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Electric fireplaces: Not just a glowing faux log anymore

By: By Lucy Haines

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 25, 2014 06:00 am

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  • ANY COLOUR – Some electric fireplaces come ready to paint.
    ANY COLOUR – Some electric fireplaces come ready to paint.
    LUCY HAINES/St. Albert Gazette
  • ELECTRIC FIREPLACES – Sleek and modern wall-mount units are popular at The Home Depot.
    ELECTRIC FIREPLACES – Sleek and modern wall-mount units are popular at The Home Depot.

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If you thought electric fireplaces were passé and a poor substitute for the crackling sounds and mesmerizing flames that come from a genuine fireplace, maybe it’s time to think again.

True, there’s no substitute for a real wood fire, but folks who enjoy a gas fireplace – with flickering flames and abundant heat – often take to an electric fireplace, especially the latest designs that are sleek (just four to six inches deep), with clean, modern lines and styles that can be hung or inserted flush into the wall.

With little to no installation, the appeal is obvious – instant ambiance in any room of the house, from bedroom, basement rec room, even the bathroom, wherever a warm and cozy feel is wanted.

“The heater isn’t the selling feature of an electric fireplace,” said Gerry Loewen, sales representative for Gemco Fireplaces in Edmonton. “It can provide a bit of warmth, but the appeal is mostly decorative.”

Gemco has sold many an electric fireplace in its 31-year history, and most of those come with a standard 5,000 BTU capacity meant for a room of up to 400 square feet. Loewen says brands like Napoleon and Dimplex have a range of sizes and styles to suit all, but adds that today’s buyer is after the modern, wall mount or built-in style above any other.

“Customers often want a gas fireplace for the bedroom, but if the home doesn’t have the hookup, they look to electric. The contemporary units have the same flickering flame over crystals or rocks and the same sleek styling as gas units, plus they’re much easier to mount – it’s usually as easy as putting a couple of screws into the wall and guiding the outlet cord – instant fireplace,” Loewen said.

While higher-end electric models, with cabinets or as part of a combination media unit, can cost more than $1,000, many electric fireplaces are considerably less, as low as $100 to $200. If you’re after a deal, now is the time to shop, Loewen says. Gemco is presently advertising a built-in fireplace online for less than $300, down from nearly $1,000.

At The Home Depot, fireplaces are being cleared out to make way for lawn mowers. Albert Wong, seasonal department manager of St. Albert’s Home Depot store, said younger homeowners are keen on the simple black or white wall-mount units.

“People renting or renovating, they want a cozy bedroom, and a fireplace gives it that feel,” said Wong.

Many electric fireplaces now come with remote controls and dual switches – one for heat, one for just the flame. Some even come with air purifiers or a steam feature that mimics the smoke coming off the log and/or flame.

All is not forgotten, traditionalists. There are still electric fireplaces with oak-look or real wood mantles and even wood stove-type models. Both types still sell, mostly among older customers, Wong says.

The newest of this type include The Home Depot’s primed and paintable mantles over a typical electric fireplace insert, which can be painted any colour.

“That’s a more appealing to the younger crowd, who can make the fireplace look traditional or modern, depending on what colour they paint it,” he said.

Say bye-bye to the glowing pretend logs.


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