Fireplace inserts are ideal for homeowners looking for a more efficient and convenient fireplace. They provide the same heat level while using less space in your home, giving you more versatility and space. However, there are endless fireplace insert options on the market, so choosing the right one can be challenging.
In today’s guide, we'll take an in-depth look at the advantages of fireplace inserts and how to choose the right one for your home. We’ll also tell you about the most popular and reliable fireplace insert brands. Let’s get started!
What Are Fireplace Inserts?
A fireplace insert is a closed-combustion firebox you can install in an existing fireplace. By doing so, you can increase its burning efficiency and convenience. In other words, you’ll be increasing heat output without burning more fuel. That way, you can save energy and money whenever using the insert.
Fireplace inserts are mostly designed for existing masonry fireplaces, but some manufactured options are also compatible. A benefit of using an insert in an old fireplace masonry is that it improves its appearance without diminishing its traditional look.
Here are some of the other benefits of using a fireplace insert:
It reduces the overall carbon footprint of your home.
It allows you to choose between a wide selection of faceplates.
It is a highly customizable option compared to traditional fireplaces.
It can be used with different fuel options, including gas and wood.
It has an overall lower repair cost compared to traditional fireplaces.
Fireplace Insert Cost: How Much Is a Fireplace Insert?
It can be a considerable investment, but these inserts have various benefits for your home. However, you also need to consider the installation cost, which can double the fireplace insert cost.
Usually, installing one of these inserts can cost anywhere between 500 USD and 3500 USD. The total installation price will also depend on the complexity of the job. Easier installations should be more affordable than the most challenging ones. The price is also lower if you already have a traditional fireplace at home.
Another aspect that will determine the average cost of having a fireplace insert is whether or not you need venting. If you want a vented option, you need to consider that the installation cost will be higher.
Last, fuel conversion techniques can affect fireplace insert prices. If you want to turn your wood-burning fireplace into a gas or electric insert, you’ll need to convert it. The conversion process can be highly expensive.
Types of Fireplace Inserts
There are different fireplace insert categories available, depending on the type of fuel you want to use. The main two fireplace inserts are wood-burning and gas models, and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. You can also choose from additional options like electric fireplace inserts.
Wood-Burning Fireplace Inserts
Wood-burning fireplace inserts are the most affordable options because they use wood or wood byproducts as fuel. They are more efficient than traditional fireplaces, but they lack the power that gas inserts offer, reaching up to 50% of heat efficiency. The reason for this problem is that wood fireplace inserts lose heat during air circulation.
These inserts need venting, which is why they are always attached to a chimney. The chimney provides better safety, but it decreases the fuel’s efficiency. Wood burning can reach up to 65000 BTUs for almost six hours straight. However, half of the heat will be lost during circulation.
The main benefit of these inserts is that they provide the warm and welcoming look of traditional fireplaces. They also work during most situations, so there’s no need to worry if there’s a power outage or a problem with a gas line. However, they are complex structures requiring more maintenance than other options.
Wood-burning inserts must be properly cleaned and maintained to prevent fires and malfunctions. Additionally, the chimney needs to be inspected by a professional every now and then to ensure there’s no fire risk during use.
Gas Fireplace Inserts
Gas fireplace inserts are some of the most common options used around the world because they have minimal impact on the environment. Compared to wood-burning models, gas fireplace inserts release less CO2 during and after use.
However, that’s not the only reason why gas fireplace inserts are so popular. They also provide better heat efficiency than traditional fireplaces and wood-burning inserts. They have an average heating power of around 35000 BTUs with around 79% heat efficiency.
The main drawback of gas fireplace inserts is that they could release poisonous carbon monoxide into your home. Although they are mostly safe, a leak in the gas line can cause fires and health problems. That’s why we recommend having a carbon monoxide detector at home if you are planning to use a gas fireplace insert.
Electric Fireplace Inserts
These fireplace inserts use electricity to heat up your home, making them the safest options available. All they need is to be connected to the electricity at home. Then you just flip the switch, and they’ll begin warming up your room.
One of the main benefits of this type of insert is that it can provide constant heat without needing the same amount of maintenance. These inserts are also the easiest of the three options to clean after use because they do not use wood or other physical materials to produce heat.
Some models can even use fake wood, which gives the impression of burning wood for a more warm and welcoming environment. However, because they depend on electricity, you won’t be able to use these fireplace inserts if there’s a power outage.
Pellet Fireplace Inserts
A pellet fireplace insert is very similar to a pellet stove. It uses compressed pellets of wood biomass to generate heat through burning. However, this insert option requires a chimney and electricity to function properly. The electricity is used to propel the fans for air circulation, while the chimney vents the smoke.
