A fireplace insert is an easy way to increase the efficiency of your existing fireplace while at the same time enhancing its visual appeal. Fireplace inserts aren’t intended for whole house heating, but will add supplemental, zoned heat to your home.
Most older fireplaces are only 5-10% efficient. This inefficiency is the result of an open hearth that produces only slightly more warm air than it consumes.
New EPA certified wood fireplace inserts are rated 65% efficient and provide the added benefit of reducing emissions to almost zero.
Fireplace inserts are classified by the fuel they burn and the method of venting.
The available fuels are: natural gas, propane, wood, pellet and coal. For around $30, you can purchase a kit that will convert a natural gas insert to propane. Also, if you live more than 4,000 feet above sea level, your gas insert might require a smaller orifice jet to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
Fireplace inserts can be vented through an existing chimney, direct vented, b-vented, or vent free.
A b-vent unit draws air from inside the home, through ports in the firebox itself. A direct vent unit draws air through a pipe from outside the home, into a sealed firebox.
Direct vent models are usually more efficient and safer for today’s airtight homes, since they do not use inside air or cause a conflict with range foods and bathroom fans circulating the same air. B-vent units are generally less expensive to install, but are more sensitive to air flow inside the home.
A vent free gas fireplace has no outside venting and is not an option for wood, pellet or coal burning inserts.
Many new fireplace inserts are equipped with a blower for even heat distribution and can be thermostatically controlled.
The inserts are made with steel plate or cast iron. The front is sealed with a glass door that allows for an enjoyable viewing experience and increases efficiency by making the insert air tight.
Depending on the model purchased, the insert will either fit flush with the fireplace face brick or protrude onto the hearth. The protruding design is more efficient since it provides additional radiant heat from the exposed top and sides.
The National Fire Protection Association requires that fireplace inserts be installed with a direct connection between the insert exhaust outlet and nearest section of flue liner. This allows smoke and gases faster passage and less time to condense in the flue and form hazardous creosote.
Weighing in at around 400 pounds, it’s no easy task moving the insert when it comes time to clean the chimney. This in itself is good reason to rely on a professional chimney sweep.
Although they’re not easy to find, some fireplace inserts have wheels on the bottom for easier moving.
You can avoid moving the insert altogether for chimney cleaning if you install a stainless steel pipe liner form the insert outlet up through the entire chimney.
When you’re pricing fireplace inserts, make sure to include the cost of accessories such as blowers, catalytic combustors and glass doors.
Fro instance, you can purchase a wood burning insert for only $860.00, but the door comes extra, as in $200-$300 extra.