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Hearth & Home January 2020

Facts & Charts

By Richard Wright

Here’s a look at electric fireplaces today, and how they are viewed by your peers.

In October, Hearth & Home conducted a relatively brief email survey of specialty hearth dealers to determine their actions and feelings toward electric fireplaces. A total of 223 respondents returned the form.

Many specialty hearth retailers presently carry electric fireplaces, but many are still reluctant to do so. We asked hearth retailers to explain their feelings about this relatively new product line.


Connecticut: “Frankly, I don’t get it. It’s expensive; it looks fake; and customers who have come in want it cheaper, and go to the Box stores.”

Maine: “Electrical rates in Maine are too high to justify using this as heat. They are primarily used as ambiance. They don’t put out enough heat in cold weather regions to prevent freezing.”

Massachusetts: “I hesitate to sell built-in electrics because, in general, when they fail, the whole unit must be replaced. I find they are not as serviceable as wood, pellet, or gas fireplaces. And service typically requires an electrician, not a hearth professional, so we can’t support the client as well.”

Massachusetts: “As long as there is a choice between gas and electric, gas will be preferred. The question is, will gas always be a choice?”

Massachusetts: “People here on Cape Cod lose power in the winter and want something that’s going to heat when that happens. I can’t speak for all, but gas seems to be what 90% of our customers are looking for.”

New Hampshire: “Fortunately, our customers still are wood-burners. We took on and display electric, but we are underwhelmed by the number of sales based on our original predictions and research.”

New Hampshire: “The Optimyst by Dimplex is close, but too much money for what it is.”

New York: “It is just one more thing to display at this point. Sadly, there’s almost zero interest.”

Pennsylvania: “Customers in my area want heat, not electric. We sell very few.”

Pennsylvania: “Electric sales are and will be dominated by Big Box stores and online sales. Manufacturers sell directly, or have relationships to sell directly, to customers online, which is not good for brick-and-mortar specialty dealers. We will continue to get a little piece of the market, but any shift toward electric is a net negative for the specialty dealer.”

Pennsylvania: “I think it will continue to grow, however, I don’t think it will necessarily outpace the entire industry.”

Pennsylvania: “I think they are decoration, not functional. In addition, electric is very expensive compared to natural gas. Most people shy away from electric heaters, and I think these units are no different.”

Pennsylvania: “It’s possible that, at some point in the future, all wood and gas stoves and fireplaces will be banned – or at least banned in certain cities or states. Then electric fireplaces will be the only choice. But while wood and gas fireplaces are still an option, they will sell much better than electric fireplaces. Right now, although electric fireplaces have improved, they still look terrible compared to a gas fireplace, and they provide very little heat.”

Pennsylvania: “They have their place for older people, and in some cases where gas, wood, or pellets cannot be installed.”


Arkansas: “If we can get the price of electricity lower than the cost of gas, we might stand a better chance of selling them.”

Florida: “As long as electrics keep innovating, making them look real and appealing, they will continue to grow. However, it’s very unlikely they will ever become dominant over gas or wood.”

Florida: “Electric fireplaces have a place in the product mix, but will never dominate.”

Kentucky: “New construction continually makes wood and gas fireplaces more difficult to add to homes. With the advancement of electric fireplace technology, electric product sales will continue to increase and will continue to replace sales of gas and wood fireplaces.”

North Carolina: “If they can incorporate substantial radiant warmth they may have more of a future.”

Oklahoma: “Customers can buy any electric fireplace online. The dealer has to pay freight and educate the customer. So, for the brick-and-mortar stores, there’s not enough profit or manufacturer help to make it worthwhile.”

Oklahoma: “More customers are incorporating them into their new-home builds and their remodels. A few are replacing current fireplaces with electrics. It’s hard to look into the future and see how the percentages will grow in the future. We’re trying to educate customers on the benefit of using the electric and build that side of the business.”

South Carolina: “I think they’ll continue to grow, so long as Washington allows Chinese imports (as they’re almost 100% Chinese). They’ll continue to be dominated by Big Box retailers, and to a lesser extent by the furniture industry. They’re not really hearth products, but somewhere between an electric heater and a TV screen. I don’t see a role for them in our business.”

Texas: “Electric fireplaces will probably be the same in the fireplace market that post-mounted grills are in the barbecue market. They have a place, but the percentage appears to be very low. There is no substitute for a real fire, as far as most folks are concerned (at least in my market).”

Texas: “I’m sure it’s the wave of the future, but most people prefer a real flame and the ambiance of a real fire. The EPA and the Green activists will have a huge influence on its future.”

Virginia: “The only electric fireplaces that we’re interested in selling are units that we can build into the wall, primarily to replace vent-free gas that customers no longer want in their homes. We can’t compete with online sellers for anything free-standing or wall mounted that customers can easily install themselves.”

Virginia: “They have a very specific segment of our market, for people who don’t want the hassle of wood or cannot get, or don’t want, the expense, of putting in gas.”

Virginia: “Unless the looks of the electric fireplaces on the market get much better, and the heat output gets much higher, I would not expect electric to do much better in our area. People are looking for heat.”

