As the cooler fall months approach, many Americans are finding themselves daydreaming about curling up in front of the fireplace with a good book and a soft blanket. Both decorative and useful, fireplaces are standard in many homes, even prefabricated houses. Unfortunately, however, they just do not heat well. Optimal for zone heating, a fireplace will generally only provide warmth to a limited area of your home. If you are looking for a way to reduce energy costs and heat your whole home more effectively, consider a gas or wood fireplace insert.
What is an insert?
As the name suggests, a fireplace insert is a structure which is inserted into an existing, usually brick, fireplace. A fireplace insert consists of a firebox surrounded by a steel shell, and in some cases a convection fan. The steel shell prevents heat loss into the masonry of the existing fireplace structure, and the fan, usually beneath the firebox, circulates air from the room as it is heated. Ventilation is integrated with your current chimney with the installation of a chimney liner. The liner is fused to the chimney and should be insulated to maintain heat and to prevent old, stale air from entering your home. If you have an existing masonry fireplace in your home, a professional can install a fireplace insert for you, enabling you to heat your home with fewer costs and pollutants than would be incurred with a standard fireplace.
Types of fireplace inserts
The two most commonly installed inserts are gas and wood fireplace inserts. A gas insert produces an attractive focal point to your living or other room, and produces heat by burning natural gas or propane. The fireplace is lit by simply flipping a switch, and the flame height can usually be controlled by a dial on the wall. Choose your insert based on which type of gas is available in your area, and expect to schedule maintenance once each year to have the burner cleaned. Exhaust from gas inserts is minimal, and you can choose inserts that vent exhaust outside or those that will circulate all exhaust throughout your home. It may not be necessary to have an existing chimney for a gas insert. Ask your service technician what is required in your home.
Wood fireplace inserts are slightly more cumbersome to maintain, as they burn split wood. A fire is lit in the same way you would build a fire in a traditional fireplace, but the heat radiated from the insert can warm an area from 1,000-3,000 square feet in size. Wood burning fireplace inserts are not recommended for prefab chimneys, as they are not rated for the level of heat generated by the insert.
Installation and maintenance
Installation of a fireplace insert should always be performed by a certified professional. Attempting to install an insert yourself can lead to building code violations and fire hazards. Whether you choose to have a gas or wood insert installed, the day to day maintenance will be much simpler than that of a standard fireplace. Depending upon which type of fuel your insert burns, it may or may not have to be removed from the fireplace during maintenance; the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association recommends that your insert be cleaned annually by a technician who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Contacting a certified professional for annual maintenance will ensure that your fireplace remains a safe, efficient and cost reducing addition to your home.
American Chimney and Masonry sells and installs all types of hearth appliances including gas logs, gas fireplaces, stoves & inserts, wood fireplaces, stoves & inserts. Call today or schedule an appointment online to learn more!