The Buyer’s Guide to Fireplace Inserts (Plus Design Tips)

Fireplaces are one of the most beloved home features for anyone who loves interior design, appreciates an additional heat source, or wants a go-to gathering place for loved ones. Unfortunately, traditional fireplaces tend to be extremely inefficient. Much of the air they heat escapes to the outside, compromising your energy bills as well as your ability to stay warm.

If you’re interested in making your home more energy-efficient or simply want to enjoy more of the heat from your fireplace, you may want to consider installing a fireplace insert. These nifty products can help you keep more of the heat from your fireplace and reduce energy waste.

What Is the Purpose of a Fireplace Insert?

Fireplace inserts are used to draft-proof a traditional open fireplace, keep more heat in the room, and increase the fireplace’s overall energy efficiency. You can use them to convert a wood-burning open fireplace into a gas or electric heat source or simply to make your current fuel source more efficient.

Fireplace inserts are available for most types of wood-burning and gas fireplaces. Many inserts come with a blower to help better distribute heat into your home.

Types of Fireplace Inserts

Gas fireplace inserts

Gas fireplace inserts can give you extremely efficient heat output. You can use a gas insert to convert a wood-burning fireplace into a more efficient gas appliance. However, you may also need to run a new gas line to the insert, which adds to the installation cost.

Some of our favorite gas fireplace inserts include the Ironstrike Madison Park CD, which comes in multiple large and small sizes; the Envirofire EX35, which includes an ultra-high-definition log set and Run-Quiet fan system; the shallow-depth Majestic Quartz; and the Napoleon Oakville GD I3 fireplace, which includes all your standard features plus the option of zone heating. Contact us today for recommendations on the best fireplace insert for your needs.

Electric fireplace inserts

Electric fireplace inserts allow you to convert a wood- or gas-burning fireplace into an electric heat source. In addition to the insert itself, you may also need to add an electrical outlet and supply near or within the existing fireplace. Some electric models cost significantly less than other fireplace inserts, and most can heat up to 400 square feet of living space.

Wood fireplace inserts

If you have an open wood-burning fireplace and are looking to keep your existing fuel source while making your fireplace more efficient, a wood fireplace insert is the way to go. However, a wood insert will not be as energy-efficient as moving to gas or electric.

One of our favorite wood fireplace inserts is the Ironstrike Montlake 230, an EPA-certified and Washington State-approved insert with a smoke-reducing air booster and single-touch control options. This fireplace insert comes with a decorative door trim in black, brushed nickel, or nickel, among other customization options.

Designing Around Your Fireplace Insert

A fireplace insert will nearly always impact the visual appearance of your fireplace. Many fireplace inserts come with a classic, solid black surround, while others can be paired with cast iron, nickel, or uniquely decorated surround. The smaller the fireplace insert relative to the preexisting firebox, the larger the surround will be.

Some electric fireplace insert products are freestanding and do not come with a surround. These inserts will have a distinctly different appearance from other inserts, as there will still be visible space between the outside of the insert and the original firebox walls.

Designing around an electric fireplace insert

Homeowners installing an electric fireplace insert in a preexisting wood or gas fireplace should carefully consider the type of electric insert and the location of the power outlet.

If you use a plug-in electric insert with an outlet outside the preexisting firebox, there will be a visible cord running from your electric insert to that outlet, which may reduce the visual appeal of your fireplace. However, you will not need to pay for a new outlet inside the firebox. What’s more, if your insert is a freestanding unit that can be easily moved, you will maintain the option of removing the insert and using wood or gas to fuel a fire during a power outage.

On the other hand, installing a built-in insert that is hard-wired into your home electrics or uses an outlet inside your preexisting fireplace allows you to avoid unsightly cords. You can maintain the clean interior design you envisioned. Afterward, you will no longer have the option to use the preexisting fireplace without the insert, so think carefully before proceeding if you don’t plan to use a generator during an outage.

Can I Put an Insert in My Fireplace?

Most masonry fireplaces and some other types of manufactured fireplaces can accommodate a fireplace insert. In some areas, there may be local ordinances and regulations around installing a fireplace insert. To find out if you can use an insert with your fireplace, talk with a local fireplace dealer.

After verifying that you can use an insert, you will need to determine what size insert you need. We suggest grabbing a tape measure to find the height, width, and depth of the front opening of your fireplace. You should also measure the height and width of the back wall of your fireplace. Once you know the size of your existing fireplace, you can look for an appropriate insert.

Your fireplace opening size will determine the flashing or surround that accompanies your insert. The surround covers any unsightly gaps between the insert and the edge of the preexisting fireplace. Many manufacturers offer decorative surrounds so you can customize your fireplace aesthetics.

How Much Does a Fireplace Insert Cost?

On average, installing a fireplace insert costs $1,500-5,000 depending on the model you select and the state of your existing fireplace and chimney. Some electric fireplace inserts can cost less, while high-end wood and gas inserts may cost more.

Are Fireplace Inserts Worth It?

Many homeowners appreciate the value their fireplace insert brings. The benefits you will enjoy include:

  • Energy savings. Fireplace inserts can cut your fuel costs or energy bills by reducing the amount of fuel you need to keep your home warm.
  • A more sustainable heat source. By allowing you to reduce the amount of fuel you use or switch to a more sustainable fuel source, a fireplace insert can reduce your fireplace’s impact on the environment.
  • Time and convenience savings. If you convert a wood-burning open fireplace to gas or electric with an insert, you will be amazed at how much less maintenance your fireplace needs. In addition to less cleaning and ash removal, you will no longer have to chop, season, or carry wood. Plus, it will be much easier to control your heat output.

If you are interested in installing a fireplace insert in your home in the Greater Seattle area, reach out to the experts at Four Day Fireplace today. We can help you find the perfect model for your home and handle the entire fireplace project from design to completion.

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