As electric fireplace experts, we answer a lot of questions from skeptics who don’t think electric fireplaces look ‘real’. Their definitions of what looks real vary, depending on whether they are comparing electric fireplaces to gas or to wood-burning fireplaces. Of course, we have far more customers who are ready to embrace electric fireplaces for their heating flexibility and ease of installation and design. Our primary focus is always to help our clients create the best-looking fireplace they can, so they can be proud to share it with family and friends. Here are our top tips for How to Make an Electric Fireplace Look Real.
How to make an electric fireplace look real – quality
The best way to ensure that your electric fireplace looks real is to invest in a quality brand. The old saying ‘You get what you pay for’ springs to mind. If you look for the cheapest electric fireplace, you will get the cheapest components. Not only will these units wear out faster, they will not be able to be repaired because the parts are not being imported to service them. The flame generation system will not be the same quality as their higher-priced counterparts, and it may make tell-tale noises that are a dead give-away that the flames are not real. (Do real flames squeak?) Often, these units will be encased in a poorly-made cabinet that is too small to give the impression of a real fireplace. Wall-mounted units may not be able to be installed flush to the wall, further taking away from the illusion of a real fireplace.
Quality electric fireplaces are being made by many brands, including Amantii, Dimplex, Dynasty, Modern Flames, and Napoleon. These are not typically the units that you find in box stores, although some name-brand manufacturers may have a few models specifically made to the lower price points carried in these stores. Look for warranties of at least 1 or 2 years; many box-store electric fireplaces have no warranties. Better quality electric fireplaces have robust warranties, and they can be serviced beyond the warranty because the manufacturers support their products by carrying the parts needed to repair them. Remember, when you buy quality, you only cry once!
How to make an electric fireplace look real – flame technology
There are several different ways to create a ‘real’ looking flame in an electric fireplace. The typical electric fireplace has a flame that’s created with LED lights and a flicker rod that rotates through the lights to recreate a flame shape. The flame shape is proprietary to each manufacturer and therefore looks different from brand to brand. As technology improves, the flames can change from one generation to the next, even within the same manufacturer. The top brands invest in research and development to continually improve the flame appearance. Today’s top electric fireplace flames are nothing like the ones you remember from the ‘70’s, nor like the ones you see in cheaper fireplaces.
Some of the most unique electric fireplace flame technologies incorporate video and water mist. For instance, the Dimplex Opti-V is a built-in linear fireplace that combines traditional logs with video flames, with realistic sound. The Dimplex Opti-Myst combines mist created from tap water, with lights and sounds, for a flame effect that mimics the real thing. The Opti-Myst flame reacts physically as a candle flame would – if you move the air around it, the flames will also move.
How to make an electric fireplace look real — wall design
If you want to give the impression of a real fireplace, you need to treat your electric fireplace installation as you would any other fireplace. A fireplace is a natural focal point in your home, and deserves to be treated as the center of attention. Putting some thought into the design of your fireplace wall, regardless of the source of the flames, is the quickest way to make your fireplace look real. Adding interesting wall coverings, custom cabinetry, and other design elements to the wall creates a sense of drama and draws all eyes toward the fireplace. If you install an electric fireplace, but leave it completely unadorned, it will look like an after-thought, and not a fireplace.
With traditional electric fireplace inserts, some customers go so far as adding a stone hearth and a fireplace screen, to add to the illusion of a real fireplace. Others add stone or marble slabs around wall-mounted linear electric fireplaces, as they would with gas units. There are many ways to treat a fireplace wall, regardless of the type of fireplace being installed. With electric fireplaces, you have the added advantage of zero-clearance design freedom. As there is no combustion inside an electric fireplace, and no residual heat around the units, you can design with any materials you like, to create a focal point that truly suits your style. See our Design Gallery for inspiration.
How to make an electric fireplace look real — installation
If you leave an electric fireplace on the surface of the wall, or sitting on the floor, with cords showing, there is no way that anyone would think of it as a real fireplace. Although there are linear electric fireplaces that are designed for surface-mounting, we highly recommend that you take the time to have the electric connection put close enough to allow hard-wiring. Or find a way to hide the electrical cords if you must use an existing electrical outlet.
When converting a wood-burning fireplace to electric, be sure the insert fits inside the opening, and use optional or custom trim to cover any gaps around the insert. Have the electrical connection brought inside the wood-burning cavity, so no cords are visible.
If you’re adding an electric fireplace to a cabinet, consider adding a stone surround directly around the firebox, as you would with a gas unit, to further the illusion of real fire.
Paying attention to the installation details is a sure way to make an electric fireplace look real.
How to make an electric fireplace look real – flame settings
For tips on how to set your electric fireplace for the most real-looking flames, see our post https://www.stylishfireplaces.ca/stylish-blog/electric-fireplaces-4/how-to-get-the-most-realistic-flames-in-any-electric-fireplace/
Stylish Fireplaces knows that adding a fireplace to your home can be challenging. With an electric fireplace and their NFI Certified Hearth Design Specialists, it’s easy to create a space you’ll love to share with family and friends. Check out all the options and connect with their experts for help to find the perfect electric fireplace for you. You’ll be the star of your own makeover!