Electric fires, indeed electric heaters as a whole, use the same process of turning electricity into heat. The heat comes from the element, which is simply an electrical resistor that heats up as an electric current passes through it. All electric fires use this process to achieve heat, but different fires will use the element in different ways.
Convector Electric Fires
Convector electric fires heat up the air next to the element, as hot air rises (because it is less dense), the cold air (more dense) replaces it, creating a flow of air or current of air which effectively heats up a closed room, where no other air flow is there.
Electric convector fires are very safe, the element is usually out of harms way, and the warm air will flow into the room via air vents in the top of the fire. Electric convector fires may be left on for long periods of time and should be silent when in use.
Fan Assisted Electric Fires
These electric fires work on the same principle as convector fires, however they use an electrically powered fan to blow air onto the element. This speeds up the heating process as it speeds up the air flow.
Fan assistance compared to convection alone will heat up an enclosed space quickly, however noise created from the fan is common place with these fires.
Radiating Electric Fires
This type of fire is more commonly referred to as a heater, the elements in these fires are enclosed behind glass, (much like a light bulb is). These elements become extremely hot, and will usually have reflective panel to help direct the heat in a common direction and for better efficiency.
Infrared radiation is given off by the element and it travels through the air until it meets an object, upon meeting the object will absorb, reflect or absorb and reflect the radiation.
Radiating heaters are most effective at heating an object alone rather than warming the air in a room, and are effective when free flowing air current is apparent.
These fires operate silently and due to the intense heat supply need to be treated with a greater level of safety than the fore mentioned fire types.
All electric and gas fires will emit heat through some form of either convection or radiation, due to the fact they all give heat and light of some form. The fire industry combine the methods of heat providing to differing degrees, all with the same purpose to heating a room most efficiently and most effectively as possible. It is a great advantage to know what heating purpose the fire is designed for to best choose an appropriate electric fire for your needs.