Many people enjoy the ambiance of a fireplace in their home. It provides warmth and a feeling of coziness and they enjoy the scent of burning logs. However, a fireplace, unfortunately. is not energy efficient. It may be drafty and will emit some harmful chemicals into the air. Traditional wood burning fireplaces can increase the health risks for those suffering with lung problems or allergies, etc.
A fireplace insert added to your fireplace will increase its efficiency and will increase the warmth from the fireplace which can help lower your heating bills. There are several different types of fireplace inserts available. These fit into the opening of your existing fireplace. Gas inserts may be either natural gas or propane gas depending on what is available in your home. Wood inserts can burn either logs or pellets whichever you prefer. Electric fireplace logs are also an option.
Gas Fireplace Inserts
Gas fireplace inserts are more convenient and cleaner than wood burning fireplaces. They are inserted right into the opening of your traditional fireplace. To turn on the flame and heat in the gas fireplace you simply flip on a switch. A gas fireplace has real flames with no need for firewood or pellets since it is burning gas and there are no ashes to dispose of and no creosote produced. The flames offset the unit’s fake logs and/or stone or glass chips and the entire unit fits behind glass doors fitted to the fireplace. Of course, with a gas fireplace unit you do not have the scent of burning logs nor do you hear the crackling sound. More than half of the fireplace inserts now being used are either the natural or propane gas units
Gas fireplace inserts may be either direct vent units or non vented units. Direct vent units draw in the air from outside to keep the flames burning and then removes the water vapor and combustion gases which the burning gas releases. The vented gas burning unit uses the existing chimney for your fireplace where the necessary liners to draw in and exhaust the air are run.
The non vented gas burning fireplace units do have a higher efficiency rating than the vented units since there is no heat escaping through the chimney. The non vented unit still produces moisture and gases the same as the vented units, but with the non vented system the moisture and exhaust fumes stay in the home. This may be a cause for concern.
Gas fireplace inserts can come with extra features such as self cleaning glass doors, a remote control or a thermostat.
A gas fireplace insert can heat from 500 to approximately 3,000 square feet. You should talk with a dealer to determine what size insert you need for your area. Before you go shopping for your fireplace insert you need to know the dimensions of your fireplace opening. You will need to measure the height, width and depth. You may want to take a picture of your fireplace with you when you go shopping. You want the finish on your insert to blend well with your fireplace. Finishes may be iron, pewter or copper to name a few. A gas fireplace unit should be installed by a professional since it will need to be attached to your gas line and will need chimney adjustments. With installation the gas fireplace unit will cost a few thousand dollars. Before purchasing your gas fireplace insert carefully research various manufacturers. Some are better than others. You want to buy a gas fireplace insert that has a very good warranty. You also want to check what type maintenance and care is required. Be sure to also check reviews from others who have purchased a unit you may be interested in buying. You may be able to obtain a gas fireplace insert for a little less money if you shop in an off season and sometimes last year’s model will be on sale.
Gas fireplace inserts work most efficiently when used for zone heating. Your gas fireplace insert should have a routine checkup annually. Except for the checkup there is very little maintenance needed for your gas unit.
Wood Fireplace Inserts
If you have an old inefficient wood burning masonry fireplace and want to keep the wood burning aspect while upgrading to more efficient heating then a wood burning insert for your fireplace may be what you need.
Wood burning fireplace inserts are basically a firebox which fits into the existing opening of your fireplace. You need to measure the height, depth and width of your opening before you shop for your wood fireplace insert. You also need to be sure your chimney is up to code. The professional installing your wood insert should check the chimney to be sure it is in proper working order. You can have a unit that fits flush with the opening of the fireplace or one that will extend toward the hearth. The new wood burning fireplace inserts are much more efficient and produce more heat than the old drafty fireplaces. You will want to discuss with your dealer the size area you plan to heat with your wood burning insert. A unit that is too large will just be wasted. An experienced reputable dealer should be able to guide you toward the unit best suited for you. The materials commonly used for the wood burning fireplace inserts are cast iron or welded steel. Most logs for fireplaces are cut to 16” lengths. The wood burning insert may have either catalytic or non catalytic combustion. With the catalytic combustion you get long steady heat output. The catalyst will degrade over time and need to be replaced. With the non catalytic combustion insert many owners value the beauty of the flame created. It seems that the non catalytic combustion inserts are becoming more popular than the catalytic ones.
Wood burning units produce more heat than any other type. Although it costs several thousand dollars to purchase a wood burning fireplace insert unit and have it professionally installed you will probably recoup your initial outlay in a few years since you may be able to cut down on the temperature setting for your general home heating system. Some fireplace insert units may have additional blowers to heat other rooms.
A wood burning fireplace insert that burns pellets works a little differently. The pellets are fed into the fire by an automated auger which need electricity to operate. Some units have a backup battery to use in case of a power failure. Pellet inserts may not be as easy to find as the wood burning inserts that burn logs.
Electric fireplace inserts
Electric fireplace inserts are the easiest to install. You simply insert them into the opening of your fireplace, plug them in and turn them on. If you don’t have an electric outlet where you plan to use the unit you may have to have one installed. Since there is no combustion involved when using an electric fireplace unit there is no venting required. Basically the electric fireplace unit is a heater with the appearance of logs and the appearance of flames. If you just want the ambiance of a burning fire without the heat you have the option to turn off the heat in the unit and just watch the flames. If want to take your electric fireplace unit to another room its not a problem. If you decide you want to use your fireplace for a genuine wood fire then you remove the electric insert. Purchasing an electric fireplace insert will cost from approximately $150 up depending on the unit you prefer. The cost of operating an electric fireplace unit will depend on the cost of electricity in the area where you live.
Whether your preference is for a gas, wood or electric fireplace you will have years of service and enjoyment from your new, more efficient fireplace insert.