Even if you set out wanting a real flame, electric fires are a popular and viable alternative if you’ve gone through all your options and made that choice. Solid-fuel burners, open fires and gas fireplaces take a lot more thought and planning. But just before you make the final decision, let’s just consider the kinds of issues you’ll need to bear in mind when you’re living with an electric fire.

First of all, the big question needs to be considered - exactly how hot do you want your room to be? With an electric fire, it’s not as simple as turning up the gas, or throwing another log on to warm things up. The calculations you'll need to do for your electric fire is about the volts and the output. Those numbers will have a bearing on the cost-effectiveness of electric heating in your home. Before you go any further, you need to work out the maths for the area that needs heating, and consider what level of heat you require. Electric fires come in different outputs and voltages, so it’s just a question of getting the right one for your home. Professional advice is available.

Next, have a think about the style of your electric fire. As with any fireplace, the right look will enhance your room, but if you make the wrong choice the whole design will look uncomfortable. Don’t just go for the cheapest if it doesn’t work with your decor, because when the novelty wears off you’re more likely to have second thoughts. Pick the one that suits your room, your budget and your lifestyle.

When it comes to the placement of your electric fire, think carefully about the fabrics and materials in the vicinity because they’ll get extremely hot. Even without the flames that come with other types of fireplace, there’s some pretty intense heat that from an electric fire that will damage your curtains and could cause a potential hazard if they’re too close. Think about nearby furniture too.

These questions are probably all the more relevant to consider with an electric fire because its comparatively easy to plug it in and move around, whereas with a gas fire or log burner, the installation will be permanent, and the whole room designed around it. Although electric may sound like it offers all the convenience you’re after, don’t forget to consider the practicalities and safety issues too.

In theory you could buy an electric fire and fit it without too much thought or preparation, which means it could be a snap purchase on a chilly day like today. You could bring it straight home, or have it delivered, push it into place, and then simply flick the switch and have that fireplace glowing with heat by this evening. It’s tempting isn’t it?

But just make sure you won’t look back and wish you’d gone for gas instead, or chosen a smaller or larger model. Buying an electric fire when you’re cold is a bit like shopping when you’re hungry. Make sure you’re fully informed and making a longterm good choice, not just the one that solves today’s problems.