Whether you want additional heat in your home during the fall and winter or you just love the charm of an open flame, a traditional wood burning or gas fireplace can be a wonderful thing. However, there is the problem of fumes, smoke, sparks, odors, ashes to clean up and so forth. In addition, there's the hassle of installing these features if you don't already have them in your home. Adding a chimney or flue system is no small matter. The space they require can be significant if your living quarters are small as well.

Of course there's the alternative of a space heater, but although they're easy to install, economical, and can certainly add heat, they have no open flame and certainly don't create the look or feel of a fireplace.

There is however, the option of an electric fireplace. These units offer the best of both worlds.

1. An electric fireplace is simple to install. In most cases all you have to do is plug them into a standard outlet.

2. They operate clean. There are no ashes or dust and some even include filters to eliminate dust and so forth from the air.

3. They eliminate fumes, smoke, and sparks that can damage flooring and nearby furniture.

4. The consume little floor space. Electric fireplace models that sit flush against the wall may extend out into the room only 12" to 18". A corner model can be selected which occupies otherwise unused space. Or, a wall mounted electric fireplace can be installed which may have a profile of only 5" to 6".

5. They provide the needed heat. Many electric fireplaces have a 4,000-5,000 BTU heater. They can easily provide heat to a 400 sq. ft. space within 20 minutes.

6. They are economical. There is of course a cost to operating an electric fireplace. They are essentially space heaters, so the cost is the same as operating a similar size space heater. The average estimated cost is 7 to 8 cents per hour.

7. An electric fireplace adds beauty and charm to a room. They come in a variety of styles from modern to rustic if you choose one with a mantel or frame versus an insert for an existing fireplace. In addition, you get a realistic flame effect, glowing embers, and in some cases,even the popping and crackling sound associated with a wood fire.

8. They are flexible. If you choose to move your electric fireplace, you can do so easily. You don't have to arrange furniture around them, they can be placed anywhere you wish as long as there is an outlet to use.

An electric fireplace can be perfect to add when you live in an apartment or condo or even in a larger home if you have a room where it gets chilly during the colder months.