Fireplace Info

Faux Flames: Most Realistic Electric Fireplace Technology

electric fireplace insert

If you’re searching for an electric fireplace, you’ve probably seen all sorts of options: LED, log sets, steam, holographic, etc.  What do all these different terms mean?  And, more importantly, which technology produces the most realistic flames?

This article will give you an overview of each of these technologies to see how they work, how long they last, and how realistic they are.  Let’s get started!


How Does It Work?

LED fireplaces mimic fires with LED lights that spin and move.  This creates dancing flames of different heights.

The technology often has multiple color settings.  Most will come with a “realistic” flame setting, and many offer other colors like blue, red, and purple.  LED fireplaces can go virtually anywhere that has an outlet.

These fireplaces have lots of moving parts, which means that they easily break down over time.  The more affordable options may  have beautiful flames but cheap mechanics that wear down quickly.Steam fireplaces are gaining in popularity. To operate, you fill the fireplace with water (or attach it to your waterline), plug it in, and turn it on.  The fireplace diffuses the water into the air and uses LED lights to make it look like a fire.

Does it Produce Heat?

These fireplaces will never be hot to the touch.  However, some models have fans that warm the room.  These heaters often have a high and low setting.  They range in power, but many are quite loud.  Overall, these fireplaces have a lower risk of fire-related accidents than traditional gas or wood fires.

What are My Style Options?

The fireplaces come in many different styles.  Some are hung on a wall; others are made to be recessed into a wall.  Some come inside mantels; others are made to be inserted into an existing fireplace.

In addition, some units are made to be freestanding.  These heaters require no insertion or installation.  They are also portable and can be moved around a room, a home, or even carried to work or an event.

The style of LED fireplace you get determines the feel it gives your room.  Electric fireplace inserts are quite traditional while a wall mounted fireplace adds a more modern touch to the space.

In addition, you can choose a burning medium.  Your flames can dance on rocks, fire glass, or ceramic logs.  Most models come with just one of these choices, but some come with multiple options so you can change the medium depending on your mood.

For prime relaxation, these fireplaces often come with remote controls.  This allows you to change the settings from the comfort of your couch.

How Realistic is It?

These fireplaces range from lovely flames with depth and multiple colors to thin, one-tone flames.  It’s really important to look at reviews and see what previous buyers have said.

The Bottom Line

I’d recommend an LED fireplace if your priority is ambiance.  This technology is sure to add warmth and coziness to your room.  It comes with a low price tag, some small maintenance and cleaning tasks, and lots of fireside feels.

Log Sets

How Does It Work?

These sets are also based on LED technology, but they are made a little bit differently.  These models have to create realistic flame effects wherever they are placed while the LED fireplaces are self-contained units.

These logs are usually transportable.  You can plug them in wherever you like.  The flame effect often won’t show up unless you place it in a dark, enclosed space such as a firebox.

Does it Produce Heat?

The heat production is usually a setting that you can turn on and off.  They won’t radiate heat or be hot to the touch.  The heat comes from a fan that blows warm air into the room.

What are My Style Options?

These log sets often come with glowing ember beds for an ultra-realistic feel.  They don’t come with as many style options as their electric fireplace counterparts.

Some may come with remote controls and temperature settings.  Almost none will come with color choices.  They usually just have one “realistic” flame setting.

How Realistic is It?

This technology doesn’t produce the most realistic flames.  The flames aren’t all cheap and lifeless, but they don’t have the same depth as flames in an electric fireplace.  Again, it’s essential to read reviews and see what previous buyers are saying about the product.

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The Bottom Line

I’d recommend a log set if your priority is ease.  Logs require no cleanup and usually no maintenance.  You don’t have to worry about installing them either.  Just set up as required by the manufacturer and plug them in wherever you like.  This technology produces the least realistic flame effect, but it is also the simplest to manage!


How Does It Work?

Steam fireplaces are gaining in popularity. To operate, you fill the fireplace with water (or attach it to your waterline), plug it in, and turn it on.  The fireplace diffuses the water into the air and uses LED lights to make it look like a fire.

By connecting the fireplace to your water line, you can turn it on at any time.  If you choose to fill it manually, you’ll need to keep an eye on the water level.

Does it Produce Heat?

“Steam” is a bit of a misnomer since real steam is hot.  Though this fireplace produces something that looks like real flames, they are cool to the touch.  That means the unit can be placed anywhere.  You don’t have to worry about ventilation or heat ruining your walls or electronics.

The flames are actually made of water vapor.  This looks and feels similar to steam.  The difference is that water vapor can be produced at room temperature.  Steam is hot enough to burn you.  

