Fireplaces have long established a sacred spot in the center of our living or family rooms. The nostalgic sound, feel and smell of a crackling wood fire has a cozy, romantic feel. Many traditionalists believe that a natural wood fire is well worth the mess and effort it takes to build the fire. And yet, in our never-ending quest for “easy,” many have sought cleaner, easier ways to create the coveted fire in the hearth.
As natural gas became more prevalent, many fireplaces were built or retrofitted with a gas fuel line to more easily start the wood fire. However, this still required a supply of wood and the need to clean out the ashes and chimney on a periodic basis. To eliminate this nuisance, artists created realistic looking ceramic logs to resemble burning wood, with glowing embers beneath. These fires could be created with the turn of a knob, or even the flick of a switch. Other artistic creations used glass or stone pebbles out of which the gas-fueled flames would rise, creating soft, elegant fires that warmed the senses.
The first electric fireplaces were introduced in the 1980s, initially with somewhat crude flame effects. In 1995, Dimplex introduced the first realistic looking wood-burning flame, and people began to take notice. Their Opti-myst fireplace uses an ultrasonic technology to create a flame that is accompanied by smoke created from water vapor. The Opti-V fireplace has the most unbelievable flame effect yet, including crackling and popping sounds, and even shooting sparks!
With no emissions, these fireplaces can be installed anywhere, only requiring a standard electric outlet. A wide variety of designs include traditional wooden mantles, faux brick or stone, and sleek metal, granite and glass finishes. The Modern Flames fireplace can be recessed or mounted on a wall in widths that range from 40 inches to 12 feet. This fireplace features LED flame technology that has a soft glow behind the glass screen. The unit can be operated with or without heat, so you can enjoy the relaxing glow of a faux fire even while sipping on a cool drink in the summer.
Once you get past the need for the rustic, natural fire, you can begin to savor the many benefits of an electric fireplace:
- There are no dangerous fumes, and no direct carbon emissions.
- Electric fireplaces require less maintenance – you simply need to occasionally remove surface dust like any other appliance or piece of furniture. There is no film residue created by gas and smoke.
- Operating costs are much less than a traditional fireplace – only pennies per hour with the heat on, and only pennies per day with just the flame and backlighting.
- There is no danger of burning, and the units are cool to the touch even with the flame and heat on.
- LED technology offers realistic looking flames, and last for 35,000+ hours.
- You can easily control the flame intensity, ember bed lighting, and backlighting with a variety of styles and colors.
- Electric fireplaces are affordable, ranging from less than $200 to more than $2,000. They are easily installed and can be readily moved to a different room without extensive remodeling.
- Some models even include air purifiers!
Electric fireplaces are great way to create a warm and wistful atmosphere using energy-efficient technology. Go ahead and reduce your carbon footprint while you enjoy a dreamy, LED-candlelit evening next to your cozy, romantic electric fire!
This was published in the Going Green section of the January 2015 issue of Spirit Seeker magazine.