Americans spent nearly $196 million on electric fireplaces in 2018. Similar sales figures can be seen in previous years, and the trend seems to indicate that more and more homeowners in the US are buying electric fireplaces.
However, should you invest in one? Is there really a benefit to buying an electric fireplace for your home? How much will an electric fireplace raise my electricity bill?
Let’s find out.
How Much will an Electric Fireplace Raise My Electricity Bill?
The average electric fireplace uses nearly 1500 watts of power.
If you use it just for ambience, then the cost can range anywhere from $0.003 to $0.03 per hour.
However, if you use a heating unit as well, the costs will go up to around $0.09 per hour for a medium setting and $0.18 per hour for the maximum setting.
The average cost per year for this may be around $50 to $80. This assumes that you’re not going to use it throughout the year or every season of the year.
Most people use electric fireplaces around the winter season, especially during popular holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. By most estimates, using electrical fireplaces can reduce the energy consumption of an average household by nearly 20%.
What Are Electric Fireplaces?
An electric fireplace mimics the behaviour of an actual fireplace without the need for any fossil fuels like coal, wood, or natural gas. They’re usually put in place of conventional fireplaces that are defunct and can’t be used anymore.
These fireplaces usually consume around 1.4 to 1.6 kW and can heat a 400 square foot room quite comfortably. The first electric fireplace was invented in 1912, but it became a regular part of the American household around the 1950s.
How Do Electric Fireplaces Work?
The main difference between a conventional and electrical fireplace is that the latter doesn’t require any fossil fuels during its operation and it doesn’t need any ventilation system either.
The only heating element within the fireplace is a singular heating coil which forces warm air into the room through a fan.
Some electric fireplaces also use infrared waves that directly heat objects in a room. These fireplaces use supplemental heat and don’t produce any fumes or dangerous gases so there’s not as much danger to your life as there was when you used conventional fireplaces.
The flame effect is simulated, and customers can decide between a small or large flame which can mimic the exact colour and behaviour of a real flame.
How Many Amps Does an Electric Fireplace Use?
As for power consumption, the average electric fireplace puts out about 5000 BTUs, which is enough to heat nearly 400 square feet of space.
That is equivalent to nearly 12-15 amps for a normal electric fireplace.
Larger and more advanced electric fireplaces can produce nearly 10,000 BTUs of power and they will, of course, cost you twice as much as standard electric fireplaces.
Electric Fireplaces Have Great Efficiency
Electric fireplaces are also very energy efficient and get more so every single year.
With the incorporation of LED technology in the latest models, the ambient lights and the ambience that they provide is more efficient than ever.
For comparison, the average conventional fireplace loses nearly 90% of its energy or heat through the chimney along with a lot of heated air in the room.
However, the LED technology in a modern electric fireplace makes sure that the energy consumption is also low and the lack of a need for ventilation makes sure that there is very little heat loss to the environment.
Electric Fireplace vs. other Heating Appliances
Electric Fireplaces are extremely efficient when it comes to heating households, but how do they hold up when compared to other sources of heat and other heating appliances that don’t just heat a single room, but the entire household itself?
Central heating is, of course, preferable to an electric fireplace which heats a single room. Central heating can heat a 1000 square yard home, but a single electric fireplace can heat up just a simple 400 sq ft room.
However, if you’re looking to compare hour per hour cost, then you’ll find that the electric fireplace heater is much cheaper than a central heating installation.
For example, according to the best estimates, the lowest cost per hour for a central heating setup is $1.50 per hour, while the highest cost for an electric fireplace is nearly $0.09 per hour, which is a difference of entire orders of magnitude.
This makes an electric fireplace a much more alluring option.
But, an electric fireplace isn’t equipped to heat a whole home even if you open up the ventilation and connect all the rooms to the single heat source.
Hence, central heating is of course more efficient and a much more cost-effective option of heating your home than an electric fireplace.
A heat well or a geothermal heat pump is one of the most efficient ways that you can heat or cool your home. It’s a solution that can help you extract enough heat from the ground for your entire house and then some.
While the initial cost of buying a geothermal pump can range between $3000 and $8000, there is no denying the efficiency that they bring and the peace of mind that they bring because of their efficiency and longevity.
Heat wells are some of the most efficient ways to heat your home because of the fact that they don’t use fossil fuels to heat your home. Using fossil fuels means that most of the heat generated from the burning of things like wood and oil and coal is lost to the atmosphere and dissipates quickly.
