Eco-Friendly Electric Fireplaces: How Do They Stack Up?

    Photo: Joel/flickrThere’s nothing cozier on a crisp fall day than sitting in front of your fireplace, enjoying its warmth and the hypnotizing play of the flames. Add in some good company, your favorite munchies, and maybe a faithful four-legged friend snoozing on the hearth rug, and you’ve got a recipe for total relaxation. If you’re committed to going green, the fireplace in this cozy picture could very well be an electric one. Let’s take a look at 10 reasons why electric fireplaces are an excellent eco-friendly option.

    1. Unlike traditional wood-burning versions, electric fireplaces do not give off any toxic greenhouse gases, a no-no as stricter laws on emissions control are passed. Even burning logs in a new "clean combustion" wood stove or retrofitted fireplace insert produces a certain amount of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas which can be lethal if the room is inadequately ventilated. Many electric fireplaces, in contrast, are equipped with air filters that actually improve the quality of the ambient air.

    2. A flue is not required for an electric fireplace, avoiding the related heat loss. In fact, homeowners in Massachusetts frequently call a Boston roofer to cap their chimney and block out the cold air, rain, and snow that come with a New England winter. The new electric fireplace can then be set up on their existing hearth.

    3. An electric fireplace is an efficient source of heat. One hundred percent of its electrical power is converted to heat, unlike wood-burning or natural gas fireplaces, which may dissipate as much as 50 percent of their heat energy into the atmosphere. The best electrical fireplace for conserving energy is one which has a thermostat, allowing you to control the level of heat desired.

    4. Your electric fireplace also provides zone heating (a localized source of heat), with the capacity to warm a room of up to 400 square feet. Why waste power running your central HVAC system if you are alone or your family is gathered in one room? Just turn on the fireplace instead. When you’re ready, switch off the heat immediately with a flick of the remote. The fireplace can also be operated by means of a timer.

    5. If you would like to enjoy just watching the realistic “flames,” there’s no need to waste energy. You can select the power-saving option for display only, without heat. This is a feature that is obviously not available with gas or wood fireplaces.

    6. You may choose to mount the electric fireplace either in place of the old wood-burning one or on a wall, or hire a tile expert to build you a customized surround. On the other hand, you might prefer to leave the fireplace as is, so that it will be portable and can easily be moved to whichever room you choose. Try that with a wood-burning fireplace!

    7. An electric fireplace is perfect outdoors as well as inside. Enjoy your porch or patio for more of the year. Don’t worry if you do not have an outlet; many models can run on batteries.

    8. A battery-operated electric fireplace is a terrific source of both heat and light during a power outage. It is safe to use in an unvented room indoors even on the coldest winter day, because it doesn’t emit carbon monoxide, unlike fuel-burning heaters.

    9. In fact, an electric fireplace scores high marks for all-around safety. There are no sparks or burning branches. The safety tilt switch and shatterproof glass screen offer protection even if the fireplace is knocked over. Some models come with a “stay cool” surface, making them especially suitable for households with children and/or pets. (As with any electric appliance, keep the fireplace away from sources of water and flammable materials or vapors.)

    10. Once their productive days are done, electrical fireplaces are recyclable, adding to their many green qualities.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated March 1, 2018.

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