The installation of an Fireplace Insert can transform an old, rarely used heat source into a convenient, supplemental area heater that can help reduce both energy bills and indoor pollution. To enhance the look, feel, and heating efficiency of an existing wood burning fireplace and to give your space a functional and aesthetic makeover without dropping a fortune and doing a remodel, add a fireplace insert.
Fireplace Insert Basics
Fireplace inserts are designed to enhance the appearance and improve the efficiency of both masonry and factory-built fireplaces. Inserts are generally made from cast iron or steel and come with self-cleaning glass doors that show off fire even when these insulated doors are closed, which greatly increases heat efficiency. Installed by a professional into an existing wood burning fireplace, an insert is primarily categorized by the type of fuel it burns. This can be propane, natural gas or wood. Venting varies with wood and pellet units vented through a chimney or with gas appliances a directventing system is most commonly used.
Installation and maintenance (including annual inspections) must be completed by a professional, who will secure the correct building permits and ensure optimum efficiency through careful installation.
Older wood burning fireplaces have low efficiency ratings (generally between five and ten percent) as a result of the open combustion design, which allows heated air to be drawn into the fire. An insert is a closed-door system that slows the fire and increases the fire temperature to facilitate complete combustion, resulting in 65 percent efficiency is some cases. An EPA-certified wood burning fireplace insert can provide added efficiency and significantly reduce the emissions from wood burning.
Fuel for the Fire
Fuel type selection will hinge on fuel cost and availability, desire efficiency, appearance, and level of maintenance. Most fireplace inserts sold today are extremely efficient, making the choice preferential and tailored to the consumer’s needs. The five fuel options for inserts are pellet, coal, EPA-certified wood, natural gas, and propane.
Inserts range in size, from very small to very large, and choosing one should be based entirely on the size of the opening of the existing fireplace. Before shopping, measure opening height, opening width, opening depth (top and bottom), rear width and the depth of the hearth (area in front of the fireplace).
You should also check the owners manual for clearances to combustibles as this varies by make and model.
Most inserts include fans to distribute heat into a room, as well as thermostats and remote controls on gas units for overall convenience.
Regardless of the fuel type, inserts are available in a variety of finishes, colors and designs to highlight contemporary, traditional, or creative themes.
More Burn for Your Buck
Because fireplace inserts vary greatly in style, type, size, and quality, there is no specified price range. However, for high quality gas or wood burning inserts, expect to spend $1500 to $5000, plus installation and operation costs, which will depend on the cost of labor and energy in your geographic area.
The Bottom Line
A fireplace insert is a sure-fire way to reduce indoor pollution, update the appearance of a room and provide greater energy efficiency. Simply redesign your current fireplace with an insert, which is easier to install and less expensive than a entirely new fireplace, and you’ll enjoy added ambiance and heat throughout your home.