There’s nothing like sitting beside a fire on a cold winter night. In addition to the warmth, many people enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents that fires produce. Although traditional masonry fireplaces are attractive and serve as a focal point of a room, they are terribly inefficient. Much of the heat that a fire generates is drawn up and out of the chimney, while cold air is pulled into the home. Of course, there are several steps one can take to mitigate these inefficiencies. Cleaning the chimney, making sure that the dampers are completely closed when the fireplace is not in use, and installing a vented glass door can go a long way. However, you can maximize efficiency by installing a fireplace insert. There are many things you can do to make your home feel cozy this winter, and installing the right fireplace insert is one of them.
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What is a fireplace insert? Well, it is essentially a fireproof box that you place into your existing fireplace. It is usually surrounded by cast iron or steel and has a glass front. Many of them feature a blower which forces heat into the room through vents. Before you head off to purchase an insert, you must first take a few factors into consideration. For starters, what kind of fuel are you going to use? While many fireplace owners prefer burning wood or pellets, there are other options available including natural gas and propane as well as electric and even coal. To make things easy, we can boil these down into three basic groups:
- Wood Burning
- Gas Burning
Before you get too far ahead of yourself, you must figure out what your budget is. Fireplace inserts can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as several thousands of dollars. Another thing you need to think about is the style. Fireplace inserts can have a traditional look, a modern look, or anything in between. You should also know what size your insert should be. This can be achieved by measuring the height and width of your existing fireplace’s front opening, the depth of the opening, and the height and width of the rear wall. Once you’ve figured these things out, you are almost ready to start looking for the best fireplace insert for you. But first, let’s take a look at the three types of inserts along with some of the pros and cons.
Wood Burning Inserts
For many traditionalists, there’s no substitute for a wood fire. Some people enjoy chopping wood and they find the ritual of starting a fire to be somewhat therapeutic. If you’re partial to burning wood, then a wood fireplace insert is for you. Just be aware that they have a few drawbacks. Obviously, you need a reliable source and a dry area to stockpile your supply. Those who live in a condo or apartment might find it challenging to store firewood. You should also know that while they are vastly more efficient than traditional masonry fireplaces, wood fireplace inserts are less efficient than gas inserts. Then there’s the issue of emissions. Wood fires create a combustible pollutant called creosote, which can stick to your chimney or be released into the atmosphere as a form of air pollution. Some regions do not allow wood burning during certain times.
Gas Burning Inserts
More and more homeowners are switching to natural gas to power such household items as stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters, and, of course, furnaces. Even barbeques, patio heaters, and outdoor lighting can run off of natural gas. Converting your masonry wood-burning fireplace into an efficient natural gas fireplace is quite simple although you’ll probably need to hire a professional to perform the installation. Even if you are not currently connected to a natural gas line, there’s a good chance that it can be done for a reasonable price.
There are many benefits to having a gas fireplace insert. Instead of having to chop wood, tote it into the house, and then spend time starting a fire, a gas insert allows you to spark up a beautiful fire with the click of a button. Many models also work using a wall-mounted thermostat. On top of that, gas fireplace inserts are highly efficient, easy to maintain, and are much more environmentally friendly than their wood-burning counterparts.
Electric Fireplace Inserts
Electric fireplace inserts are the only option for some people. That’s not a bad thing considering the many benefits of electric inserts. One of the appealing aspects is that they are easy to set up. They are also a cinch to operate and are generally a lot cheaper than gas and wood inserts in terms of purchase price, energy efficiency, and cost of operating. While an electric fireplace inserts might not be the best solution for large rooms, they are very effective in smaller settings.
Perhaps the biggest downside to electric fireplaces is that they do not produce real flames. This means no crackling logs and none of the aromas that are associated with burning wood. Granted, this might suit some people just fine. An electric fireplace won’t heat a room nearly as fast as a wood or gas insert will, and they aren’t the most environmentally friendly option.
Finding the best fireplace insert doesn’t involve too much work, but there are a number of considerations that must be weighed before making your decision. If you still aren’t sure what insert is right for you, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional. Your nearest fireplace insert provider will be more than happy to assist in your search for your ideal insert.
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