The First Electric Fireplaces

Before electric fireplaces entered homes as realistic-looking heating apparatuses, they were meant to be used mainly on stage. While they provided the audience with a decent enough fire simulation, these early fireplaces didn’t suit home audiences. The very first electric fireplaces were far too fake looking to win the admiration of the general population for use in their homes [source: Harris].­

Electric Fireplace Mechanics

An electric fireplace is a pretty straightforward household appliance. It doesn't have too many components, so the mechanics of an electric fireplace are not hard to understand. The two main things to consider are:

  • How does it give off heat?
  • How does it so closely resemble actual, flickering flames?

First, let's consider the heating aspect. Inside the electric fireplace, there are metal coils that heat up automatically when the appliance is plugged into an electrical socket. In addition to the coils, there's also a fan inside the electric fireplace. The fan, which is sometimes referred to as a blower motor, pushes the heat outward into your room. Luckily for your ears, the fan makes very little noise, so the fireplace is practically silent [source: The Best Electric Fireplaces].

The nice thing about an electric fireplace is that none of the heat is wasted, since the fan pushes out 100 percent of the heat generated by the coils. Another advantage is that the fireplace is cool to the touch. Heat is only conducted through the coils, so electric fireplaces pose no danger for families with curious children who have a tendency to touch surfaces [source: Buchanan]. Though the fireplace itself is cool to the touch, you should be aware of nearby fabrics, like curtains, that might be a fire danger if heated too much by the air output [source: Donovan].

Now, what about those flickering flames? The realistic flames are produced by a regular light bulb and refracted light. The light is refracted in a three-dimensional pattern that has no particular order, and this process gives the flames a realistic look [source: The Best Electric Fireplaces].

Click to the next page in order to find out what inserts are right for your electric fireplace.