FireplacesEven the handsomest fireplace grows dirty over time. And given enough time, the mantel, accessories, and other decorative elements can grow stale, as well. But there’s good news for homeowners and other fireplace owners: breathing new life into a fireplace installation doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

First, Survey Your Fireplace’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Whether you’re looking to increase your fireplace’s heating efficiency or just give it a new lease on decorative life, you should understand your fireplace’s assets and challenges first. First, consider the chimney, both indoors and out. Older chimneys, particularly those in damp climates, tend to spring leaks and cracks that, as water freezes and thaws inside them, actually feed on themselves. Over time, this can cause serious structural damage. A leaky chimney leaks heat!

If you’re not comfortable working with mortar or concrete, consult a building contractor for chimney repair estimates. Shop around a get several quotes. If you own a gas fireplace, you should also have a plumber or certified technician inspect your system for damage caused by debris, wear and tear, and other problems.

Consider What You Want from Your “New” Fireplace

One of the major ways you can bring a new look to an old fireplace is by investing in a new screen or set of doors. Much like the front grill of a classic automobile, a fireplace screen or door set will add shine, depth, and presence to your fireplace presentation.

If you’re going to paint your chimney or firebox, you need to find the right paint. Heat-resistant paint is available from online and retail stores. However, heat-resistant and heat-proof paint only work in very specific circumstances. It’s important to read all labels and advisories before purchasing.

FireplacesFireplace technology has kept pace with the times, and modern fireplace models often feature electronic and remote controls, variable settings, and a wide range of decorative options.

But all those features and attractions can prove daunting for first-time buyers. If you’re fixing up a fireplace you’ve had for years, or purchased as part of a residence, the road to perfection can also seem confusing. Keep reading to discover the basics of modern fireplace shopping and buying.

Wood Burning Fireplaces: Ancient and Atmospheric

The classic fireplace image includes wooden logs aflame inside a generously sized fireplace. Yet the modern wood-burning fireplace, while retaining its traditional operation, also includes a variety of decorative and safety features meant to maximize its users’ warmth and safety.

Fireplaces’ great advantage lies in their elegance and charm; however, modern gas and electric fireplaces have largely outpaced them in regards to fuel economy, heat production, and convenience. Still, there’s no mistaking their traditional appeal, and for those with old-time decorative sensibilities their allure is probably irresistible.

Gas Logs, Natural Gas, and Propane Fireplaces Are Convenient, Economical

Fireplaces

A linear fireplace

Gas logs are permanent fireplace installations that swap out an existing or new fireplace’s wood-burning capability for either natural gas or liquid propane. They are also available as part of specially-made fireplaces that are constructed to maximize their warming potential.

Natural gas fireplaces produce almost no exhaust, and can typically run from a house’s existing gas line. Liquid propane fireplaces burn hotter than natural gas, giving them greater heating capacity. However, operating a liquid propane fireplace often means switching out or refilling the propane supply tank. In addition, liquid propane supply service may not be readily available in all areas.

In either case, gas logs should be professionally installed by a licensed plumber or heating technician.

It’s also crucial to make sure your fireplace can accommodate the size gas log set you want. A helpful sizing and measurement guide is available here. Learn more about gas logs by reading our special guide.

The Special Class of Linear Gas Fireplaces

Linear fireplaces measure longer and narrower than conventional square-shaped fireplaces, allowing them to be installed inside walls and above existing structures. Also called panoramic or wide-view fireplaces, linear fireplaces’ viewing areas are usually four times wider than they are tall. Virtually all linear fireplaces will be gas-operated.

Direct Vent and Ventless Fireplaces: Which Is Right for Your Needs?

Choosing between direct vent (or vented) fireplace systems and ventless (or vent-free) fireplaces largely depends on your home or business’ exhaust capabilities. Vented gas logs use chimneys or stovepipe to expel smoke, ash, and other effluvia away from the fireplace’s surroundings. Vented gas log sets are typically less expensive, but also less productive – they emit less heat.

Ventless gas logs and fireplaces are more efficient than vented models, not least because they do not lose heat through their exhaust systems. They also create less pollution than vented models. Despite their advantages, ventless fireplace systems have their drawbacks: they tend to consume more of the oxygen in their surrounding area, and cost more than vented models.

Electric Fireplaces Offer Modern Sophistication, Decorative Elegance

Fireplaces

Many electric fireplaces retain classic Americana design details.

The great advantages of electric fireplaces? They’re incredibly clean and require much less effort to operate and maintain than wood-burning fireplaces and gas logs. Electric fireplaces also require no venting, as they produce no exhaust.

Modern electric fireplaces use LED technology in conjunction with electronic controls to create electric “flames” that are often comparable from the real thing. They’re also available in a wide range of decorative styles, from traditional to ultra-contemporary. Wall-mounted and smaller-sized models also allow installation in many additional parts of the home – bathrooms, guest bedrooms, and others.

You can learn more about electric fireplaces by reading this helpful article.

The Fireplace Inserts Breathes Warm New Life Into Chimneys, Homes, Businesses

In many ways, the fireplace insert combines the best advantages of all other fireplace styles and models while possessing very few of the drawbacks. As the name implies, the fireplace insert is a self-contained fireplace unit that fits inside existing chimneys and exhaust systems.

Many models of fireplace are self-contained, or ventless. This allows them to be used inside the fireboxes (the open areas at the bottom of the fireplace’s chimney) of chimneys or exhaust columns that have become blocked or sealed off by damage.

Fireplace inserts are available in wood-burning, gas, and electric varieties. For a complete guide to their use and maintenance, read our Guide To Fireplace Inserts elsewhere on this blog.

A Glossary of Basic Fireplace Terminology

Fireplaces

We’re sure they’ll have fireplaces in the future.

The firebox is the open area beneath the chimney shaft, or flue, and behind the hearth. The firebox houses the firewood, gas log and/or pipes, and other fireplace machinery or equipment.

The surround of a fireplace is the area immediately around the firebox edges, facing towards the surrounding room.

A fireplace’s flashing seals the open gap between the edge of the fireplace insert and the edge of a surround. Flashing units give a fireplace insert a seamless look that joins with their surround.

The mantel is typically made of wood, marble, or another highly durable material. It fits on the exterior of the fireplace, above and around the surround. By long-standing tradition, a mantel’s shelf is a display space for family awards, mementos, photographs, and keepsakes.

Still have questions? We can help!

Our customer service staff is happy to answer your questions about any kind of fireplace and fireplace installation. Just email them at info@efireplacestore.com for a prompt reply.

Chimney AccessoriesYour fireplace is a crucial part of your home heating capability. But is your fireplace working the best it possibly can?

Many homeowners and fireplace users seldom realize that the fireplace and chimney that have served them well for years may now need maintenance or restoration – or even replacement. Luckily, modern fireplace construction and venting technology, along with innovations in fireplace maintenance and repair, have made keeping fireplaces in their peak condition both simple and affordable.

With winter coming, consider taking the following steps to maximize your fireplace and chimney’s heating potential.

Keep the Chimney Sealed, Not Just the Damper

Chimneys can “bleed” heat if cracks and fissures in their masonry or foundation are left unchecked. Warm air seeps out and cold air seeps inside, finding its way into the firebox and making it more difficult for a fire to heat the surrounding interior room. Moreover, cracks and fissures actually “feed” on themselves. As water seeps in and then expands as it turns to ice, the brick or masonry crumbles and the dilapidation spreads.

Experts recommend getting your chimney checked for cracks and holes at least once a year, either by yourself or by a chimney or foundation expert. The means of sealing your chimney will depend, of course, largely on the type of chimney your fireplace has. A variety of maintenance and repair accessories are available both in stores and online. For more serious repairs, hiring a bricklayer, carpenter, or other contractor will likely prove necessary.

To keep your home warm even when the fireplace is not in use, make sure the damper is closed whenever the fire is completely extinguished. Investing in a damper hook will make this task less time-consuming and physically awkward.

Improve Ventilation With a Chimney Cap

Chimney Pots

A copper chimney pot by European Copper

The tops of chimneys are favorite nesting spots for birds, but those same nests can block the chimney’s flue (the airway above the firebox), hampering ventilation and increasing the risk of fire and smoke inhalation for the house and its residents. At the same time, airborne debris from surrounding trees can blow into the chimney as well, presenting fire and ventilation hazards.

By installing a chiney pot or chimney cap atop your chimney, you’ll block birds and airborne debris without sacrificing ventilation. Many chimney caps also make beautiful additions to a home’s silhouette and exterior decorative plan. Chimney pots and caps range from simple to ornate in both appearance and decorative elements, so you have a wide range of appearance choices.

Watch Out For Creosote

Creosote is the gummy, toxic residue left behind when oils escaping from burning wood coalesce and gel alongside the chimney flue walls. Over time, creosote can literally choke off a chimney’s ventilating capability.

Clean out any creosote by hiring a professional chimney sweep or by carefully and thoroughly using any of the creosote-cleaning tools available at stores and online. As a guideline, The National Chimney Safety Institute of America advices cleaning whenever creosote buildup reaches 1/8 of an inch thick.

Check out our guide to keeping your chimney creosote free to learn more.

Install A Direct-Vent or Vent-Free Fireplace Insert

Fireplace Inserts

A fireplace insert

As their name somewhat suggests, fireplace inserts are self-contained fireplaces that fit inside the firebox (or bottom) of a fireplace. They offer great energy efficiency potential because their sealed construction allows them to lose much less heat than traditional wood burning fireplaces.

Fireplace inserts are available in wood-burning, gas (both natural gas and propane), electric, and pellet-burning configurations. They are usually either direct vent, meaning they shed exhaust by means of a stovepipe; or vent-free, meaning they are 100% efficient in burning their fuel.

Vent free fireplace inserts also carry the additional advantage of working inside fireplaces whose chimney was removed or whose flue has become significantly obstructed. The insert simply slides into the obstructed firebox.

For more information, please read our complete guide to fireplace inserts.

Convert To A Gas Log Fireplace

Natural gas and propane gas log sets offer a cleaner, lower-maintenance alternative to traditional wood burning fireplaces. Most gas logs are constructed from high-endurance ceramic, and should be installed either by a plumber or licensed gas technician.

Natural gas and propane gas logs each have distinct advantages and drawbacks. Propane gas logs burn almost three times hotter than natural gas logs. However, natural gas fireplaces can run off a home’s existing gas line, while propane tanks require both purchase and periodic refilling. For a complete explanation, please read our complete guide to gas logs.

Install A Wood Stove In a Second Location In Your Home

Wood StovesIt’s easy to think of wood stoves as smaller, self-contained fireplaces. Like fireplace inserts, they are available in either direct-vent or vent-free configurations. Depending on that exhaust method, they’re suitable for use in any room in the home, especially attics, basements, and upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms that are hard to heat through conventional HVAC systems.

Wood stoves come in many of the same fuel configurations as fireplace inserts: wood-burning, gas, electric, and pellet-burning. Like fireplace inserts, stoves also feature electronic controls, including electric thermostats and electronic displays, so they’re much more accurate in their heating than conventional fireplaces.

A second (or third, fourth, et cetera) heat source in your home helps your main fireplace by alleviating its heating tasks. The lessened wear and tear helps delay the need for maintenance. Read our guide to wood stoves, electric and gas, and pellet stoves elsewhere on this blog to learn more.

Invest In New Tools, Equipment, and Parts

Investing in new fireplace tools, a new fire grate, or safety accessories such as hearth pads and gates won’t increase your fireplace’s energy efficiency. However, they will make your fireplace easier to operate and more comfortable to enjoy. They’ll also help improve the fireplace’s safety, both to operate and enjoy.

 

Winter Energy EfficiencyIt seems that winter home heating costs increase a little more with each passing year. Yet many families, especially those living in older houses, don’t realize they’re literally surrounded by opportunities to trim winter home heating and utility bills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that American families spend nearly $1,100 on home heating and cooling costs each year – nearly half their total energy expenditures. However, experts agree that taking steps now to “winterize” the home can result in steep savings – sometimes as much as 20 percent.

The following energy efficiency tips don’t just work for homeowners. Apartment tenants and mobile home residents can also put these ideas and strategies into action. Just make sure to check with proprietors or property managers first.

Seal Up Your Home, and Seal In The Savings

You wouldn’t set sail in a leaking boat, so why brave winter temperatures in a leaky house? Winterize your home by weather-stripping doorways and windows, sealing cracks and fissures in the window and doorframes and keeping holes in the walls and ceilings shut tight. Small cracks equal big expenses: experts say a one-eighth inch gap between a door and its frame costs as much as a six-inch wide hole in your wall.

Windows, especially single-pane glass windows, are poor retainers of heat. Plastic film storm windows, available at most hardware stores and easy to install, will also trim electricity costs by better insulating your widows and window frames.

Close the fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use. Unplug outdoor appliances and electronics to keep them from passively absorbing electricity. Consider upgrading your traditional wood-burning fireplace to a more energy efficient fireplace insert.

Don’t waste money by heating areas of the house that don’t get a lot of activity. Shut the doors and vents to unused or seldom-used rooms (guest bedrooms, basements, et cetera). This will better convey heat to high-traffic areas. Open all the curtains and blinds of south-facing windows, to better allow sunlight to heat your home naturally.

Adding insulation to your home, especially your attic, also helps you save big. You can also add insulation to other unfinished space in your home such as basement walls, crawlspaces, ceilings, and utility closets.

Dial Down the Thermostat and Dial Back The Utility Costs

Fireplace InsertsSetting your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower in cold weather months can quickly add up to energy savings. The California Energy Commission reports that you’ll save up to five percent on home heating costs for every degree you lower your thermostat within the 60- to 70-degree range. At night, dial back the thermostat to 55 degrees, or turn it off, to save up to 20 percent on heating costs. (To prevent overuse of backup strip heating, dial heat pumps back no more than two degrees.)

Installing programmable thermostats takes the constant supervision out of monitoring your home’s temperature level. Make sure the thermostat is properly installed in a part of your home that’s heated, so it can accurately monitor home heating levels.

Old Man Winter Is Hard On Old Furnaces and Heaters

If your home’s furnace or heating system is more than ten years old, the EPA recommends getting it a thorough inspection by a licensed heating expert or contractor. You should also check your heater’s air filter every month to make sure it stays clean, and replace it when needed.

Winterize Your Water Pipes and Hot Water Heaters

Save up to seven percent on your electricity bill by dialing your hot water heater’s thermostat down to 120 degrees. You can save even more by wrapping or insulating the pipes running from the hot water heating unit to the wall. Wrap the heating unit in an energy-saving heater blanket or jacket (available at most hardware stores). Consider buying a newer, more energy efficient heater: most water heaters have twelve-year life spans; older units will likely need servicing or replacement.

Drain a bucket of water from your hot water heater before the cold weather truly sets in. This will remove sediment and granular matter that accumulates inside the pipes and “prime” your heater for the months ahead, making ti run more effectively.

Save on laundry costs by washing your clothes in cold water, and running only full loads. Running cold-water laundry loads decreases the washer’s energy usage by 75 percent.

Take shorter and cooler showers; install low-flow showerheads to slash hot water expenses as much as 16 percent.

As with the window and door gaps, save money by caulking or sealing all cracks, fissures and openings.

Invest In A Wood-Burning Stove

Winter Energy EfficiencyDownsize your home heating utility bills altogether by investing in a vent-free or direct-vent stove. Usually powered by wood, propane, or natural gas, direct vent stoves use double-walled stovepipe to funnel exhaust away from the home’s interior, while remaining much more energy efficient than conventional (or B-vent) wood-burning fireplaces.

Vent-free fireplaces are self-contained (as the name implies, no venting is needed) and almost 100% efficient. Both direct-vent and vent-free stoves make excellent heating choices for bedrooms, family rooms, and basements. Electric space heaters may also offer opportunities for greater energy efficiency in parts of the home that are difficult to heat through conventional means.

Look for ENERGY STAR Products

Energy experts recommend investing in appliances, electronics, and heaters with the ENERGY STAR certification, which are certified by the EPA as using 20 – 30 percent less energy than comparable, non-certified products. Visit the official ENERGY STAR website for more information.

 

Fireplace Safety

Direct-vent fireplace inserts offer a low-maintenance fireplace alternative

Fireplaces are lovely to look at and an important source of warmth in any home they’re used. But the care and maintenance of the chimney, hearth, and firebox are responsibilities that require regular vigilance and attention. For seniors and others living with limited mobility, these tasks can become extremely difficult, even insurmountable. And when left alone, neglected or misused fireplaces can present life-risking danger.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that deaths from fires in the home are most common in people 65 years of age and older. Besides normal fireplace maintenance and care, seniors and their families should practice these additional safety practices to help avoid disaster and insure a healthy home atmosphere.

Insure Proper Screen Protection and Ventilation

Fireplaces should include screens, doors, or covers that protect the surrounding room from flying debris and ash. Hearths should stand nine to 18 inches off the floor to provide ample height clearance and to facilitate cleaning and refueling.

Experts recommend equipping seniors’ fireplaces with direct vent or self-enclosed fireplace inserts that will help keep smoke and fumes from drifting outside the firebox or chimney flue. Such fumes can damage seniors’ pulmonary systems and make breathing difficult. Seniors should avoid using wood-burning and gas fireplaces for these same reasons.

Direct vent fireplaces are gas-operated and use double-walled pipe to efficiently funnel exhaust through a wall or ceiling. They help to insure dramatically cleaner air outside the firebox than natural vent fireplace models. Direct-vent fireplaces also work better at trapping heat, thus improving energy efficiency. Besides direct vent models, electric and gel-burning fireplaces also make practical alternatives for anyone with respiratory difficulty

The chimney flue, or airway leading to the top, should be kept as clean as possible, with professional cleanings at least once a year but whenever necessary. Besides normal ash and debris, wood-burning fireplaces are subject to creosote deposits that result when burning oils and debris coalesce on the flue walls. Professional chimney cleaning prices vary, and a variety of DIY cleaners are also available. Still, seniors with limited mobility may prefer to hire professionals to clean their chimneys for them.

Keep Hearth, Mantel Clear of Flammable Materials

Fireplace Safety

A fireplace screen

Especially during the holidays, the fireplace hearth and mantel make irresistible areas to showcase decorations and ornaments. The urge is easy enough to understand: with everyone gathered in the living room or den to spend the holidays together, why not make the fireplace and hearth a stage for all kinds of decorative elements?
Yet cloth, Styrofoam, and other flammable materials can catch fire if struck by sparks or cinders that fly loose from the firebox. Embers and other burning debris can sometimes fly as far as three feet into the surrounding room.

Seniors and their families should take care to keep their hearths clear of decorations if the fireplace is steadily used. Likewise, avoid decorations that hang in front of the firebox unless the firebox opening is reliably covered by a sturdy screen or cover. And yes, sadly, this includes holiday stockings hung from the chimney with care. Hang the stockings after the fire is thoroughly put out if complete screen coverage isn’t available.

To be completely safe, avoid storing firewood near the fireplace. Keep all decorative materials outside a three-foot perimeter from the fireplace, too, including curtains, drapes, furniture, and other decorative elements. For flooring, make sure rugs and carpet are fireproof. Many antique rugs are not, while more modern fire rugs and fire-resistant rugs are available.

Fireproof the Entire Home

Fireplace Safety

Smoke detectors work best when deployed throughout the home, especially around bedrooms and above relaxation areas. Detectors should be tested and their batteries replaced twice a year; families of seniors should help them with these tasks to avoid the danger of falling or tripping off stepladders. Fire safety officials recommend checking smoke detectors during both Daylight Savings Times but especially at the beginning of autumn.

Carbon monoxide detectors are an important safety precaution in any home using a B-vent (also called “natural vent”) fireplace. Clogged B-vent pipes and poorly drafting B-vent fireboxes can allow carbon monoxide to seep into the room, slowly causing illness as their fumes accumulate. Carbon monoxide is heavier than air, so the detectors should be placed near the floor for maximum effectiveness.

Children or families of the hearing-impaired can install smoke detectors and other alarms with flashing lights or other alternative means of communicating an alert.

Seniors with limited or impaired mobility or memory should also use remote-controlled alarm bracelets and pins that will enable them to call for help when emergencies happen.

Houses should have a clear evacuation path marked out, both from living and sleeping areas. Families of seniors with impaired mobility should speak with their local fire station, supplying any necessary information regarding the seniors’ home floorplan.

The U.S. Fire Administration publishes a free guide to comprehensive fire safety for people over 50. The guide is available at the USFA website.

Fireplace Renovation

From time to time, every home’s fireplace needs some fixing up. Whether from normal wear and tear or just the changing whims of style, your home’s fireplace is a great focus for your remodeling creativity.

Unify Your Fireplace and Room Designs

A big part of understanding how to best update or renovate your fireplace lies in understanding the room surrounding it. Take stock of your design scheme. