Pro & Cons of Electric Fireplace Inserts

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Electric fireplace inserts come in different styles.
Electric fireplace inserts come in different styles. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A fireplace adds a cozy touch to a room, whether it's a traditional fireplace with a wood mantel or a sleek, modern style. Adding an electric insert is an option that affects both the aesthetics and the functionality of the fireplace. Weighing the pros and cons helps determine if an insert is the best option for your decor.

Pro: Green and Energy Efficient

Electric fireplace inserts eliminate the need for combustion, unlike gas and wood fireplaces. This means the fireplace doesn't emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants. The insert fills the opening in the fireplace, getting rid of drafts from the opening that can make the home less energy efficient. All the energy turns to heat in an electric fireplace, making it energy efficient compared to gas and wood fireplaces, which lose heat through the required venting.

Pro: Flexibility and Ease of Use

Electric fireplaces are more flexible than a traditional wood-burning fireplace. When you light a fire in a wood-burning model, you get both flames and heat. Electric inserts offer settings that include flames with no heat. Many offer different flame options, allowing you to control the size, intensity and brightness of the flames. The insert gives you more control over the heat and light that comes from the fireplace. Electric fireplaces turn on instantly with the flip of a switch or press of a button, unlike wood fireplaces, which require you to start and maintain the fire.

Con: Appearance

The appearance factor depends on your aesthetic style. An electric insert goes inside the existing fireplace opening. It often has a frame and glass in front. You can find a range of styles, from traditional to contemporary, to match your home decor. The potential negative is the appearance of the logs and flames. If you prefer the look of real logs and flames, an electric insert might fall short of your expectations. You also lose the smell of a real fire.

Con: Electricity Use

Because the insert runs on electricity, it relies on a steady source for operation. During power outages, the electric fireplace insert won't operate and cannot provide a source of heat. A wood-burning fireplace can still work during a power outage.

Another consideration is the increase in electricity consumption that comes with an electric fireplace insert. You won't have wood to purchase, but you will pay more each month on utilities. The cost in comparison to a gas fireplace depends on the price of natural gas versus electricity in your area.

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