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Electric Fireplace Buying Guide - Everything You Need to Know

Electric Fireplace Buying Guide - Everything You Need to Know

Electric Fireplace Buying Guide - Everything You Need to Know

Choosing an electric fireplace is a personal decision as unique as you are. The combination of features you value and the location where your new fireplace will be installed are like no other. There are a lot of variables to consider, so how do you choose the best electric fireplace for you?

This guide will help you understand five key considerations to take into account before you make your purchase. You'll also notice that this overview mirrors our electric fireplace product filters, which allows you to narrow our entire catalog down to only those fireplaces that match your criteria.

1) Installation Location

Indoor v. Outdoor. There's no real debate here, but it's worth noting that these aren't 100% interchangeable -- an outdoor-rated fireplace can make a great indoor fireplace, but not usually the other way around. Outdoor fireplaces are designed to better protect them from moisture and fluctuations in temperature and humidity, something most indoor fireplaces lack.

Pro Tip: Some outdoor electric fireplaces require additional protective accessories to guarantee they will perform under outside conditions, (e.g. an approved stainless steel cover). These often must be purchased at the time of original sale in order to satisfy the manufacturer's warranty.

2) Fireplace Size

What does 'size' really mean?

I know what you're saying, “I thought this would be the easy part!” The truth is that sometimes manufacturers define this specification differently, and it may differ depending on the installation type. To cut through the confusion, let's focus instead on two empirical measurements that will help you compare apples to apples:

Glass View Opening This is the firebox opening dimensions of your fireplace, i.e. the display space you look into, and effectively the stage upon which your flames perform.

Surround Size This is the edge-to-edge measurement of your fireplace, and effectively the real estate it occupies on your wall.

Pro Tip: You will find these and all important measurements conveniently listed in the "Specs" tab on each of our product pages.

Cost, Delivery and Proportion

When it comes to electric fireplaces, size matters...a lot. Larger electric fireplaces may cost significantly more due to the added logistical challenges of production and added cost of distribution.

Additionally, some super-sized electrical fireplaces may also take longer to deliver because those in the 100"+ range are sometimes made to order. The amount of additional lead time will depend on the manufacturer. Contact us directly to inquire about specific models.

The above notwithstanding, when it comes to electric fireplaces, you get what you pay for. A super-sized electric fireplace is a show-stopper. Few design elements will command as much attention, define the mood, and mesmerize quite like a supersized electric fireplace. A grand sized electric fireplace is the perfect choice for large gathering spaces, or where your fireplace will be the focus of your home or business.

But what about smaller spaces? For average sized rooms, the 36”-60” size range is ideal. Most rooms have this amount of available wall space and a selection in this size range will feel proportional.

Pro Tip: Create a mockup of the fireplace dimensions on your wall using blue painter's tape so that you can visualize it before selecting your final size.

3) Product Type - Four Main Types of Electric Fireplaces

When it comes to shopping for an electric fireplace, no other consideration is weighed more carefully than installation; 'To cut or not to cut, that is the question'. Or more precisely: Built-in vs. Wall-mount/Free-standing/Insert. The quick and obvious answer is that it really depends on your circumstances. Each form factor serves a very specific need.

Let's look at each of the four electric fireplace types in more detail.

1. Free standing Electric Fireplace

Question:  What to do when wall alterations are not an option (in a rental home, condo, apartment, etc.)? Answer:  Free-standing electric fireplaces provide ambiance anywhere.

Benefits of a Free-Standing Electric Fireplace:

Amantii 26" Free-Standing Electric Fireplace

2. Wall-mount Electric Fireplace

The next most convenient electric fireplace to install is the wall-mount. As a bonus, many wall-mount models also have a built-in or recessed option.

Benefits of a Wall-Mount Electric Fireplace:

Touchstone Ivory 50 inch Wall Mount Electric Fireplace in White

Pro Tip: Your existing wall outlet doesn't need to be exactly centered under your fireplace. As long as it is positioned within the width of the fireplace, the cord can be tucked away out of sight behind the surround.

3. Electric Fireplace Insert

Question:  Do you have a conventional fireplace that is out of date or needs costly repairs? Solution:  Replace it with an electric fireplace insert! Electric fireplace inserts allow you to easily and economically update a gas or wood burning fireplace to a modern electric fireplace. Installation is a snap, so you can be enjoying the convenience and dazzling features the day it arrives!

