.
  • Although gas fireplaces are available in various sizes and models, all models are permanently placed.

The main advantage to a gas fireplace over an electric one is that it’s a backup source if the home’s primary heating source is an electric unit.

These options also come in various sizes. Arguably, the best place to purchase them is from a local showroom where customer service representatives can provide you with the necessary information for operating the units safely. 

One type of gas fireplace may equal electric fireplaces in terms of efficiency and cost if a backup heat source is a goal. Many companies manufacture ventless logs and fireplaces. For example, the Duluth Forge Vent-Free Fireplace provides ventless heat and comes with remote control and a built-in temperature control feature. 

Gas fireplaces like this are equal to electric fireplaces in terms of heating efficiency because heat isn’t lost through venting. In addition, some models can operate using natural gas or propane. The only way to determine the cost efficiency of this option is to know the cost of electricity, gas, and propane in your area.

Wood Burning Fireplace

The wood-burning fireplace is without a doubt the least efficient of all three choices on this list. Here’s are a few reasons why:

  • It takes an enormous amount of human energy to get the wood ready to burn.
  • Like gas, much of the heat dissipates up the chimney.
  • There is no way to control the fire’s temperature, so rooms are often too hot or too cold.
  • Wood fires are messy, so energy is wasted in cleaning the ashes and soot they leave behind.
  • Wood fires are dangerous because sparks cannot be controlled.

The main advantage of a wood-burning fireplace is that it’s a backup source of heat in case of a power outage, and it’s hard to beat the welcoming, nostalgic ambiance that a real fire brings to a room.

What Is the Overall Cost Comparison?

Gas is sometimes cheaper than electricity, particularly if your unit has an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of 80% or higher. However, because of the heat loss due to venting, the gas option still is seldom a more efficient option. Also, the upfront costs of purchasing and using an electric fireplace are cheaper.

As with all products, consumers get what they’re willing to pay for. Models on the higher price end of both electric and gas will most often be more efficient than those on the lower end, and with ventless gas fireplaces available, the decision gets a little less straightforward. 

Overall, fireplaces are a great addition to any home. They add warmth, comfort, and value, and there’s nothing like warming your hands by a fire – even a fake one – on a cold winter evening. However, not all options are equal, so research into fuel costs and heat loss must be done individually. Most will find, however, that the electric fireplace offers better efficiency and a lower starting cost.

Conclusion

Before deciding on any new fireplace, it’s essential to realize that neither electric, gas, nor wood fireplaces are designed to heat entire homes (Learn more about that here). They’re all supplemental heat sources that can provide backup heat during a power outage or targeted heating to reduce overall heating costs. Of all three options, the electric fireplace is a clear winner in the realms of efficiency, ease of operation, and cost comparison.

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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