What Is A Fireplace Insert? Types and Cost

From time immemorial, generation to generation, fireplaces have been used in houses and homes for their heating abilities. Asides from keeping a house warm, it also makes for a pretty aesthetic piece in any room. 

That being said, there are many disadvantages to it such as dispelling most of the heat through the chimney. It almost contradicts its very purpose. Think about it, what is the point of a fireplace when the heat you installed it for is being sent out of the house? What an irony.

This is why the fireplace insert was created and in this article, we will be talking about what a fireplace insert is, the types available, and their advantages. 

What Is A Fireplace Insert?

A fireplace insert is simply a fireproof device or box placed inside an existing fireplace to trap the heat created by an existing fireplace. Basically, by trapping the heat inside the box, more energy is created, which in turn dispels more heat into the room instead of the chimney. 

The box was invented by Joab R. Donaldson of Oliphant Furnace in the year 1896 after he stumbled upon the idea that using coke – a smokeless fuel made from coal – and an electric blower in a traditional fireplace will improve its ability to heat up a room. 

The boxes are typically made from steel or cast iron, and they come with insulated glass windows/doors that induce a combustion system and can also be self-cleaning. You can read about self-cleaning glass here.

Types of Fireplace Inserts

Since the advent of fireplace inserts, a few different types have come up such as electric, wood, coal, gas, and pellet but we will be looking at just the three main types which are the electric, gas, and wood fireplace inserts.

Electric Fireplace Inserts

The electric fireplace insert comes first on our list because of the numerous benefits it comes with. It is simply an insert that only needs electricity to work. It is incredibly flexible in the sense that it can be fixed anywhere, either at home or in the office.

If you are interested in an affordable, easy-to-use, and convenient type of fireplace insert, we definitely recommend going for this type. While it may increase the amount of money you have to pay for your electricity bills, it saves a lot more than a traditional fireplace. With electric fireplace inserts, you get to control the intensity of the flames with a simple remote, and you also get to spend less on cleaning materials because it does not cause as much mess as a regular fireplace place. 

There are two types of electric fireplace insert; the built-in and plug-in. The built-in ones are permanently fixed to the fireplace’s walls, while the plug-ins are more flexible and can be moved from one fireplace to the other. 

Gas Fireplace Inserts

The gas fireplace inserts are the second commonly used inserts today. The boxes are made of gas jets that connect to a gas pipe. They typically come with vents, although some don’t, that are directly linked to the chimney to release air which in turn reduces drafts in your home. The great thing about them is that they are also easy to maintain, and they don’t need to be cleaned as frequently as other types of fireplaces. 

They are a relatively safe option, but you still have to constantly check for leaks as they could lead to explosions, or the people living in the house might get carbon dioxide poisoning. 

Wood Fireplace Inserts

Wood fireplace inserts are placed inside existing traditional wood fireplaces and are fueled by wood byproducts. Simply put, it is wood that is powered by wood. This makes this type of insert quite unique. 

Just like the other types of inserts, they are great at increasing the heating capacity of the fireplace, but they also require a higher amount of maintenance, something the others don’t. It is one of the reasons why it ranks third on the list. You have to check the chimneys and remove soot constantly. They also still stand as a health hazard to people who inhale the smoke every day.

Regardless, there are still benefits to it, such as being able to use it even without electricity. This means on a cold stormy night when there might be a general power outage and the weather is freezing cold, you can still put it on and enjoy the pleasant warmth it offers.

Benefits Of Having A Fireplace Insert

Despite how popular fireplace inserts have become in recent years and the seemingly numerous cons of a traditional fireplace, people still wonder if they are really better than their traditional counterparts. So for those of you wondering, here are some of the benefits of fireplace inserts:

  • Costs Less Than Traditional Fireplaces

This is the main attraction point of fireplace inserts. They are much cheaper to install and maintain than traditional fireplaces. Why waste your time and money to remodel or rebuild a traditional open fireplace when you can simply use a fireplace insert? All you have to do is buy one and simply slide the box in. This way, your home still has that rustic vibe but with a touch of modernity. 

  • Inserts Work Better Than Traditional Fireplaces

How? Yes, both open fireplaces and fireplace inserts indeed produce heat, but with fireplace inserts, you get more. The difference can be quite glaring because while open fireplaces dispel heat through the chimney, fireplace inserts literally trap air and energy, allowing more heat into your home. In other words, they help fireplaces work better.

  • Easier To Maintain Fireplace Inserts

We highlighted this earlier; fireplace inserts are really convenient. They require little to no maintenance because they rarely get dirty, especially electric fireplace inserts. You may need more cleaning with wood fireplace inserts, but it is not as extreme or intense as the traditional wood-burning fireplace. A few clean here and there, and your fireplace will look as good as new.

If you have an existing fireplace and want to get it cleaned before installing the fireplace insert, you might be interested in this article we have written on how to clean a stone fireplace.

  • Fireplace Inserts Are Environmentally Safe

Without the constant burning of wood, less air-borne toxins are being spread in the house. Fireplace inserts allow owners to enjoy a nice warm day without the fear of inhaling toxic things. Although there are still risks of that happening with gas and wood fireplace inserts, it is quite rare for it to happen. 

As long as you follow the guidelines for each type, you have nothing to be worried about. There are also special types of wood that are EDA approved for use, so do well check them out.

How Much Does A Fireplace Insert Cost?

The cost of fireplace inserts varies based on type, style, size, company, and accompanying accessories. Since there isn’t one fixed price for any of them, we are giving you estimated prices.

Electric Fireplace Inserts

The average price range for an electric fireplace insert is $150 – $500, without the cost of installation, and please note that the price will vary even more depending on whether it’s a plug-in or built-in insert. The average installation cost is $250; check with a local installation company to be sure of the price.

Gas Fireplace Inserts

Gas fireplace inserts cost $500 – $3500, including the insert itself, cost of installation, materials, vents, gas tubes, and the cost of cleaning the chimney of the preexisting fireplace.

Wood Fireplace Inserts

Wood fireplace inserts cost $1500 – $3500, including the installation cost, but because these inserts cannot work with an existing chimney and liner, you can expect to spend as much as $5000. The liners are usually the same price or more expensive than the insert.

Can You Put A Fireplace Insert In An Existing Fireplace?

Yes, you can. While some fireplace inserts do not need to be installed in an existing fireplace, the general idea of a fireplace insert is that it should be inserted into an existing fireplace. The steel boxes are created with the thought that they will be going into one.

How Long Do Fireplace Inserts Last?

If maintained and taken care of properly, a fireplace insert can last for years – as long as 30 years. You just have to give it enough care and ensure there was no existing fault from the company you purchased it from. As long as there are no issues, a typical lifespan of fireplace inserts is 20-30 years.

How Do You Choose A Fireplace Insert?

Almost everyone interested in buying a fireplace insert asks this question. You need to consider many things: your budget, the type, style, and size. If you are more on the budget-conscious spectrum, an electric fireplace insert is the best option for you.

The insert is significantly cheaper than wood or gas, so is the installation, and you won’t have to worry about buying wood or gas to fuel it.

As for size, you will need to measure your existing fireplace so you can buy an insert that will easily slip into your existing fireplace, that is, if you don’t want it to stand alone.