Virginia: “With the present look and pricing it’s going nowhere. If the looks improve and the prices go down – maybe.”


Idaho: “If the quality continues to be this bad, we should let the Box boys handle them.”

Indiana: “It is too easy for someone to order online, or pick it up from a Big Box store and install it themselves. They don’t need specialty people for installation. Most people who want the electric want something inexpensive and easy to install. That’s not where we will make money.”

Iowa: “Electric is becoming more important to our customers. Inserting electric fireboxes in old wood fireplaces or replacing gas logs increased in the last two years. I think electric sales will keep increasing but will level off. Reasons customers give for preferring electric over gas or wood fireplaces/inserts: cost of electric units are less; labor to install is less; no need for venting; don’t need much heat – just for aesthetics.

Tariffs on China goods will hurt the electric fireplace business. We have already seen increases this year.”

Michigan: “I think they will continue to grow but they will not replace wood, gas, or pellet in northern Michigan. We are in a climate that requires heat for eight months of the year. As long as wood, gas, and pellet are available, they will be the choice over electric.”

Michigan: “Electric fireplaces have come a long way in the last several years. They will still have a great impact on new construction and remodels given the special needs of certain applications, but I believe there will still be a greater need for gas fireplaces in the future years to come!”

Minnesota: “We don’t display them in our showroom now, but may in the future. We sell only a few Dimplex a year.”

Ohio: “While we do see it as a strong growth market for customers who are unable to install a gas hearth product, its limited ability to provide heat and its gross inefficiency will keep it from ever surpassing the sales numbers of wood and gas products.”

Wisconsin: “A strong disadvantage is that you’re building-in a disposable product that will probably die without replacement parts within five years. You now have a burned out piece of electronics, with a specialty size, stoned, or at least cut into your wall. It’s like permanently building in a TV or refrigerator: the item will fail and parts won’t be available in the short term.”

Wisconsin: “Electric fireplaces don’t fit with either of our two core principles: heating with local, renewable fuel, and generating the most heat for your energy dollar. Electricity is the least cost-effective way to make heat, and unless someone owns a windmill, solar panels, or has their own electric dam, its not local.”


California: “As California moves forward with CalGreen and Net Zero efficiency regulations, consumers who want multiple fireplaces in a large, new home may only be able to install one or two gas fireplaces within the energy guidelines they must meet. Additional fireplaces in the home would have to be electric. That’s why we’re investing in electric fireplace displays – looking toward a more restrictive future. The downside is that, since there is very little technical expertise required, the Internet may drive down prices and capture a lion’s share of sales.”

California: “The retail customer thinks electric fireplaces are a great idea, but have expectations that are beyond the realm of the technology. The high-end beautiful units are out of the price range of the average electric fireplace customer, and the fact that electric fireplaces are at every Big Box store makes it a hard sell to compete.

“I think manufacturers will continue to improve on the flame and log appearance, but the majority of the customers in our market are mostly concerned with heat output.”

California: “The electric fireplaces just don’t put out enough heat. The other issue is that we don’t service electric fireplaces since they are basically TVs or LED lamps. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to sell something we don’t service.

“I get a lot of calls from people who need service on their electric fireplace, and I have to turn them away because our technicians are not electricians. The electric fireplaces seem to break down a lot. We displayed five electrics in our showroom last year and three of them broke within a few months. There are quality issues with electrics.”

California: “In California, I see a serious trend toward an all-electric home, thereby making the demand for electric fireplaces much greater.”

California: “They are getting better, but will not be the heat output needed for most homes. Online competition is an issue, come look, talk, and then go buy online. Electric fireplaces are not a great specialty-store product unless it is limited to specialty stores.”

Oregon: “People crave a real fire, so I doubt electric will dominate the industry.”

Washington: “Americans love a fire. Should the environmental issue put pressure on gas units, electric will grow much faster.”

Washington: “If they continue to make wood and gas seem like such evil things for our environment, and if we don’t keep government out of our everyday lives, electric fireplaces will probably become the only thing left – until they find something wrong with it. We tried selling electrics a few years ago, but our customers thought they were too expensive for what they were getting, and they could buy them online. They usually don’t do their homework when it comes to brands, quality, and warranty. They are concentrated on how much it costs.”


British Columbia: “There is a market and a place in the hearth industry for electric fireplaces, however, we don’t believe they offer all that our customers want. Most of our electric prospects are doing so because of cost or regulatory issues, but the electrics do not offer near the range of benefits and features as natural gas.”

New Brunswick: “Sales have been slowing down for the last year, but contractors are starting to buy multiple units and volume is picking up. It’s a great, inexpensive way to add atmosphere to any room.”

Ontario: “Up here in the northlands wood is both king and queen of the heating industry due to power outages, etc.”

Ontario: “Electric fireplaces are showing good, constant growth. Gas manufacturers have gotten too greedy with their pricing and will pay for it!”

Ontario: “The cost of electricity is so much less than gas or wood, and the realistic flame and heat production are improving all the time.”

Ottawa: “As long as we see continuous improvement in the flame picture, surrounds, trims, and design, I believe the category will continue to grow, barring even newer technologies.”

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