Outside of various wood-burning fireplaces, there are two many options – conventional forced-air electric fireplaces and the more recent infrared electric fireplaces. While they both get the job done, they do it in very different ways. Conventional electric fireplaces use a fan to push air over a heating element and throughout a room. Infrared electric fireplaces emit infrared rays that will heat the surfaces of anything it comes into contact with.
How Quick It Heats Up
It takes time for the heating elements in a conventional electric fireplace to heat up to the point that they actually warm the air forced through them. There is a definite ramp-up period, where you might turn it on and then leave the room for a while until it gets heated up. An infrared fireplace, on the other hand, will start emitting rays of heat as soon as it is turned on.
How Long It Stays Hot
On the other side of the coin, an infrared fireplace will stop emitting rays of heat as soon as it is turned off, meaning an immediate lack of warmth. Infrared fireplaces are designed to heat you, your couch, your blankets – but not the actual air itself. Conventional electric fireplaces will fill the room with heated air that will retain its warmth for a good amount of time after the fireplace itself has been turned off.
Since electric fireplaces don’t burn through wood, there is no smoke or ashes to worry about, no oxygen consumed or carbon monoxide to be concerned with. Infrared fireplaces truly change nothing about your air quality. Infrared rays are not detrimental to us like ultraviolet rays are, and can actually help those with poor blood circulation. Conventional electric fireplaces can dry out the air somewhat through the use of the fan.
Most conventional electric fireplaces can heat about 400 square feet, in front of and around the fireplace. It by no means will heat a house, but it can take care of an individual room. Infrared fireplaces can heat up to 1000 square feet – but there’s a catch. Infrared rays travel straight, and remember, they must contact a surface in order to heat it. So infrared fireplaces essentially put out a beam of heat in front of them, and don’t affect the temperature on either side. Most manufacturers use shiny metal reflectors to break up the rays into a wider beam to hit more surface area. Still, keep in mind the layout of your space and what an infrared fireplace would be able to hit and heat.
Conventional electric fireplaces are quite the composite of pieces and parts, moving fans and items that require lubrication. They’ll need regular maintenance to function properly, but you can perform that maintenance yourself. If any part needs replacing, you can likely replace it yourself if you’re handy. Infrared fireplaces have absolutely zero individual parts and moving pieces, and can function perfectly fine with no maintenance whatsoever. However, if it does happen to break, you’ll probably have to take it to a small appliance repair shop to get it serviced.