Artesian Infrared Electric Fireplace Mantel Package in White - 28WM426-T401

If you’ve been shopping for a supplemental heat source for your home, chances are you’ve stumbled upon electric fireplaces as well as infrared fireplaces. Both heating units warm your space and create a cozy atmosphere.  But which type fireplace should you choose? Let’s take a look at how both these type fireplaces work and how you can decide which one best suits your needs.

How Do Electric Fireplace and Infrared Fireplaces Work?

Electric fireplaces use a heat element and a fan to disperse heat into your room.  Powered by electricity, electric fireplaces can be plugged into an outlet which causes the heating element to get hot.  The fan then pushes the hot air out into your room and the cooler air is cycled through the fan. The fan then warms the cooler air and pushes it out, creating a cycle of warming and air flow.  

Infrared fireplaces also heat up a room but use a different method to warm the air.  The infrared fireplaces have a special type LED bulb inside the unit that produces infrared light.  The light cannot be seen with the naked eye. There are coils around the bulb as well as a metal reflector causing the heat to be evenly distributed and sent out into your room.  The heat is then absorbed by people and objects. Infrared fireplaces are also powered by electricity, although some can be gas powered.  

How Long Does it Take to Heat Up a Room?

Since electric fireplaces use a fan to circulate heat into a room, it usually takes about 20-30 minutes to heat the space.  The air tends to stay warm for about an hour after the unit is turned off, so the electric fireplace acts as a good heat source and can save on energy bills.

On the other hand, the infrared fireplace heats up a room almost instantly.  The heat in the room stays as long as the unit is turned on. As soon as the unit is turned off, the heat vanishes since people and objects absorb the heat immediately.  So with an electric fireplace, the heat will linger a while after the unit is switched off, and the infrared heat only stays in the room as long as the unit is turned on. 

Infrared Heater

Safety and Efficiency

Both electric and infrared fireplaces tend to be energy efficient with the infrared heater being slightly more efficient than the electric unit.  Electric fireplaces use as much energy as they emit so that they are considered to be very energy efficient. Infrared fireplaces, which use a LED light, are also energy efficient since the bulb will last several years.

Electric and infrared fireplaces tend to be safe and easy to use.  When you compare these type fireplaces to a real wood burning fireplace, you don’t have to be concerned about smoke damage or the smell of smoke lingering in your home.  The elderly as well as people who have allergies will benefit more from electric or infrared units as opposed to real wood burning fireplaces not only because of the absence of smoke, but also because they are virtually maintenance free.  

Both types of fireplaces have protective housing for their heating units so the outside is not hot to the touch.  Some units even have a timer so it can shut off to avoid overheating. Both types are equally safe and easy to use.

One point to consider when you’re trying to decide between an electric and an infrared fireplace is that electric fireplaces tend to dry out the air so if you have respiratory problems or issues with your sinuses or skin getting too dry, you might want to opt for an infrared heater.

Style and Design

Electric fireplaces come in so many styles and designs, you can find one perfect for your decor.  Wall mounts, freestanding mantel fireplace, recessed, and TV consoles, are some of the options you have.  From modern to traditional, electric fireplaces resemble a real fireplace so they add ambiance as well as warmth to your room.

Infrared fireplace heaters are not available in as many styles as electric fireplaces.  These type units do not give a typical burning fire look so they aren’t are attractive from a design standpoint.  So if you just care about heating your space, and aren’t concerned about ambiance or decor, the infrared fireplace might be the right choice for you.

Real Flame DiNatale 50-Inch Wall-Mounted Electric Fireplace - Black

Both electric and infrared type fireplaces can create a cozy spot in your home to relax at the end of a long day.  Both type units are virtually maintenance free and are as easy to use as plugging them into an electrical outlet. Infrared fireplace heaters heat up your space faster and do not dry out the air.  Electric fireplaces come in more styles and are more aesthetically pleasing. Whichever you choose, you’ll be glad you took the plunge and made the purchase when the cold weather arrives!

For more information on Electric Fireplaces, check out our Electric Fireplaces Buying Guide. is a partner in multiple affiliate programs.  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

2 thoughts on “Electric vs Infrared Fireplaces – What’s the Difference?

  1. Barbara Schwabe says:

    I read that infrared heating such as fireplaces emit chemical causing substances and that has me concerned so I am looking to buy just an electric fireplace. Also can you tell whether a fireplace is run with an infrared light or a regular electric light .

    Barbara Schwabe Thank you

    what is you opinion on this

    1. Serethiel Freeman says:

      Hello Barbara,
      If you do not want an infrared fireplace, you will need to confirm the type of fireplace with the fireplace manufacturer. There is no easy way to tell the difference between an infrared and electric fireplace just by looking at them.

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