Electric flame effect heaters review and compare

Enjoy the romantic look of a traditional wood or coal-burning fire without the mess.
 
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01 .Introduction

Electric flame effect heater

Test results for seven flame effect electric heaters, priced from $250 to $400

Flame effect electric heaters perform as a normal convection heater, with the added old-world charm of a roaring fire, but without the smoke.

All the models CHOICE tested use a fan — with three heat settings of off, half and full — to distribute hot air through an outlet at the base of the heater.

The look is so integral to their overall purpose you can even put the flame effect on without generating any heat. Imagine the homey feel of a log fire in the lounge room in the middle of summer!

We tested seven flame effect electric heaters for heating performance, ease of use and safety.

CHOICE tests are different. We buy the products we test — no freebies from manufacturers. Companies can't buy ads on our site and our work is funded by people like you.

Visit our unflued gas heaters article for alternate heating solutions. 

Please note: this information was current as of May 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market. 


In brief

  • All these models will heat a medium-sized room (depending on insulation and the climate where you live) and look good doing it.
  • Safety features you would expect to see on an electric convection heater are missing on many of these models.

Brands tested

  • DeLonghi Garda (A)
  • Dimplex Allegri ALG20 (A)
  • Dimplex Brayford BFD20 (A)
  • Dimplex Lee20
  • FlameGlow FG250 (A)
  • FlameGlow FG350 (A)
  • FlameGlow FG450 (A)
(A) Discontinued.

We encountered problems with one of the models (FlameGlow FG450) during the test. We're checking this out further and will report on their performance soon.

 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test.

What to buy
Brand Price
DeLonghi Garda $250
Dimplex Lee20 $300

The DeLonghi Garda heater operates at 1250W or 2400W compared with the rest of the heaters at 1000W or 2000W. As a result, it delivers more heat than the other models and is faster to raise the temperature of a room. However, it was also noisier than the other models when using the flame effect without using the heater function.

If you don't want the traditional cast-iron-stove style, the Dimplex Lee20's modern brushed-metal look combined with a good heating performance could be a good option. Castors should also make it easier to move the heater from room to room.

What about the rest?

The FlameGlow heaters certainly look substantial and include the two heaviest models on test. However you need to have a power point close by as the cords are only just over one metre in length.

The Dimplex Brayford was the lightest heater on the test and returned a heating score on par with most of the other models. However, it and the Dimplex Allegri did not have a thermostat to regulate the desired temperature and can't be recommended as a result.

Safety issues

Ideally, all models should require simple safety features. The installation of an inexpensive tilt cut-out switch means the heater will automatically turn off once an angle of incline past an accepted limit is reached.

Unfortunately, few heaters have this basic safety feature. When we placed the heaters in this test on their back and front, most of the models continued to operate.

The heaters with thermostats continued to turn on and off. The models without thermostats continued to heat, except the Dimplex Allegri which turned off and stayed off through the use of a thermal cut-out switch when on its front. None of the heaters were damaged or caused other damage when this test was carried out on a concrete floor. However, the result could be different if this happened or carpet or if someone fell on it and was unable to roll away.

All the heaters passed our towel-drape test without incident, except the FlameGlow FG450 we are testing an additional heater and will provide an update as the results come in.

The user manuals of the DeLonghi Garda and FlameGlow heaters clearly state not to use an extension lead due to the danger of overheating the cord. So why would FlameGlow make a heater with a power cord that is just 1.1 or 1.2 metres long? This small cord length may force you to place the heater away from an ideal heating position to reach an available power outlet.

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below.

  Performance
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) Heating score (%) Ease of use score (%) Towel test Tilt stability test Switched off when tipped over Price ($)
Delonghi Garda
www.delonghi.com.au
76 83 60 No Damage Pass No 250
Dimplex Lee20
www.dimplex-australia.com
71 74 63 No Damage Pass No 300
FlameGlow FG250
www.flameglow.com.au
69 75 55 No Damage Pass No 300
FlameGlow FG350
www.flameglow.com.au
69 75 55 No Damage Pass No 350
FlameGlow FG450
www.flameglow.com.au
68 76 50 Damaged, results on second heater pending. Pass No 400
Dimplex Allegri ALG20
www.dimplex-australia.com
64 69 53 No Damage Fail (Forwards) No * 250
Dimplex Brayford BFD20
www.dimplex-australia.com
58 64 45 No Damage Pass No 300
 


