What is a Fireplace Insert?

What is a Fireplace Insert?


Imagine the following scenario: On a cold winter morning, you head out to your yard to chop up some of the logs that you had cut from a tree that was felled the prior year. After spending an hour in the cold cutting and hauling the firewood, you are finally able to get the fire started and burning correctly. After about an hour, however, you still feel that your living room is unbearably cold, and decide to crank up the thermostat. The fire in your fireplace might look nice, cozy, and inviting, but the actual heat output seems to be minimal, at best. 

According to most estimates, traditional wood-burning fireplaces are only 10 percent efficient. This means that 90 percent of the heat generated by the fire goes straight up the chimney, essentially heating up the air above your home. All of that work cutting, stacking, and hauling the firewood was essentially wasted if you were aiming to use that wood as a supplemental heat source for your home. 

For homes with existing wood fireplaces, then, might there be a way to renovate the traditional hearth and chimney so as to still enjoy the nostalgic ambiance of a fire while also adding a decent amount of heat to the home? Fireplace inserts offer a practical, functional, and cost-effective way to renovate your fireplace and drastically improve the heat efficiency of the unit. 

What is a Fireplace Insert? 

A fireplace insert fundamentally acts as a wood or gas stove without the connected legs. Wood stoves are significantly more efficient than a traditional fireplace. However, most homeowners prefer the look, feel, and ambiance provided by a traditional fireplace and hearth. With a fireplace insert, a small metal box that is slightly smaller than your existing fireplace is “inserted” into the opening. You are essentially putting a wood burning stove into a fireplace opening. 

Unlike regular wood stoves, however, the metal box generally has an opening at the front so that the fire can be visibly appreciated. Once inserted, the professional installer will then finish the job by creating a decorative surround so that the insert blends into the existing hearth or fireplace opening. 

It is also worth mentioning that homeowners can choose between gas and wood fireplace inserts. If you don’t want the hassle of having to cut and haul your own firewood, then a gas fireplace insert might make sense. Both gas and wood fireplace inserts use the existing chimney to vent the exhaust safely outside your home. 

Top 3 Benefits of Upgrading to a Fireplace Insert 

  1. Vastly improved efficiency: A fireplace insert helps to reduce unwanted heat loss by “containing” the heat from the wood or gas inside a sealed box. Some fireplace inserts even include catalytic combustor to ensure that more heat stays inside your home instead of exiting your home as exhaust. In general, fireplace inserts achieve a heating efficiency of around 70-75%. 
  2. Cheaper than renovating existing fireplace and chimney: Renovating an old fireplace and chimney to make it more heat efficient will most likely cost you several thousand dollars. A fireplace insert, however, allows you to utilize the existing fireplace at a fraction of the cost of a complete renovation. 
  3. Cleaner indoor air quality: A traditional fireplace creates what is called an incomplete combustion. This generally results in black smoke that can leak particulate matter into your home and your surrounding community. Fireplace inserts include secondary (and sometimes third-stage) burns as well so as to reduce the release of contaminants into your home and the surrounding outside air. 

Final Word: The Best Fire Place Insert

Everyone loves sitting around a fire on a cold winter evening. Gas and wood-burning fireplace inserts allow homeowners to continue to enjoy the traditional ambiance of a fireplace and hearth while increasing heat efficiency and protecting your home´s indoor air quality. 


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