However, that’s not the case with heat wells. According to the best estimates, for every $1 of power that you put into the geothermal heat pump or the heat well, you will get nearly $4 of power or heat energy.
An electric fireplace, however, costs much less per hour to operate. And it is also something that can help heat one area of your home very efficiently and fast. Choosing one over the other doesn’t make sense here because both of them are for different types of scenarios. Heat wells are used to heat entire homes while electric fireplaces are used to heat large rooms.
A space heater is one of the most inefficient ways to heat up your home or even a single room in your home. It’s an archaic solution that no one should have in their home. Modern space heaters are indeed electric, but they don’t hold a candle to electric fireplaces.
While it does use the same wattage to power a space heater than it does to power an electric fireplace, there is a huge discrepancy when it comes to the cost per unit hour that the space heater takes.
For example, according to consumer reports, it would take nearly $2.82 a day in order to keep a single space heater running for 16 hours constantly.
Compare that to the $1.44 a day that it would take to run an electric fireplace heater for the same amount of time and you’ll realize that the space heater loses this contest.
What’s more is while according to the US Department of Energy, space heaters can be an effective option to use if you want to heat a single room, they aren’t more cost-effective than central heating systems if they’re used beyond small areas or in a large home.
Even gas furnaces cost about 43% of the cost of using electric space heaters. Many US citizens inflate their electric bill by buying space heaters when they have perfectly adequate central heating in their home. And hence, the best option for you, if you want to heat a single room is to get an electric fireplace heater instead.
The Amish Heater or the Miracle Heater purports to heat a room at only $0.08 per hour. That’s around $60 per month.
This is a lot less than a natural gas heater at the moment and it’s even cutting down on the high end of the electric fireplace heater cost of $0.09 an hour.
However, when you look at the picture a little more closely, you find that all is not as it seems. The Amish heater runs at around 1500 watts of power, the same as the electric fireplace heater and the electric space heater.
However, as we’ve seen with the comparison of the first two, this doesn’t mean anything unless you get down to the nitty-gritty. Further investigation finds that if you use the Amish heater for 24 hours every single day, it would cost you $0.137 per hour.
That’s a lot more than the electric fireplace heater’s cost of $0.09 per hour. This would come out to around $148 per year by conservative estimates. That’s a lot more than the $80 per year that the electric fireplace would cost you every single year at its highest setting.
Pros and Cons of an Electric Fireplace
Pros of electric fireplaces
- There’s no smoke
With conventional fireplaces and most other ways of heating that were used before electricity was invented, there was the possibility of smoke and fire. With an electric fireplace, you don’t require any ventilation or any sort of clean up. You don’t have to worry about any fires or suffocating so you can even leave the electric fireplace on while you’re sleeping.
- It’s very Energy Efficient
An electric fireplace is extremely energy efficient as outlined in the points above. It’s much more efficient than a space heater or an Amish heater when it comes to heating a single room or even a large space. It costs at most, nearly $0.09 per hour at its highest setting.
- It’s Low Maintenance
It doesn’t require a chimney nor does it require cleanup. On the contrary, you don’t even require any effort for the fireplace to get it going. You can just flick and switch and enjoy the warmth.
- Easy Installation
One of the best things about electric fireplace heaters is that they are very easy to install.
It’s literally a one-step process. All you need to do is plug in the fireplace and then you can just switch it on and enjoy the warmth. For a conventional fireplace, you would need to get the wood, the gas, the oil, etc, and would need to poke the fire and constantly monitor it so that it can keep on burning.
Cons of electric fireplaces
- Safety Concerns
One of the most telling electric fireplace dangers is that it can draw too much power especially when it is used with central heating. If it’s used together with other appliances, it can overload the power cable and it can explode. Hence, for safety purposes, you should make sure that you have separate wiring for the cables that go to the electric fireplace.
- Heating without Power
It can’t be denied that the electric fireplace is a very efficient form of heating, but there is also no denying that an electric fireplace can’t operate without electricity. This is something that is never an issue when it comes to a conventional fireplace. Hence, if there is a power outage, you won’t have any option to deal with the cold in your home. You’ll just have to wait it out and pray that you don’t get too cold in the night. An electric fireplace doesn’t add much to your electric bill and is one of the most efficient ways that you can heat a single room. Hence, it’s a great investment.