Best Electric Fireplace Inserts: The Ultimate Buying Guide (2018)

Best Electric Fireplace Inserts: The Ultimate Buying Guide (2018)

The Best Fireplace Insert Reviews, Ratings and Prices 2018

Seeking to repurpose your existing gas or wood-burning fireplace? Interested in upgrading your existing electric fireplace? Want to reduce the cost of heating your home?

Then consider installing an electric fireplace insert. Within minutes of installing one in your room, you can be enjoying soft, warm heat and an incredibly realistic flame effect.

Improve Your Home’s Beauty and Efficiency

We all know traditional masonry (brick) fireplaces look great, but most of us don’t know that traditional fireplaces are extremely inefficient ways to heat a living space. If you need inexpensive heat for your home but want to keep the beauty and comfort provided by your existing fireplace, then you may be interested in an electric fireplace insert.

An electric fireplace insert is an electrically powered, non-venting heating element that is installed into an existing space – either installed into a mantle or simply slid into the empty space. You “insert” the unit into the old fireplace space and instantly upgrade its efficiency and heating capabilities.

My goal for this website is to help you find the best fireplace insert for your home.

This website will help you understand:
– the available features of log sets, built-in fireplace inserts and plug-in fireplace inserts
– how to select the right fireplace insert for your home
– how insert installation works (it’s easy).

By the way, the use of the term “insert” can be confusing, as some professionals use it interchangeably when referring to zero-clearance fireplaces. These are not the same. Zero-clearance fireplaces can be installed into a wall or framed into a mantel cabinet, while inserts can only be installed into a pre-existing fireplace.

This guide deals with fireplace inserts, not zero-clearance fireplaces.

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How To Select The Right Electric Fireplace Insert for Your Room

Selecting an electric fireplace insert boils down to the following steps:
1. select the heating capacity you need for your room – if any; some inserts just for decoration & don’t heat a room.
2. select the style that best matches your decor: fireplace inserts break down into two styles, modern or traditional
3. select the type of insert you need for your particular installation: a log inserta built-in unit (called a “builders box”), or plugin-in unit. See below for an explanation of these.
4. select the size and trim: measure the width of your fireplace; decide whether you want trim around the edges; do you want glass doors? etc.
5. list any optional features you want. The most common are a remote control, a digital display and/or a timer.
6. shop for the best price.

Your buying decision should be made roughly in this order, so you don’t waste time or make mistakes.

Heating Capacity, Style and Type of Insert

Heating Capacity

The first thing to get clear is whether you’re looking for a heater or just a decoration. There are pros and cons to each. Heating units often cost more and require a fan, which can be noisy (check our reviews).

There are two types of heat systems used in electric fireplace inserts: Fan-forced heat or infrared heat. Fan-forced heat is best for heating rooms up to 400 Sq Ft, while Infrared (IR) inserts can heat up to 1,000 square feet. There are also inserts available that provide the look and feel of a live fire without generating any heat at all (for decoration only).  Many built-in modern units are like this.

Styling: Traditional or Modern

Consider the aesthetic of your room and your existing fireplace. For a traditional room, choose a realistic-looking split log insert like the popular and inexpensive Dimplex DFI2309 or its upscale cousin, the Dimplex Opti-Myst Log Set.

Dimplex 23-Inch Deluxe Electric Fireplace LED Log Set & Trim Kit

Traditional Log Insert

For a sleeker, more modern look, choose a built-in or plug-in unit with a full glass front and flush trim.

Built In Electric Fireplace Insert Ubermodern

Modern Built-In

Type of Fireplace Insert

There are three types of electric fireplace inserts sold today: log inserts, plug-ins and built-ins.

Electric Log Insert

Electric Fireplace Inserts Log Type Electric log fireplace inserts make use of a simulated log set that sits on top of a realistic grate. The heating component is located underneath the log set. An electric log insert is the best type for anyone who wants to convert a standard gas- or wood-burning fireplace into an electric one with a minimum of fuss. Installation is easy: just insert the log set into your existing fireplace and plug it into a standard 110v household outlet. An electric log insert will provide heat for a room of up to 400 sqft. Most log units, like the top-rated Dimplex 28″ Premium Log Set, include a flame effect that is either projected directly onto the back of the fireplace wall or on a back shield. If you are looking for a fast and easy way to convert an existing fireplace to electric, then a log fireplace insert is a great choice.

Plug-In Electric Insert

Electric Fireplace Inserts PlugIn Type The plug-in electric fireplace insert is a simple and inexpensive solution for anyone who wants to install an electric fireplace into a cabinet or mantel. Plug-in units are completely self-contained units, like a space heater. The units are fully enclosed on all sides and have glass fronts, which make them great for modern-style homes. The fan-forced heat output comes from the top of the unit above the heating element. Like electric log inserts, most plug-in inserts plug into a standard 110 volt outlet and can heat up to a 400 square foot room. Infrared plug-in inserts can provide safe, comfortable heat for up to 1,000 square feet.

