Does Electric Fireplace Give Off Heat? (Simple Explanation)

In the HVAC world, the question ‘does an electric fireplace give off heat’ will send them laughing. You’re likely to get a response along these lines: ‘Of course, an electric fireplace gives off heat; what do you think 1,500 W electric power input is for?’.

It’s true that fireplaces were historically primarily used for heating. However, in modern times, many homeowners use electric fireplaces as a part of interior design. Just for show, if you will. Installing an electric fireplace adds to the coziness of the whole place and may even increase home value.

‘Does an electric fireplace give off heat’ is actually quite on point.

In short, electric fireplaces do give off heat. A substantial amount of heat, in fact.

Most electric fireplaces have the maximum electric power input of 1,500 W. They do convert this electric power (via heating coil) into heat.

Further on, we’ll see that heating mechanisms and flame generation mechanisms are separate, and look into how these fake flames can look so realistic (the secret is LED lights + rotisserie-style silver refractor).

do electric fireplaces give off heat
As we’ll learn, ‘fake’ flames don’t give off heat. The heating mechanism (with nichrome heating coils) generates all the heat.

Heating-wise, an average 1,500 W electric fireplace can provide more than 5,000 BTU/hr of heating output; that’s enough to heat up rooms up to 170 sq ft on its own or provide supplemental heating to up to 500 sq ft rooms.

Today, we use electric fireplaces for two main reasons:

  1. For interior design. They do look nice and are known to increase the value of a home.
  2. For supplemental heating. With over 5,000 BTU heating output, electric fireplaces can work together with the central heating system to adequately heat up our home.

Note: In some electric fireplace models, you have the capability to turn the heating off completely.

We’ll look into how these ‘fake’ electric fireplaces generate heat and flames separately and how much heat exactly do electric fireplaces give off.

How Do Electric Fireplaces Work? (Generating Heat AND Flames)

Why many of us wonder whether do fake fireplaces give off heat is quite understandable. We do notice that there is a flame in the electric fireplace, and we pretty much know that it’s fake. A fake fire shouldn’t give away any heat, right?

Well, not exactly. We’re mixing apples and oranges here.

Every electric fireplace has two different mechanisms for two of its main features:

  1. Heating mechanism. Designed to generate heat; heating coils and fans are used here.
  2. Flame mechanism. Designed to generate ‘flames’; LED lights and refractors are used here.

Let’s first address the flame mechanism; ie. how do electric fireplaces create realistic flames?

Electric fireplace flames seem a bit complex but they are actually remarkably easy to create. Here’s how these flames are made:

  1. You need a light source; LED lights are most commonly used.
  2. Light is reflected in a rotisserie-style silver refractor.
  3. The refractor creates dynamic 3D patterns that look like real fire flames (more or less).

Every electric fireplace uses this basic procedure to generate ‘fake’ flames.

Now for the heating mechanism:

Electric fireplaces generate heat in much the same way that space heaters generate heat. In fact, the power input and heating output are pretty much the same for electric fireplaces as for electric space heaters.

Here is how electric fireplaces generate heat:

  1. When you turn the fireplace on, the electric current (about 10 amps in 1,500 W units) starts running in the heating coils.
  2. These heating coils – in most cases out of nichrome wires – heat up (hence the name ‘heating’ coils).
  3. Heated coils in turn heat up the air around them.
  4. Fans are used to push the heated air from the fireplace and into our home.

Note: Some homeowners are skeptical if electric fireplaces give off heat simply because the fireplace is not hot to the touch. That’s by design. The front of the fireplace is made out of heat-resistant glass so we don’t burn our hands if we were to touch it. That doesn’t mean that fireplace gives off no heat.

The heating coils are usually located below the fake fires (LED lights with 3D refractors).

Now it’s also understandable why you can have an electric fireplace without heating. The heating function is separate from the ‘flame’ function. That means that you can turn off the heating (some fireplaces offer that feature, not all, however) without turning off the ‘flame’.

Let’s look at how much heat do electric fireplaces generate:

How Much Heat Do Electric Fireplaces Give Off?

An average 1,500 W electric fireplace can supply supplemental heat to spaces up to 500 sq ft.

To calculate how much heat do electric fireplaces give off, we need to know how much of the input wattage – 1,500 W, for example – is used for heating.

In reality, the flame generator mechanism via LED lights uses a negligible amount of electricity. That means that almost all of the electric power input goes directly into generating heat (via heating up the heating nichrome coil).

If you transform 1,500 W into BTU/hr, you get a bit more than 5,000 BTU/hr. That’s quite a substantial amount of heat coming off the electric fireplace.

For supplemental heating, you need about 10 BTU/hr heating output. That means that an electric fireplace that generates 5,000 BTU of heat every hour can be used as a supplemental heating unit for spaces up to about 500 sq ft.

What is more, an average electric fireplace produces so much heat that it can heat up to 170 sq ft places on its own. For central heating, you would need a minimum of 30 BTU/hr, and if an electric fireplace produces 5,000 BTU/hr, that’s enough for about 170 sq ft of space.

We hope that you know one more thing about electric fireplaces. If you’re in the market for a new fireplace, you can check our list of the best wall-mounted electric fireplaces here.

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