Electric fireplace inserts are the simplest, least complicated types of inserts on the market. Because there is no combustion involved, no venting is required. Permits are not needed, either. Just plug it in and watch the simulated flames flicker.
Electric fireplaces include a small heater, which puts out up to 5,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units, a way of measuring heat). Reflective, flickering lights create the illusion of flame. Many electric fireplace insert models allow you to adjust the flame size; they can also be used with or without the heat component, which is beneficial if you live in a hot climate.
Electric fireplace insert users buy them for aesthetic reasons. They may be living in an apartment with a nonworking fireplace. Or they may have no access to natural gas in the area, or they don't want to burn wood [source: Kaufman].
Installation is much simpler for electric inserts than it is for gas and wood inserts. The electric fireplace insert needs only to fit into the fireplace opening. Clearances from mantles, the back of the fireplace and chimney flues don't need to be taken into account. Some say that putting in an electric fireplace insert is as easy as putting a glass on the kitchen shelf (albeit a very, very heavy glass).
The insert gets all its power from one plug, which drops down from the hearth and plugs into a nearby electrical outlet. The price of operating an electric heater depends on your electric costs.