Built-In Insert (Builders Box)

Electric Fireplace Inserts Built In Type A built-in electric fireplace insert, often installed using a builder’s box, is for people who want to remodel or upgrade their fireplace mantel. A built-in is designed to be a permanent fixture, whether you choose to install it into an existing fireplace or recessed in a wall. Built-ins require more work for installation, but each unit comes with detailed instructions and can be installed by a home owner with a decent toolset. Built-in units can be hard-wired into your home’s electrical system or plugged into a standard outlet using a plug kit. Built-in fireplace inserts provide heat for up to 800 sqft. A 110v insert will warm 400 sqft, while a 220v will heat an 800 sqft space. Built-ins are available in styles that work with both traditional or modern homes.

Size & Trim

electric fireplace insert measurements Electric fireplace inserts come in many different sizes to fit most fireplace openings, so you should be able to find an insert that fits yours. The main dimension to be concerned with is the width of opening, which is typically between 2 and 3 feet. Some ultra-modern built-in units are extremely wide, however. One measurement many overlook is the distance between the firebox and the mantel. Without knowing this, you could end up with an insert that doesn’t even function!

Flashing and Trim Options

Some inserts offer decorative flashings and trim to enhance the look and style of your installation. For example, instead of a basic black sheet metal flashing, some inserts offer a cast iron surround trim. In the rare case that none of the appropriate flashings or surrounds will cover your entire fireplace openings (particularly for those with very large fireplaces), it is possible to purchase the insert only and then have a custom surround fabricated by a local machine shop or sheet metal expert. Some of the best retailers offer services to help you do this.

Optional Features

Many electric fireplace inserts offer special features that you may or may not care about.

Flame Effects

Opti Myst flame animated gif

All electric log inserts and fireboxes are designed to pulsate and glow while the flame effect is in use. The result is a realistic flame effect without the nuisance of smoke or the dangers of burning logs. How the effect will look, however, will differ based on the design and style of each of the inserts.

Some flame effects are generated using a pan of water that mists. Originally patented by Dimplex, this is the most realistic-looking approach. Others mimic flames using blown air and fireproof materials.

Remote Control

electric fireplace remote control

When considering a unit, look for the flexibility and controls that fit your needs.

Some electric fireplace inserts offer a digital temperature setting to set and forget the target temperature for a room.

Additional features such as flame brightness, on/off timer displays, and flame speed settings are also important to consider when comparing units.

Finally, you can get a remote control for your fireplace, which definitely ratchets-up the cool factor. I have one and use it a lot more than I thought I would.

Shopping for a Fireplace Insert

Now that you know your size, trim, style and optional features, it’s time to shop!

The good news is that the vast majority of electric fireplace inserts cost less than $2,000, making them affordable for almost every homeowner.

Some smaller plug-in units cost less than $200. For example, the very popular Comfort Smart 23-Inch Electric Fireplace Insert/Log Set – ELCG240 retails for just $130.

For a larger traditional fireplace look w/ good room heating, the 4.5 star rated 28″ AKDY Electric Firebox has a beautiful curved face and realistic log fire effects; it retails for $199.

Shopping online is definitely the way to go, because most local hardware stores won’t carry that many choices on their floor and the online market is extremely price-competitive.

When shopping online, you will notice that steep discounting (20-50% off) is common. This is normal practice in the industry, so make sure you take special care to look at the actual, not list, price.

In addition to steep discounts, some retailers including and also provide free shipping on orders.

Shipping a fireplace insert can cost as much as $100, so take note.

Time To Enjoy!

Once you place your order, the hard part is over.

Installing an electric fireplace insert is really easy. It took me less than an hour to install mine. Got it done just in time for the holidays!

the fam around new fireplace

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  • Dolly Barton says:

    Do I build the fireplace first

    • Gary says:

      You can buy electric fireplaces, but on this website you will see reviews of “inserts”. If you own an older home with a wood burning fireplace and you want to convert it to something else that is when these inserts come into play. So, yes you need to build a fireplace 1st or already have one.

  • Melissa Ramirez says:

    Hello, I am getting a costum made entertainment center made and I would like t add a fireplace. Not sure night is the right one for this kind of job.

  • Linda says:

    1. I have an old brick fireplace in my 1400 sq ft home. The living room is very small so I don’t need a lot of heat. The fireplace opening is 29 in height and 31 in width. Should I get a glass covered insert that would be close to these specs or just a log insert that would be open.

    2. The chimney is stuffed with insulation. Is that dangerous ?

    • admin says:

      Re. your 2 questions:

      1. Either type of insert would work fine.

      2. Insulation in a chimney can be very dangerous if the insulation is not covered w/ an up-to-code fireproof blanket/lining. That said, if you are looking for an electric insert, you probably don’t need to worry too much about this because they don’t vent off that much heat.

      Hope this helps!

      Brian S.

  • Scotty says:

    I’ve only ever really considered a freestanding electric fireplace, big fan of the insert ones now too! Going to have to pick one up for our old farm house. Thanks!