You can also add a thermostatic control to maintain a desired constant temperature. Additionally, because a pellet fireplace insert requires electricity and a chimney, the installation process can take more time and effort compared to other insert options.
Furthermore, pellets are harder to find than most fuel sources, including wood logs for burning. They are becoming more common each year, but it is still something you might struggle to find if you live outside main cities.
Fireplace Inserts vs. Traditional Fireplaces
Traditional fireplaces and fireplace inserts might have the same functions, but they are different structures with distinct advantages. Each one of these two options is better for different homeowners, depending on their home styles and budgets.
Fireplaces are built directly into your home and commonly burn wood as fuel. They have large viewing areas and unique firebox measurements because existing spaces do not limit them. They have also been around for centuries and were the first line of defense against the harsh freezing temperatures back in the day.
Traditional fireplaces also provide the ideal wood-burning atmosphere that electric and gas fireplace inserts cannot match. This type of fireplace is perfect for period homes that have a hard time warming up during harsh winters.
However, they come with many drawbacks compared to more modern options like fireplace inserts.
These are the disadvantages of traditional fireplaces compared to fireplace inserts:
They are difficult to clean, especially if you don’t clean them immediately after use.
They need constant maintenance to prevent malfunctions.
They need to be built into your home and can take a lot of free space.
Why You Should Consider Using a Fireplace Insert
Fireplace inserts, unlike traditional fireplaces, can use different types of fuel and are more efficient when warming up a room. Because they require less fuel to reach a good temperature, they have a smaller impact on the environment. Additionally, they offer a wide selection of benefits, including a more stylish look and customization options.
These structures are easier to clean and maintain, as they use less space than traditional fireplaces. However, they do have smaller viewing areas because they depend on the measurements of your existing fireplace.
Overall, choosing a fireplace insert will lose you viewing space, but you’ll be rewarded with many incredible benefits. If you are looking to update the style of your fireplace, then an insert could be the right option for you.
How to Choose the Right Fireplace Insert
Now that you know the difference between a fireplace insert and a traditional fireplace, you can decide which one is better for you.
You already know the different types of fireplace inserts, including gas, wood-burning, and electric models. Still, there are many options available, and each one comes with a unique set of benefits and drawbacks.
These are the aspects you need to consider when choosing the right fireplace for your needs.
The Right Size
When it comes to insert sizes and dimensions, the right option will depend on the measurements of your existing fireplace. Fireplace inserts are inserted right into old fireplaces. Therefore, you won’t need to demolish or renovate as long as your fireplace fits the insert’s fuel and venting requirements.
To choose the ideal insert size for your home, you’ll need the following measurements:
Top-to-bottom opening depth
Depth of area
Fireplace inserts can come in all sizes, from big to small, so you need to determine the measurement of your fireplace before choosing the right one for you. One more thing you need to consider is the dimensions of the room you want to heat. The bigger the room, the more heating power you’ll need to provide.
The best way to get accurate measurements is to hire a professional to handle the entire sizing process. You can even contact your supplier if you are unsure what size of fireplace insert you need. At CAPO Building Specialties, we are always ready to help you find the right product for your needs.
The overall style of your fireplace insert will depend on the fuel type you choose. As a rule, wood-burning inserts tend to have more traditional looks, which is why they are the most popular options in countryside homes.
However, regardless of the model you pick, you’ll have a wide selection of colors, finishes, and materials to choose from.
Most options come with self-cleaning glass doors, making maintenance a lot easier and faster. Some inserts even provide a remote control for the thermostat.
We recommend checking out some ideas on Pinterest and Instagram so that you can have a better idea of your preferred aesthetic for your fireplace insert.
Venting and Fuel Options
Depending on your choice of fuel, your fireplace insert will need to attach to an existing chimney, use a direct vent, or be vent-free. For instance, electric inserts work using an electric line, meaning there are no burning fuels and no need for venting.
Wood-burning fireplaces need a chimney to allow air circulation and venting. Without the chimney, the fumes would remain inside your home. The same applies for gas inserts, which need a direct vent to release fumes.
These are the benefits and drawbacks of using a direct vent for your fireplace insert:
It provides superior safety for your home and family.
It exhausts all emissions, regardless of your fuel.
It draws air outside, allowing better ventilation.
It does not offer good versatility.
It has a more expensive installation process.
These are the benefits and drawbacks of a vent-free fireplace insert:
It provides higher heat efficiency compared to vented models.
It usually comes with an oxygen depletion sensor.
It won’t vent exhaust fumes.
It is forbidden in some areas.
