The new generation of electric fires

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Many homeowners spent the 1980s boarding up their fireplaces, tearing out the original fittings and installing storage heaters or central heating systems. The next generation of homeowners then spent a small fortune on re-establishing fireplaces and searching salvage yards for original Victorian fireplaces and surrounds, so that they too could have the real fire they were seeing in home design magazines.

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But the option to knock down walls or re-establish chimney breasts is not always practical or affordable for some people. This is where the new generation of electric fires comes in. More efficient and far more attractive than their predecessors, the new electric fires are slimline models that can be wall-mounted or inset into a current fireplace. Here are our tips and answers to the questions you may have about this new range of fires for your home.

How do they work?

Most of the new electric fires are really just an advanced fan heater with variable settings. The flame you see is usually simply a visual effect, which is shown via a screen that imitates that look of a standard open fire. You can control the fire image as well as the heat given out by using buttons on the fire or using a remote control, which is supplied with most fires. You can also leave the visual fire on without having the heat on, producing a homely feel and the look of a warm and cosy room even when you don’t require extra heat.

Are they difficult to install?

In most cases you can use these modern fires straight out of the box, as they plug into a normal plug socket. However, you may wish to get an installer to fit the fire to the wall or use an electrician to fit a plug socket in the recess, behind the fire itself. This means you won’t have to see the trailing wire, giving a neat finish.

What do they cost?

As with most technology, there is a large range of prices for electric fires. Modern wall-mounted slimline fires cost from around £400 to £1,000. The power of the unit will also influence price. Many premium units have a 2KW maximum output, whereas cheaper ones tend to come in at 1.25KW to 1.5kW. Inset fires are usually a little cheaper.

How to choose?

Brand, power and looks will all be a factor when you choose your fire. The modern wall-mounted fires are by far the most attractive and practical. Many look very similar to a flat screen television and can be fit flush to the wall or protruding slightly (if you want to differentiate it from a wall-mounted flat screen). Brands such as Dimplex, Celsi or Flamerite are well-respected and reliable.

Are they expensive to run?

The good news is that modern electric fires are very efficient, so you will not be losing lots of heat via a chimney or flue as you may with a real or gas fire. A 2KW model will cost you around 30p-per-hour to run on full. Having the visual effects turned on can add around 4p-per-hour. A gas fire of the same power would cost around 20p-per-hour to run, although you would lose between 25% and 50% of this heat via the flue. Installation costs for gas units are also a lot more.

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