You can’t beat the sound and ambience of a wood burning fireplace on a cold winter day. You also can’t escape the nagging fact that you’re wasting a bunch of heat because a majority of it escapes through the chimney and walls as the wood burns.
While fireplaces may look great, sound amazing, and smell intoxicating – they’re not efficient. For this reason, many homeowners opt for a fireplace insert. What is a fireplace insert, you ask? Today we’ll find out!
What’s the Difference Between a Fireplace And a Fireplace Insert?
When some people talk about installing a fireplace, they may be referring to a built-in fireplace or to a fireplace insert.
Installing a built-in fireplace is the process of building a new fireplace within an existing home. This may or may not include the installation of a fireplace insert to go with the new fireplace.
A fireplace insert is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an appliance that you put inside of the existing fireplace (or a new built-in) to increase the efficiency of heat generation. Because wood burning fireplaces require air to function, the fire sucks in a lot of the heat from the room you’re trying to heat.
As a result, you’re often spending more heat than you’re receiving because the fireplace is sucking in a lot of that warm air.
If your home already has a fireplace, you would install a fireplace insert in it with a direct vent (or no vent for gas), and it would help keep more of the heat inside the house while still being able to vent properly for safety.
How Does a Fireplace Insert Work?
A standard fireplace wastes about 80% of the hot air created through combustion, sending that heat outside through the chimney. That means you’re only keeping around 20% of the heat inside. Many old fireplaces can be even worse.
A direct vent fireplace insert is essentially a fireproof box that reverses the process. Instead of pulling air from inside your home to create the combustion system, the fireplace insert pulls air from outside through a vent, heats it, and sends that air back out through a flue. The majority of the heat from the fireplace radiates out into the room while the combustion gasses are vented externally.
This system allows you to burn and create clean heat inside your home while saving a lot more of it. Because of the increased efficiency of this approach, many people will elect for gas fireplace inserts if they have an existing gas system hooked up in their home.
How Efficient is a Fireplace Insert?
The main reason people choose fireplace inserts is for efficiency. Gas fireplace inserts are the most efficient because they don’t require any logs, pellets, and there’s no ash. You can flip it on, and you’ve got heat.
The main factor that impacts the efficiency of a gas insert is the venting method. A direct-vent is safer because it draws air in and releases the gas through the chimney. The ventless inserts are more efficient, but the exhaust fumes stay in your home, which may be a reason for concern.
While they’re considered safe because they have a sensor that detects high carbon monoxide levels, some states won’t even allow ventless inserts. This type of insert burns up to 99% efficient while direct-vents burn between 60-80%.
Types of Fireplace Inserts
There are three types of fireplace inserts. Let’s take a look at them and the pros and cons of each.
Electric Fireplace Inserts
An electric fireplace insert is a great option if you don’t already have a fireplace. If you live in a place where a wood or gas burning insert isn’t an option, electric is easy to install, a no-brainer to maintain, and simple to operate.
Many people use these for aesthetic reasons because they look nice, and even if they’re not a primary source of heat in the home, they provide an attractive ambience.
Gas Fireplace Inserts
As mentioned above, you have two options here; direct vent and ventless. Direct vent inserts are the ideal choice to match efficiency and safety. They burn much more efficiently than wood inserts, and they’re easier to use because there is no ash, wood, or pellets.
With direct vents, the burnt gases escape through flexible vents connected to the top, and they run right up the chimney. The advantage is, unlike traditional fireplaces, you’re not sucking air from inside your home and tossing money out into the cold.
Ventless inserts are even more efficient because you don’t allow any air to escape, but you’re potentially recirculating dangerous gas into your home as well as excess moisture. In some cases, this isn’t a problem since they come equipped with oxygen sensors, but be sure to check with local ordinances before installing one.
Wood Fireplace inserts
If you love your wood fireplace, you can install a simple wood burning insert, which will help keep more of the hot air in. Wood burning inserts help burn the wood slower and more efficiently, which will reduce the amount of times you need to add logs and clean it.
Are Fireplace Inserts Safe?
There is obvious fire hazard risk with any fireplace, but it’s much lower than a standard wood burning fireplace since the fire is contained within the insert’s firebox.
The main area of concern with fireplace inserts is if you have a ventless gas system. Since they draw cool air in from your home, heat it in the firebox, and then recirculate the heated air into the room, they may unintentionally begin to circulate gases such as carbon monoxide into your house. It’s important to understand the possible risks of not having a ventilation system when using gas as a heat source.
Ventless fireplace inserts are equipped with oxygen sensors to shut the insert off if it begins to circulate gases into your house but you will need to check these to make sure they’re doing their job.
What is the Average Cost of a Gas Fireplace Insert?
You can expect to pay around $5,000 to $7,000 for a gas fireplace insert depending on the type of installation and if there is an existing gas line. This cost includes the fireplace itself and the installation process. If you already have the existing fireplace in your home, the cost might run a little lower.
Keep in mind that you will save money on heating costs and operating expenses over time, so it’s a long-term investment.
Are Fireplace Inserts Worth the Money? Why Should You Install a Fireplace Insert?
We believe that fireplace inserts are well worth the money and you should look into installing one for the following reasons:
Buy back your time – You’ll save a lot of time on maintenance because you won’t have to remove as much ash or add wood to the fire. If you use a gas or electric insert, you won’t have to do this at all.
Save money – You will cut down your heating bill, and while no fireplace is the most efficient way to heat a home, an insert is a great way to get the appeal of your fireplace without the inefficient cost.
Contact Priddy Chimney Sweeps for Your Fireplace Insert Needs
If you’re interested in having a fireplace insert installed in your existing fireplace or if you have any questions about fireplace insert options, Priddy Chimney Sweeps is ready to help. Contact us today for more information.