Masonry or Zero-Clearance
Before choosing the right insert for your home, the last thing you need to consider is whether you have an existing masonry or zero-clearance fireplace.
Masonry fireplaces tend not to have metal components within the opening and are usually made of stone or brick. The fireplace’s firebox is made of the same materials, creating a sort of shield between the fireplace and the construction materials. The fireplace is also connected to a chimney that is made of the same components.
On the other hand, zero-clearance models are manufactured fireboxes. They are fire-rated, so there’s no need for further protection through clearance. Another distinction of this option is that it has metal components on the top and bottom of the opening. These fireplace models are usually connected to external chimneys made of metal.
Top Fireplace Insert Brands
You now know what aspects you need to consider before choosing the right fireplace insert for your home. But that’s only half the battle because you’ll also need to decide between different brands.
If you are having a hard time picking the right brand, CAPO has your back. We only work with the best brands in the industry so that you won’t have to worry about quality or durability.
These are CAPO’s most popular and reliable brands:
Morso is a fireplace brand that has been around for more than 150 years. It started as a foundry in 1853, producing a wide selection of products. However, after almost 50 years of experience, the company began turning its focus to fireplaces, stoves, and modern inserts.
Today, Morso is one of the most reliable and durable fireplace brands in the industry. It uses only the most resistant materials to provide you with the best-quality products and a user experience unmatched by most competitors.
The company’s most popular fireplace insert is the Morso 5660, a wood-burning model made of high-quality cast iron. The cast iron gives your fireplace a luxurious and modern look while remaining warm and welcoming.
Ironstrike is another popular fireplace and fireplace insert manufacturer with a solid track record for quality and durability. This company is proud of designing and producing only the best possible products with the ideal heat efficiency. That’s why, in a short amount of time, it has come to dominate the market.
These are Ironstrike’s leading fireplace inserts:
The Ravenna Series: The Ravenna is a traditional direct venting gas insert with luxurious finishings. It has a subtle beauty, thanks to its traditional aesthetic. Additionally, the completely black design makes it the best option for elegant apartments and modern houses.
The Montlake Series: The Montlake is a wood-burning collection with incredible durability and reliable heat efficiency. These fireplace inserts are premium models that can cost anywhere from 4300 USD to 5500 USD, depending on size and availability.
The Winslow Series: The Winslow is one of Ironstike’s most popular and premium options. It is also one of the most expensive fireplace inserts on the market, but it has the best possible durability and an elegant design. This insert uses wood pellets and electricity to provide constant and reliable heat in any situation.
The Performer Series: The Performer is another wood-burning option with a delightful countryside design for more traditional homes. It provides a clean burn, reliable heat, and excellent safety for your home and family. This insert uses premium-grade materials and superior craftsmanship for the ultimate heating experience.
The Striker Series: The Striker is a collection of wood-burning inserts and stoves for traditional homes. It is Ironstrike’s most affordable option but remains a solid product line with excellent durability and heat efficiency.
The Madison Park Series: The Madison Park is a direct vent gas insert collection with an outstanding design and solid durability. It was designed to fit zero-clearance masonry and existing fireplaces.
Glen Dimplex is a multi-brand company with over 50 years of experience that specializes in heating systems. One of the brands under its umbrella is Dimplex, a reliable manufacturer of electric fireplace inserts. It offers affordable models with solid durability and excellent designs to match any home decoration and personality.
These are Dimplex’s electric fireplace inserts:
The Bold Electric: It is Glen Dimplex’s most premium and luxurious model. This electric insert offers up to 5000 BTUs for a constant, safe, and comfortable fire. It also has a unique design, making it ideal for modern and elegant homes. Additionally, this model comes in a wide selection of sizes.
The Multi-Fire XD: The Multi-Fire XD is one of Glen Dimplex’s most affordable options. It has solid heat efficiency and a unique design, and, with the proper maintenance, it can last for long periods. However, this electric insert doesn’t have the same level of versatility and power as the Bold model.
The Plug-In Firebox Insert: This incredibly affordable model gives you the feel of a wood-burning fireplace plus the benefits of an electric insert. It has superior durability and good customization options, and it can provide the ideal ambiance for a welcoming and warm environment.
HearthStone is a proud Vermont company with years of experience in the industry. It is 100% committed to excellence, helping the environment, and keeping your home warm throughout the seasons. This company has perfected its workmanship to provide durable fireplaces and stoves, including wood-burning inserts.
The GMi-70 is HearthStone’s superior fireplace insert with a traditional but elegant style that can complement most home aesthetics. It features a flush cast iron design for better durability and a soapbox that can fit up to 20" wood logs. This incredible fireplace insert is easy to use and install, making it one of the best options on the market.