  Features Specifications
Brand / model (in rank order) Thermostat Castors Thermal cut-out Tilt switch Timer Fan only / heat without fan Flame dimmer Flame effect bulbs Heat settings Dimensions (L x H x D; cm)* Weight (kg) Cord length (m)*
Delonghi Garda
www.delonghi.com.au
Yes No Yes No No Yes No 2 x 40W 2 (1250W/2400W) 51 x 57 x 33 13.9 2.2
Dimplex Lee20
www.dimplex-australia.com
Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes 2 x 60W 2 (1000W/2000W) 57 x 73 x 28 16.4 1.8
FlameGlow FG250
www.flameglow.com.au
Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes 1 x 40W 2 (1000W/2000W) 45 x 58 x 30 16.26 1.2
FlameGlow FG350
www.flameglow.com.au
Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes 2 x 25W 2 (1000W/2000W) 59 x 68 x 34 20.46 1.2
FlameGlow FG450
www.flameglow.com.au
Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes 2 x 25W 2 (1000W/2000W) 62 x 63 x 37 18.26 1.1
Dimplex Allegri ALG20
www.dimplex-australia.com
No ** Yes Yes No No Yes No 2 x 60W 2 (1000W/2000W) 43 x 66 x 28 15.3 2.0
Dimplex Brayford BFD20
www.dimplex-australia.com
No ** No Yes No No Yes No 2 x 60W 2 (1000W/2000W) 44 x 55 x 30 12.26 1.8
 

** The Dimplex Allegri and Brayford were given a poor (40%) score for the thermostat performance portion of the overall performance test to no thermostat being present.
* Turned off when tipped over onto its front but continued to heat when tipped onto its back

Table notes

Price Recommended retail, as of April 2008. Prices vary a lot so shop around.

Scores The overall score is made up of:

  • Heating: 70%
  • Ease of use: 30%

Our testers assessed the heaters’ performance in a thermal comfort lab for the following:

  • Heating speed How long did they take to raise the room temperature by 5ºC and 10ºC from an ambient temperature of about 8ºC?
  • Heat distribution How evenly did they heat the room?
  • Thermostat performance How much did the average room temperature fluctuate as the thermostat turned on and off? Heaters without a thermostat were issued with a poor rating on this part of the test.

Ease of use Our testers assessed the labeling of controls, the heaters’ mobility and stability on hard surfaces and carpet, the cord storage, and the ease of cleaning.

Safety Our testers checked the heaters’ electrical safety, measured surface temperatures, and carried out tilt and towel drape tests. The towel drape test was carried out by draping a towel over the top surface of each heater. Any ventilation channels on the tops of the control end panels were left uncovered to present a worst case scenario. The heaters were operated at their highest setting for at least 30 minutes.

Heaters that passed this test turned themselves off or continued to heat without causing damage to the heater or towel. They also checked which heaters continued heating when on their sides, as if they’d been knocked over.

Profiles - what to buy

Delonghi Garda

DeLonghi Garda Price: $250

Good points

  • Fastest to heat room by 5ºC and 10ºC.
  • Thermostat kept selected room temperature stable.
  • Surface didn’t get as hot as the other models.
  • Thermal cut-out switch.
  • Good length electrical cord.

Bad points

  • Highest energy consumption during test.
  • Noisiest heater with flame effect only on.
  • No tilt switch.
  • No flame dimmer control.

Dimplex Lee20

Dimplex Lee20 Price: $300

Good points

  • Most even heat distribution in the room.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Castors allow movement on hard surface without lifting the heater.
  • Good length electrical cord.

Bad points

  • Controls can be difficult to use compared with the other models.
  • No tilt switch.

 

 

Profiles - the rest

FlameGlow FG250

FlameGlow FG250 Price: $300

Good points

  • Flame effect dimmer.
  • Only one bulb used for flame effect.
  • Good thermostat control.

Bad points

  • No tilt switch.
  • Short power cord.

FlameGlow FG350

FlameGlow FG350 Price: $350

Good points

  • Flame effect dimmer.

Bad points

  • No tilt switch.
  • Heaviest heater.
  • Short power cord.

FlameGlow FG450

FlameGlow FG450 Price: $400

Good points

  • Flame effect dimmer.

Bad points

  • No tilt switch.
  • Shortest power cord of the models tested.
  • Difficult to clean.

Dimplex Allegri

Dimplex Allegri Price: $250

Good points

  • Spare bulb provided.
  • Castors allow movement on hard surface without lifting the heater.

Bad points

  • No tilt switch.
  • No thermostat.

Dimplex Brayford

Dimplex Brayford Price: $300

Good points

  • Lightest heater tested.

Bad points

  • No tilt switch.
  • No thermostat.

Heater basics

Controls

These heaters offer a fairly simple range of controls. Two heat settings and the ability to operate the flame effect without heating are common to all.

Thermostat

Some models also have a thermostat, which switches the heating elements on and off to maintain a temperature.

Flame dimmer

For that extra level of ambience, some of the models also allow you to change the flame level to suit your mood.

Cord length

Make sure the power cord of the heater will reach your power point as the use of an extension lead is not recommended.

Replacement bulbs

All the heaters use standard clear candle-type light bulbs to create a flame effect and they’re fairly simple to replace. If a bulb goes out, all the models will continue to operate as a normal convection heater.

Your say - Choice voice

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