An electric fireplace can definitely heat a room! In one test, an electric fireplace raised the temperature of a room 13.5° Fahrenheit / 7.5° Celsius in four hours. However, depending on the room and your circumstances, an electric fireplace may or may not be the best way to heat the room.
Several factors, including the size of the room, the way the fireplace is used, and what model fireplace you own, contribute to whether an electric fireplace is the best heating option or if some other heat source is better. Let’s take a closer look.
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How Big of a Room Will an Electric Fireplace Heat?
So how much space can you actually heat with an electric fireplace? Well, there are a few factors.
Firstly, which type of electric fireplace do you have–forced fan or infrared quartz?
With a forced fan electric fireplace, the heat coming out of your fireplace and into your room actually is blown into the room. Your fireplace produces heat in mechanical coils, and your fireplace has a built-in fan that blows the heat from the coils to the room–spreading the hot air around the coils out into the room.
If, however, you have an infrared quartz electric fireplace, no such fan is built-in. Instead of heating coils and blown air, these fireplaces actually don’t heat air at all. Rather than using air as a method of heat transference, infrared quartz fireplaces send heat via infrared light.
This light doesn’t warm the air. Instead, it directly heats the objects it hits. So whereas a forced fan fireplace is heating air and that air then heats you, with an infrared quartz fireplace, the fireplace is directly heating you by hitting you with infrared light.
These very different heating strategies will, naturally, have very different effects.
For instance, if you don’t want to dry out your home, an infrared quartz fireplace might be for you since it warms solid objects but does not warm the air itself; an infrared quartz fireplace leaves the air humid. A forced fan fireplace, however, might remove some of the humidity from the air.
More urgently, there is a big difference in what size room they can heat. An electric fireplace can heat a room up to 400 square feet or up to 1000 square feet, depending on its heating method. A forced fan electric fireplace can heat a 400 square foot room, and an infrared quartz electric fireplace can heat a 1,000 square foot room.
One important caveat: while the infrared quartz will allow you a larger room, in some sense, it actually won’t heat the room–it heats the objects in the room. With an infrared quartz electric fireplace, sure, you can be on the other side of a 1,000 square foot room, and you will be warmed up. But all the air in between the fireplace and you stays cool.
This will be especially noticeable when you turn the fireplace off–the room will lose its heat quickly since the air itself (which takes up most of the space in the room) wasn’t heated.
A forced fan electric fireplace, though it heats a smaller area, will heat that area thoroughly–and when the fireplace is turned off, the room will retain its heat better.
The other element that will affect your electric fireplace’s range is its voltage. Typically, electric fireplaces operate on 120 volts, but some can operate on 240 volts. Doubling the voltage pretty much doubles the heat output.
So while a 120-volt electric fireplace can heat a room up to 400 square feet, a 240-volt electric fireplace can heat an 800 square foot room.
Now that you know what size room an electric fireplace can heat, the big question often on people’s minds is: Will the electric fireplace be the best option for heating that room … or is central heat a better choice?
Electric Fireplaces vs. Central Heat
As with most dualities in life, there are pros and cons to each side.
Both options are safe for your home. Electric fireplaces are even cool to the touch, unlike wooden fireplaces.
But the obvious advantage of central heat is that it heats your entire house at once. On the other hand, an electric fireplace is helpful for what is called “zone heating”. You can probably guess what it means: an electric fireplace heats just one “zone” (in other words: a small section) of your house.
This is why it is a common recommendation to use central heating when you want to heat an entire house and use a fireplace when you only want to heat one room. This strategy makes perfect sense since it’s essentially using each piece of technology for the precise task they were built for.
But does this strategy always hold up?
Let’s consider the opposite: can an electric fireplace heat an entire house? And can central heating heat just one room?
As we explored earlier, an electric fireplace has limited square footage that it can heat. The more potent models can heat a room of about 1,000 square feet.
This means that if you want to heat all of a 3,000 square foot home, an electric fireplace probably won’t cut it.
Whereas central heating will heat your room–though, not necessarily efficiently.
This is a somewhat controversial topic. Some people hold that each piece of technology should be used as intended: that the greatest efficiency, and lowest cost, would be reached by using an electric fireplace if you’re only heating one room, and using central heat if you’re heating your entire home.
Others believe that central heating is more efficient and cheaper no matter what, even when only heating a single room. And there are logical reasons to believe this.
For one thing, gas is often cheaper than electricity. If you power your fireplace with expensive electricity, but power your central heating with cheap gas, using central heat might be the more cost-effective choice (especially when you use your central heating intelligently).
If you only want to heat one room, make sure to turn down the thermostat in the rest of your house.
However, homeowners don’t always use their central heating thoughtfully. When a homeowner wants to heat only one room but turns on the central heat throughout the whole house, you wind up with a situation in which an electric fireplace would have been far more efficient and cheaper.
Electric fireplaces are also faster at heating a space than central heat. So if you’re looking to get warm quickly in a small space, an electric fireplace might be the better option.
Another big factor is installation costs. So far, we’ve been comparing the everyday running efficiency and cost of electric fireplaces and central heat, as if they already were installed.
However, if you don’t currently have any heating system, and are looking to get one, adding central heat to your home is far more expensive than buying an electric fireplace.
For a three-bedroom home, the average cost to install central heating is between $4,000 and $8,000. Whereas Amazon’s top-rated electric fireplaces cost between $300 and $500–that’s less than one-tenth the price of central heat.
If you’re trying to decide between using an electric fireplace or central heat, you should keep in mind that the difference in overall running cost will vary depending on electricity prices in your area.
Which Electric Fireplaces Give the Most Heat?
For the very highest heat output, you’ll want to look for an electric fireplace that uses infrared quartz for heating (not coils and a fan), as detailed earlier in this article. If possible, you’ll also want to find a fireplace that can operate at 240 volts.
While brands will often advertise their inclusion of LED lights, bragging about their efficiency, this actually has nothing to do with the heating–the LED lights are used to simulate the look of a real fire.
They aren’t part of the heating mechanism. Whether your electric fireplace has or does not have LED lights will have zero impact on its heat output or heating efficiency.
Here are three of the best electric fireplaces on the market now:
1. Duraflame 3D Infrared Electric Fireplace Stove with Remote Control – Portable Indoor Space Heater – DFI-5010 (Black) The highest-rated electric fireplace on Amazon that features infrared quartz heating and a freestanding construction–meaning you can put it anywhere. It heats up to 1,000 square feet and has a remote-control thermostat.
2. Edite Electric Fireplace Another infrared quartz fireplace that is also capable of heating 1,000 square feet; this fireplace has an old-fashioned look, plus castor wheels, for maximum maneuverability.
3. R.W.FLAME Electric Fireplace 50 inch Not looking for a freestanding fireplace? Here’s one that is installed in the wall, with an elegant, modern look and energy-saving heating modes–choose between 750W and 1500W at the press of a button.
How Much Will an Electric Fireplace Raise Your Electric Bill?
If you use your fireplace three months a year, for three hours a day, that will be only about $50 per year. But depending on your circumstances, the price could be as high as $80 per year.
An electric fireplace is going to raise the price of your electricity bill–but how much can vary. On average, electricity costs about 12 cents per Kw, and an average electric fireplace uses about 1.5Kw per hour–so by those metrics, an electric fireplace will cost you 18 cents per hour of use.
No matter the cost of electricity in your area, an electric fireplace is a practical tool that may be worth looking into before your next winter.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
- Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10