What are My Style Options?

These fireplaces come in a variety of styles.  They can be inserted into pre-existing fireplaces, recessed into a wall, or left as freestanding units.  The freestanding and wall-mounted units tend to have the most modern feel.

You can also add fire glass, rocks, or other accessories if you desire.  The fire glass can be exceptionally pretty since the LED lights can make it glow.

Many models also come with color-changing options.  You can choose from a realistic setting and a variety of other colors like blue and purple.

How Realistic is It?

While water vapor and LED lights sound like a pretty unconvincing combo, they are actually quite realistic!  These fireplaces do not have a glowing ember bed.  They have quite realistic flames but fail to look exactly like a wood burning or gas fire.

If you’ve ever seen an ethanol fireplace, the water vapor fireplaces are quite similar.  They offer very realistic flames but no logs or embers.

Dimplex Opti-Myst Pro 500 20-Inch Built-in Electric Cassette - CDFI500-PRO

$1,429.99  in stock
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  • Color: Black
  • Material: Metal
  • Opti-myst remote: Includes remote control - operates heat (full-heat and half-heat) and smoke effect on/off
  • Overall Dimensions: 20'' (W) x 12'' (D) x 9.5'' (H)

The Bottom Line

I’d recommend a steam fireplace if your priority is a modern look.  Logs and ember beds are emblematic of a traditional fire.  The modern flames of a water vapor fireplace are sure to impress!  Plus they are safe and efficient with pose no fire safety hazard!


How Does It Work?

The holographic flame technology projects videos of real flames onto the logs.  The flames are extraordinarily realistic because they are real!  You’re watching recordings of other fires burning projected onto the logs in your home.

The flames dance in and around the logs, not just on top of or behind them.  The technology used to create this effect has few moving parts and lasts much longer.  This is an important factor to consider since it’s also the most expensive option on the list.

Does it Produce Heat?

These units won’t be hot to the touch, but they do have heaters.  These heat the room without posing any safety hazards.

What are My Style Options?

You can get a holoflame insert for your pre-existing fireplace or a holoflame insert built into a mantel if you don’t already have a fireplace.  You can get the mantel in a variety of sizes, finishes, and colors including natural wood and white.

The flames do not have color choices, but you can control the heat and flame settings.  The fireplace comes with multiple flame settings from a relaxing glow to a full blaze.  You can control it with a remote control or with your phone!

How Realistic is It?

This fireplace is super realistic!  It closely resembles a wood burning fire, though reviewers say that it can look odd when viewed from certain angles.  It also comes with crackling sounds and even nature noises to play in the background completing the fireside atmosphere.

MagikFlame Electric Fireplace 28" Insert - Large Black Firebox - 30 Flames, Large, Freestanding, 5,200 BTU Heater, Crackling Log Sound, Bluetooth, App - New Home Design, Remodels, Family Atmosphere

$2,995.00  in stock
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  • PERFECT FOR NEW HOMES, REMODELS: Whether you are an interior designer, architect, or electric fireplace enthusiast, a MagikFlame is ideal for any living space. Our 28” Insert, freestanding electric firebox is a cozy focal point for the family atmosphere. It also includes built-in 5,200 BTU infrared quartz heater, warms up to 1,000 sq/ft. as secondary heat source.
  • MOST REALISTIC ELECTRIC FIREPLACE: 30 ultra-realistic flames that simulate wood, gas fires. We use patented HoloFlame video technology of actual burning fire. This innovative experience surpasses traditional mechanical electric fireplace products on the market. MagikFlame is ideal for new home design, remodels, and family atmosphere.
  • ATTRACTIVE AND PRACTICAL DESIGN: 28″w x 32″h x 12”d. Upgrade your existing combustion fireplace to a safe an efficient electric. This traditional firebox insert has a textured black finish, perfect for homes and condominiums to add opulent beauty with ease.
  • MADE IN THE USA: MagikFlame uses "solid-state" electronics with few moving parts that will last for years. Our LED and LCD technology is rated at 50,000 hours. When we ship a fireplace, have confidence that it is built to last.
  • MULTI OPERATING USE WITH PHONE: Touchscreen and iPhone App for the latest mobile integration. These intuitive and easy to use controls can be used from any room in the home. Features an app for flame selection, power functions, volume levels, heat control, sleep timer, and nature sounds.

The Bottom Line

I’d recommend a MagikFlame fireplace if your priority is realistic flame effects.  If you hate giving up your wood burning fire, this will make it feel like you never did!

Final Thoughts

With all the technology choices out there, you can find an electric fireplace that matches your style and price point.  If you have any questions, leave a reply below.  Happy shopping!

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