Typical pine fire surround with electric fire on marble hearth.

If you’re looking for the benefits of a traditional fireplace without all the work that’s involved, an electric fireplace might be just the answer.­

iStockphoto/Gordon Ball

­Fireplaces are great, especially if you live in a region that routinely experiences cold winters. The ability to add some logs to your fireplace and feel the heat reach all parts of your home is wonderful. But, as with many­ home f­eatures, there is some cost to this convenience. You need a steady supply of wood for burning. This means either an extra workout for you or your wallet - you're going to chop the wood or you'll have to pay someone else to do it. There's the routine cleaning of the fireplace and the area surrounding it. There's the annual cleaning of the chimney and flue. And finally, there's the actual task of building a fire; this takes a little preparation and time.

For some folks, the warm crackling fire is completely worth all this effort. But for others, it seems like a lot of bother. They want the benefit of having a fireplace without all the work involved. The answer for these folks is an electric fireplace. If you've ever seen an electric fireplace, then you know how realistic it can look. An electric fireplace can have a mantle just like a traditional fireplace. It can have fake logs and fake flames that do actually look realistic. And, it can produce about 5000 BTUs of heat. But that's not enough heat to be the main source of heat for your house [source: Harris]. Of course, the modest amount of heat, for some people, might be a concern. But if it isn't, an electric fireplace might be just the thing for your home.

­Best of all, electric fireplaces do not require any clean up because there are no logs or ash. These fireplaces also do not require an electrician to perform elaborate wiring, since they simply plug into your home's standard outlets. Plus, many are lightweight for easy movement [source: Garner].

In this article, we'll take a look at the mechanics of electric fireplaces, discuss the difference between an electric fireplace and an electric fireplace insert and we'll consider the accessories that are available for today's electric fireplaces. Click to the next page to get started.