How to buy an electric fire or stove
If you want the benefits of a real fire but with minimal fuss, an electric fire or stove is a simple way to add warmth to your home at the flick of a switch.
They’re also a good alternative if you don’t have a gas supply to your home or if you want a cleaner and more environmentally friendly option than a wood-burning stove.
Our guide will talk you through the different types of electric fires and stoves and help you decide which one is right for you.
What to consider when buying an electric fire or stove
Decide where to place it
Unlike gas fires and stoves, you won’t need to worry about whether you have a working chimney or flue in your home, nor will you have to create a vent through an outside wall.
This can make an electric appliance much more flexible, as you can place it anywhere that it can be plugged in.
- Freestanding fires can be placed flat against a wall with a fireplace surround to create the effect of a fireplace without needing a chimney or a recess.
- Inset fires can be used in the recess of traditional fireplaces, or you can create a cavity in a wall to place them in – a good choice if you have limited floor space.
- Wall-mounted electric fires are another option if you’re short on space and can create a very contemporary appearance.
Or if you love the look of wood-burning stoves but don’t have a chimney, you can get electric models that look like the real thing. They’re usually freestanding and can be placed anywhere you want, including in the recess of a fireplace.
Work out what heat output you need
Your fire or stove will only be able to heat the room it’s installed in. So to get the best value out of it, make sure you’ve got the right heat output for your room.
If it’s too low, it won’t keep you warm enough. If it’s too high, you’ll end up forking out more than you need to spend on your appliance.
The output will be measured in kilowatts (kW). Approximately speaking, to make your room 21°C when it’s 1°C outside, you’ll need 1kW of heat output for every 14 cubic metres of space.
As a rough guide, multiply the height, width and length of the room in metres, then divide this by 14. You can use our tool below to give you an idea.
However, this is only a rough figure for an average home, and other factors can affect the output you’ll need, such as the level of insulation in your home and the number and size of any windows in the room.
If you’re unsure which wattage to buy or whether an electric fire will be suitable for your room, consult a retailer for more tailored advice about what’s right for your property.
Electric fire and stove styles
Whether your style is contemporary or traditional, there should be an electric fire or stove to suit you and your property.
If you’re shopping at the high end of the market or considering a model that will need a cavity to be created in a wall, you’re less likely to want to replace your fire or stove in the near future. So look for a style that could stand the test of time.
Take a look at our gallery to see examples of some of the different styles on the market.
Models shown are by BFM Europe, Dimplex and Stovax.
How efficient are electric fires and stoves?
Electric fires are 100% efficient, meaning all the heat they produce is pushed out into the room, as no heat is lost in a chimney or flue.
However, their heat outputs are usually limited to just 2kW or less, which is lower than the range available from gas fires and stoves, and wood-burning stoves.
And although you benefit from all of the heat they generate, electric appliances generally cost more to run, as electricity is a more expensive way of heating your home.
Features and standards to look out for
There are a number of features to look out for when buying your electric fire or stove. These include:
- Remote controls to enable you to switch the device on and off from anywhere in the room, which can be particularly helpful if you have limited mobility.
- Different ‘fuel beds’ such as logs, coal or stones, which appear to be burning when the fire is on. With some models, you’ll be able to choose which one you want when ordering.
- The type of ‘flame effect’. Some manufacturers have developed particularly realistic effects to create the impression of a real, flickering fire.
- Adjustable displays with different levels of brightness and the ability to use the flame effect without having the heat on.
- A CE mark, which should be on all electrical equipment to show it’s met European safety and efficiency standards.
How much is an electric fire or stove?
Basic electric stoves and fires start for less than £100 from some high street retailers. We’ve found models on special offer for as little as £50.
But if you want something more sophisticated and stylish - or something with a more realistic flame effect - you’ll need to fork out more. Some of the fancier models we’ve seen cost about £1,500.
Prices also vary between retailers, so it’s worth shopping around to get good value. If you’re on a budget or love a bargain, try shopping in summer when demand is lower, or in autumn for start-of-season sales.
One benefit of electric fires and stoves is that they’re generally cheaper than their gas-powered or wood-burning counterparts (when comparing like-for-like models).
But electric appliances are likely to have higher running costs in the long term because electricity is a more expensive fuel, so you’ll need to consider this alongside the up-front costs.
How to install an electric fire or stove
Unlike gas fires and stoves, you won’t always need to get a professional to install an electric fire or stove, particularly if you’re choosing a very simple model. With some basic electric stoves, for example, you can simply put it down in the room, plug it in and switch it on.
Even if you’ve chosen something more sophisticated, if you’re a dab hand at DIY you might be able to take care of it yourself. If you do, make sure you:
- follow the manufacturer’s instructions
- turn off the electricity before carrying out work
- don’t install the heater directly above a plug socket
- comply with building regulations if carrying out any structural work.
If you’re not very confident with DIY you might want professional help, particularly if you need structural work carried out to install an inset or ‘hole in the wall’ fire, or to conceal electrical cables.
Maintaining your electric fire or stove
One of the benefits of electric appliances is that they don’t need annual servicing by Gas Safe engineers, and you don’t need to get any chimneys cleaned.
But there are still things you can do to make sure your electric fire or stove stays in good working order, and that you stay safe:
- Register your appliance so the manufacturer can contact you if a problem is later discovered with the model you’ve bought and it has to be recalled.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.
- Check plugs and sockets regularly (where possible) for any burn marks or buzzing sounds.
- If there seems to be a problem with your fire or stove, don’t just ignore it. Unplug it and contact the manufacturer or find a qualified professional to repair it.