Can an Electric Fireplace Heat the Whole House?

I was hanging out at the local pub the other night when a friend of mine told me he was thinking about buying an electric fireplace for his home. Inevitably he asked me about their heating capabilities. Like many people, he was thinking about putting the unit into his bedroom, and using that as a main source of heat, and turn down, or even off, the heat in the rest of his place.

Now as you know, I’m a big, big fan of electric fireplaces. I love Dimplex and Classic Flame fireplaces the most-with ChimneyFree fast becoming my ‘best value’ choice. But as a primary source of heat in a home? Well, it’s a good question…but…so here are some facts….

To do this right, if you’re thinking of heating the whole house with an electric, then we should take a look at a couple of different sized models to see how they stack up. We’ll look at the Classic Flame Augusta 33″ Antique Mahogany Electric Fireplace, a larger, high-end model, (pictured left) and the ChimneyFree Ashbury 23″ Premium Cherry Media Console Electric Fireplace, a beautiful, real cherry-wood, mid-sized, mid-market model, pictured right.

The ChimneyFree Ashbury has fan-forced heat with up to 4,600 BTUs/hr (1350 watts) of heating power.  I don’t think I have to say anything more as I note that the ChimneyFree sales materials state that this model “provides supplemental heat for up to 400 sq ft”, key word being ‘supplemental. So, the manufacturer is not saying this should be a primary heating source. As for a 400 square foot room, that’s a 20 x 20 space, so it’s not small-but remember-‘supplemental’.

As for the Classic Flame Augusta, interestingly enough, the sales literature also says fan-forced heat quietly provides up to 4,600 BTUs/hr for ‘supplemental’ heat for up to 400 sq ft.

Frankly, sales people in the fireplace business don’t seem to have much imagination…

But I digress…the bottom line is that the makers of these fireplaces don’t even market them as a primary heating source. And with good reason. Electricity is the most expensive way to heat a home. You have to figure you’ll spend at least 10 cents an hour for a unit, and that would be in one room. You still have to heat the rest of the house, at least where I live in the northeast. So, 10 cents an hour, every hour, for a month, comes out to…hmmm….carry the 2…$72…not bad-except that it only heats one room…put one in every room and and your paying more than you even pay to the oil company…oh well…

The Electric Fireplace Reviewer’s final say: One large, one medium sized, but both with the same size heater. Fireplaces like the ChimneyFree Ashbury electric fireplace and the Classic Flame August electric fireplace are furniture-beautiful and functional-but they just aren’t primary heaters. Still, they do provide enough warmth, and great ambiance, and, with such realistic flames and long, to make them worth every penny.