Retrofit your dirty old fireplace
Fireplace inserts have different designs and functionality for use as gas fireplaces or as retrofits in wood-burning fireplaces. Generally, the purpose of installing an insert is to place some form of heating unit within an existing fireplace enclosure that may or may not even be operational. If you think that an insert makes sense for your home, it's important to take the time to research which type is best suited to your needs.
Inserts for wood burning fireplaces are designed to enhance an existing wood-burning fireplace with more economical, environmentally-friendly burning options.
Pellet or coal inserts provide options for a standard wood-burning fireplace to burn either environmentally-friendly pellet or corn fuels or an inexpensive and readily available fossil fuel. If you want to use either of these types of fireplace insert, you'll need to have your chimney and flue inspected to make certain they are appropriate for burning a fuel other than wood. Since other fuels can burn hotter, a standard masonry or single-layer metal chimney may not be appropriate or safe for use with inserts.
Gas fireplace inserts may allow a non-functional fireplace to provide light and warmth once again. Ventless gas fireplace inserts require that the existing ventilation system (chimney or flue) be closed off, eliminating the draft which can occur as a result of the direct connection to the outdoors from your home. Because of this, such ventless inserts can prove a very cost-effective way to provide supplemental heat within your home.
Electric inserts can be extremely portable and provide heat without any dangerous creosote buildup found in a wood-burning fireplace, or a loss of heat through an old chimney. Unfortunately, the flames never look real, and rarely look even convincing. If aesthetics are a major concern or if you like the sight of a flame within your hearth, you should examine one of the other options.
Overall, fireplace inserts can reduce heat losses due to simple inefficiency (hot exhaust gases flowing out the chimney) by nearly 65% as compared with standard wood-burning fireplaces. They also reduce the chance of fire damage from sparks or cool burning wood fires that cause more creosote build-up in the chimney. More research on gas fireplaces can be found on our site if you find that inserts don't suit your heating needs.