Enviro is another popular choice for gas fireplace inserts. This company was founded in 1989 and has since become one of the standards for quality when it comes to fireplaces, stoves, and fireplace inserts.
The company provides a wide selection of gas fireplace inserts that can fit most home decorations and styles. These inserts are highly durable, heat efficient, and made of quality components for a better heating experience.
Osburn is a Canadian company and fireplace manufacturer that provides high-quality and reliable products. It specializes in wood-burning fireplace inserts, stoves, and fireplace accessories for every need.
These are some of Osburn’s best fireplace inserts:
Osburn 2000: The Osburn 2000 is a high-quality wood-burning option with excellent heating power and a safe design.
Osburn 3500: This wood-burning fireplace insert offers superior heating efficiency and a premium style that can match most home decorations.
Osburn 1700: The 1700 fireplace insert is a wood-burning model you can find at an affordable price. It has all the necessary features to help you enjoy a warm environment in your home.
The Matrix: The Matrix is Osburn’s most powerful, efficient, and premium fireplace insert. It can reach up to 80000 BTUs with a quality performance unrivaled by most options on the market.
The Inspire: The Inspire is another premium model with excellent heat efficiency and solid durability. It is made of high-quality materials and can reach up to 75000 BTUs, which will provide constant warmth for your home.
Pacific Energy is a fireplace manufacturer with over 40 years of experience crafting high-quality and durable products. It has highly efficient wood-burning and gas inserts with beautiful designs that can match almost any type of home style and look.
These are some of Pacific Energy’s fireplace inserts:
Solas is a more contemporary manufacturer that focuses on modern styles and unique designs to provide a better experience. It was founded by Patrick Moynihan and his son. Furthermore, Solas has become synonymous with reliability in the industry. The company manufactures and designs all of its products in New Hampshire.
The brand only offers one fireplace insert model, the Solas Twenty6. It is a gas model with a unique look and incredible safety measures. It has a contemporary design, a highly efficient heater, and a safe direct venting system.
Mendota is a fireplace, heat system, and fireplace insert manufacturer with more than 100 years of experience in the industry. It is a family-owned American brand known for its high-quality and stylish fireplaces and accessories.
One of Mendota’s most popular products is the D30 Timberfire. It is a gas fireplace insert that combines a traditional look with modern colors. It is an efficient option you can slide into existing masonry or install into existing chimneys.
Things to Consider Before Installing Fireplace Inserts
All newly installed fireplaces, including inserts and stoves, need to meet your region’s building installation codes and standards. The codes vary depending on the state and city, but the consequences of not following these instructions is usually a costly fine.
If you hire a professional to do the installation for you, they can also handle all the code responsibilities. When creating your budget, meeting the codes and regulations can increase the overall investment, so keep that in mind.
Furthermore, you need to consider whether or not wood-burning or gas fireplaces and inserts are allowed in your neighborhood. You might have Homeowner Association restrictions or similar issues.
Fireplace Insert Installation: Four Basic Steps
Fireplace insert installation is a challenging process divided into four phases: planning, preparation, installation, and the inspection stage. These four steps are extremely important and require tools you might not have around your home.
You can do the installation process yourself with the right tools, but we recommend leaving it to the professionals. If any of the phases is not done properly, there’s a big risk of malfunctions and fires. However, if you have prior knowledge of fireplace installation, it shouldn’t be a difficult task as long as you follow the necessary steps.
Here’s what you need to do to install your very own fireplace insert:
Step One: Planning
Using the information we gave you about the types of fuels and fuel conversions, you need to determine whether you’ll need to hire a professional. This professional could be a plumber or an electrician, depending on the job you require. If you hire someone to do the installation, you won’t have to worry about any other steps.
However, if your insert doesn’t require a fuel conversion, you can do the process yourself as long as you have the right equipment and time.
By now, you know that there are different types and sizes of fireplace inserts. So, the first thing you need to do is measure your fireplace’s opening.
Then you can start planning for your fireplace insert. Here’s what you need to do:
Ensure that the insert will fit your fireplace. You should double-check all measurements to avoid problems along the way.
Start planning for the venting component you’ll need if you choose a wood-burning, gas, or wood pellet insert.
Purchase all the necessary equipment and materials. You’ll need a chimney liner, a level, and other useful tools.
With everything you need ready and planned, you can proceed with the next step.
Step Two: Preparation
Before installation, the second step is to consider whether you need to make any fuel conversions for your insert. If your fireplace burns wood and you want to install an electric insert, you’ll need to install an electric line directly to the fireplace.