  • Shane says:

    Nicely put together Brian


  • Fred Brown says:

    I have an open fireplace that sits between my living room and kitchen. Both rooms can view the flame.Presently I have a gas insert in the opening and the propane fumes make it impossible to run because they are so pungent. Can you suggest a unit I should buy that is electric with a heater?

  • Paula says:

    Are there any electric units for a double sided fireplace?

  • Janell Franks says:

    Which type can safely have a tv mounted above the insert ot builder’s box? I am building into a 80″ high by 72″ wide niche where a tv can be mounted.

    • admin says:

      Most non-heating fireplace insert units will work fine.

      Some heating fireplace inserts are well-insulated on top w/ ventilation tubes that will route around your TV.

      The safest bet: make sure you’ve properly insulated the TV enclosure against heat – even if the insert says it’s insulated.

  • Homer says:

    People become so confused about choosing Heater because here are wood stove, pellet stove, Insert, fireplace, fireplace insert and so many kind of heaters available in the market.

    Your information is certainly will help those want to buy Electric Fireplace Insert.

  • Joe says:

    I have a wood burning fireplace that i would like to convert to electric. Will I need an electrician? Thank you

  • Amanda says:

    I’m looking for an electric log insert to heat a large space (up to 1,000 sq FT) I am having trouble finding something.. is there any you would suggest? It will be going in an old fire place. (Built in 1923)

  • Judy says:

    We are building a new home and I would like an electric insert, I do not want gas. We will have a fireplace but am not sure if we would need a sub zero or insert. We will not have a real chimney, there will be a mantel with the stone around it and everything but no real chimney. I’m confused as to what this all means. I do know the contractor is trying to dissuade me from getting electric because he says I won’t get much heat. Is this true. We want to use the fireplace everyday when it is cold.

    • admin says:

      You’ll need about 5,000 BTUs of heating capacity for each 1,000 sq ft in a new/modern/well insulated home.

      Most electric fireplace inserts provide 4,000 to 6,000 BTUs of heat, to give you a feel.

  • Renee Hartis says:

    I purchased an AKDY 33 inch electric insert. My fireplace opening is 41 inches wide and 27 inches tall. My 33 inch insert has room on the sides but the height was 26.50 which was the closest I could find to these dimensions without it being very costly. Now I cannot find a trim kit that will cover the open areas around the insert. Do you have any recommendations that aren’t over $100?

    • admin says:

      Sorry, but I couldn’t find any that match your specs. Might need to get a local fabricator/craftsman to make one for you. Most carpenters & HVAC repair people know someone like that.

  • Sherry says:

    How would I plug it in if the outlet is outside the fireplace?

  • Karel Reznicek says:

    Hi, i bought Dimplex fireplace the type with a like glass crystals. It is beautiful but in couple of days it developed an annoying sound which repets every about 4 seconds. Is this fixable ?

  • Jim says:

    was looking at the electric insert logs for an existing fireplace. I’m concerned about forgetting to shutting it off at times and wanted to know if these units shut off automatically.

  • Cheryl says:

    Best way to close and seal chimmney and flue prior to install?

  • Sandra says:

    We have an opening which has a chimney to roof where a pellet insert was and removed. The opening inside isn’t brick other than the outer wall face mostly decor. Can i build a wood box insert and put inside the opening and put a freestanding electric log heater in there? opening is about 30×36 and then insulate around the wood insert so no heat goes up old chimney. Just not sure if the insert box can be wood or not with the heater?

    • admin says:

      I would NOT build a wooden box to place a heater in – ever. This is a fire hazard. Given that a pellet system was in place, there are too many variables for me to answer your question clearly. This is a job for a professional.

  • Sherry says:

    I noticed that the electric fireplace inserts have a vent on top of the unit. I want to build a structure around the insert to lay fake stone. I’m sure that top vent cannot be covered up so is there a certain clearance that I need to make sure I give it?

    • admin says:

      Most electric fireplace inserts and fireboxes are self-insulated and do not require much space between the box and your wall, if any. Less than 1″ is fine for most. Make sure you check the installation instructions carefully, however, especially if the unit is a heater with a high BTU rating.

      Most high-BTU heating units also require ventilation, but usually that is done through front-facing vents not behind the unit nor on the sides (for obvious reasons).

  • Nicole says:

    I read your very good information at the top but wanted to know more about infrared heating electric fireplaces. I currently have a wood burning stove inserted into a wood burning fireplace. I have no idea what is happening behind the stove.

    I would like for this electric fireplace to replace the single baseboard for this ~800 sq ft space with vaulted ceiling.

    The house has outstanding passive solar heat. Typically, in the dead of winter on the Northern California coast, after having been absent for a couple of weeks where NO heat was on, we turn the single baseboard on to 68 F. Within about 2 hours we need to turn it off as the house has become too warm, even on foggy days.

    I clicked on your “infrared” link and the link is broken.

    Please advise

    • admin says:

      Have you seen the ClassicFlame 26″ Infrared Quartz line of heating electric inserts?

      They are excellent high-BTU heating units (1,000 sq ft) that are technically “builders box” inserts, which means they are meant to be installed flush in a wall or inside a containing box. But you can build your own box if space permits. Less than $300.

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