When the winter cold is brazenly chilly, you want your fireplace working at maximum efficiency to keep you and your family warm. However, that is rarely the case. Traditional wood stoves have a low range of efficiency from 35% –55%. You burn more wood only to have less heat retention in your home, not to mention the cost implications of this inefficiency and the environmental hazards posed by it.
A fireplace insert is a heating unit inserted into the masonry fireplace to burn wood, wood pellets or gas with superior efficiency. Inserts are fireboxes made from a cast iron or steel shell that fits into the fireplace. Most have glass doors allowing an aesthetically appealing view of the fire’s flames. Insulated doors prevent heat loss while blowers underneath the firebox efficiently circulate convection heat throughout the room.
National regulations have dictated that connector pipes extend from the insert outlet all the way up the fireplace damper, to the flue tile of the chimney. These liners expel the by-products of combustion including smoke, gases, water vapor, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbons and tar fog, while avoiding the buildup of combustible creosote along the walls of the chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends stainless steel liners which are easy to inspect and sweep.
There are different types of heaters available to home owners, each with its own specifications and advantages. The question of which one to purchase depends on the state of your hearth and chimney, your climate, heating requirements, home layout and municipal or state regulations.
Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts
Wood burning inserts burn real logs. A professional installer fits the firebox into the hearth, slides a steel liner down the chimney while fitting a decorative cast iron or porcelain flange around the insert to fill the gap between it and the hearth.
The wood burning insert should be aesthetically designed to fit your hearth and efficient enough to warm your room. It shouldn’t be used on a prefab fireplace as these are not built to take the high temperatures of up to 2,100 degrees associated with wooden inserts. Have a professional installer assess your hearth to determine which size and design is best for you.
Pellet Fireplace Inserts
Pellet inserts burn pellets (compressed bits of wood waste and renewable substances). Sealed in a combustion box and surrounded by an appealing flange, the pellet insert uses electricity to start the fire, power the blowers, power the auger feeding the pellets into the furnace and run the inbuilt computer board monitoring the system.
The easiest to use, gas inserts use propane or natural gas to light up steady flames dancing on logs and modern glass chips. The fire is operated by a switch.
Before purchasing a fireplace insert, it is important to have a chimney professional inspect the health of your hearth and determine whether an insert is your best option.