Benefits of an Electric Fireplace Insert:

Modern Flames 38 inch Electric Fireplace Insert

4. Built-in Electric Fireplaces - Now we're gettin' serious!

This last category of installations is for the pros and experienced DIYers only. Built-in (also called "recessed") electric fireplaces require cutting into your wall, likely severing wall studs, and hard wiring an electrical connection, all while making sure that you are in line with current building code. You definitely want a professional on the job. That said, the end result is well worth it.

In addition to the standard variety of Built-in fireplace, two additional subcategories are available for special installation needs:

  • "Flush-Mount":  these are mounted completely/nearly flush to the wall surface, for a super-clean finish. Think of these as the 'infinity pool' of electric fireplaces.
  • "Zero Clearance":  these can be installed up against combustible materials inside your wall space. A professional will know when this type of fireplace is appropriate to your situation.

Benefits of Built-in Electric Fireplaces:

Modern Flames Spectrum 50 inch Multicolor Built in Electric Fireplace

Pro Tip: If you are on the fence about which electric fireplace type is the best match for your room, it's worth having a general contractor or other licensed professional review the location as well as the product details. Where available, precise dimensions, Owner's manuals, and architectural drawings have been included on each of our product pages for this reason.

4. Color and Finish

The most popular color choices are: 

Touchstone Onyx Wall Mount 50 inch Electric Fireplace in Mirror

Pro Tip: While most electric fireplace facades are glass, you will also find some that feature steel surrounds. In this case you will find that the black color has a matte finish.

5. Special Features - Make your Fire Unique!

One of the many compelling reasons to choose an electric fireplace over traditional heating solutions is the diverse selection of features. While nearly all models these days include a thermostat, a remote, a no-heat setting, and media of some kind, even your base model electric fireplace now comes with what used to be considered some pretty sexy upgrades. What follows is an ever-growing list of ways to make your head spin with bedazzlement.

A partial list of special features:

  • Multicolor Flames: Do you prefer a traditional orange/yellow flame dancing around a rustic log set, or a contemporary multi-color display over sparkling glass media? You can have either, or both! The LED lights that create the dazzling flames of an electric fireplace come in a variety of colors, and manufacturers offer something to please everyone. Cool blue, passionate purple, and sapphire pink are just a few modern mood hues.
  • Bluetooth Audio: Just when you thought your electric fireplace couldn't appear more realistic, manufacturers are now producing models that stream audio from any Bluetooth enabled device. Broadcast the sound of a crackling fire, or your favorite tunes!
  • Customizable: These models have mix-and-match options, allowing you to specify the medial type, (Canyon Juniper Log set or Crystal Glacier Glass), side panel pattern, (straight and herringbone), and even the color of the mantel cabinet! 
  • Corner: Corner electric fireplaces can be hard to find, but corner fireplaces give you the ability to add a dazzling display in an unexpected location. Now you can turn this underutilized space into the focus of your room! 
  • Three-sided: Three-sided fireplaces add a third dimension of realism to your electric fireplace experience: depth. Three-sided displays extend dramatic presence into your viewing space, allowing you to enjoy your fireplace from multiple angles.
  • Vertical: This describes any fireplace that is taller than it is wide. Note that an electric fireplace in a less conventional location, (e.g. master bath, dressing area, etc.) will make a big impression.
  • Water vapor - the next frontier? Technological leader Modern Flames has recently announced the debut of the Modern Flames FusionFire Steam Fireplace. This great leap forward in innovation projects LED light onto water vapor, producing a level of realism only found in nature. What's next, flying cars?!

Pro Tips: 

  • Keep an eye out for special surrounds such as arched shapes and finish accents. 
  • Good to know: 'media' refers to the type of substrate your flames dance around. Nearly all electric fireplace now come with either a log kit or some form of clear crystals in one or more sizes. Some models feature both!
  • Beyond color: Many electric fireplaces feature flame intensity settings which let you precisely dial in the mood. Is it time for a lively flame to cheer up the room, or smoldering embers as the evening draws to an end? This granular level of control is now possible at the push of a button with modern electric fireplaces.


Congratulations! You now know how to make an informed electric fireplace buying decision.

Shop for an electric fireplace!

Was there something we didn't cover that will help you choose your perfect fireplace? Contact us, we'd be happy to help!

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Electric Fireplace Buying Guide

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