The same goes for gas models, which need a direct gas line to function. Because of how dangerous the process is, you should always turn to a specialist to handle gas lines and other similar conversions.
When converting a fireplace to another fuel, keep in mind the following:
For wood-to-gas inserts, you need to contact a plumber. The plumber will handle the conversion plus all the necessary code and regulations responsibilities. Additionally, all necessary components for this process will vary depending on whether you want natural or propane gas.
For gas to wood or wood pellet, you’ll need to contact a plumber to remove the direct gas line. Once the line has been removed, you’ll need to remove the chimney damper. If you want a pellet model, you will also need an electrician to install the electric line for accessories.
For wood or gas to electric, you’ll need an electrician to handle the electric line installation. Because electric inserts do not need venting, you will need to remove or close off the chimney. You’ll also need a plumber to remove the gas line if you had a gas fireplace before.
It is important to hire the right professional for this type of job rather than doing it yourself. Gas or electric fireplace inserts can be dangerous to install without the necessary tools and prior experience.
Step Three: Installation
The best thing about fireplace inserts is that the installation should be pretty straightforward if you get the right model and size. Once you have your insert home, you only need to slide it inside the existing fireplace area. It doesn’t matter if you have a masonry or a zero-clearance structure; the process will be the same.
Once the insert is inside the fireplace, you need to hook up any lines to the unit, which means connecting it to either the electric or gas line. This part of the step is only necessary if you are not using a wood-burning insert.
The next part of the installation is to use the hardware that came with your fireplace insert to fit the surrounds. The insert should fit perfectly as long as you pick the right size.
Finally, don’t forget to add a new veneer facing if the previous one is not working correctly anymore.
Note: The installation process should not take too much time, but it does require a lot of physical effort. Fireplace inserts are extremely heavy, especially the ones made of cast iron or similar materials. So, when installing one, always have someone to help you move it, lift it, or carry it.
Step Four: Inspection
Inspection is the final step to complete your fireplace insert installation. It is an essential part of the process because it will determine if your insert has been correctly installed and if it is safe for use or not. If, during the inspection, you notice that there’s a problem with your insert, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer or an NFI-certified technician.
Here’s how you can inspect your wood-burning fireplace insert:
Start the fire to determine if the venting system is working properly.
Once you’ve added the logs, you can close the glass door.
Verify that you can easily control the burn rate through the air control handle.
While the fire burns, you need to inspect your unit for smoke leaks.
You also need to check if the door is closing and latching correctly.
Ensure the smoke is leaving through the chimney. To do this, you need to exit your home and check the chimney’s smoke from outside.
If your fireplace insert has an outside air kit, you also need to ensure it is working properly.
Here’s how you can inspect your gas fireplace insert:
The first time you use your gas insert, you need to ensure that the pilot light ignites and remains stable. Then you’ll be able to ignite the main burner to test the potency of your new fireplace insert.
Monitoring your main burner ignition should be a priority. The process should be in your control and should not be sudden or violent.
Supervise the burning. Check for burner ports that have no flames, the ones with overly sooty flames, and the ones with bluish flames.
If there’s a problem with the flame patterns, you’ll need to verify the air shutter. To verify it, you’ll need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You should be able to find them in the owner’s manual.
Now test the fan if your model comes with one. It should cycle correctly to provide air circulation inside the unit.
Last, your gas insert can have a strong odor the first few times you use it but should not linger for more than four hours. If it remains, you need to contact a plumber to check for gas leaks.
If you have a vent-free model, you need to follow the same steps. However, you also need to ensure that there aren’t blockages around the logs or acrid odors coming from the unit.
Here’s how you can inspect your electric fireplace insert:
You need to inspect whether or not the backlighting is working properly. You should do it with each light in the unit.
Now verify if the fan is distributing the heat around the room, but only if your model comes with one. You also need to determine if the heating components are operating as they should.
There should be no clicking or binding sounds coming from inside the unit.
Check your remote control and see if every feature is working correctly.
Electric inserts can have a strong burned-metal odor the first few times you use them. The smell, however, should dissipate after a couple of hours of constant use. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer.
Find the Right Fireplace Insert for Your Needs with CAPO Building Specialties
Finding the right fireplace insert for your home can be a long and tedious process, but it doesn’t have to be. At CAPO Building Specialties, we have one of the widest selections of fireplace inserts on the market. We are also always ready to help you when it comes to choosing a fireplace insert for your home.
CAPO is committed to only providing the highest quality of devices, so we only distribute the most reliable brands. We’ve got you covered if you are looking for a fireplace insert, whether it is a wood, gas, electric, or pellet model.
Contact us today at 747-247-2606 or look through our website for more information about our fireplace inserts and other products!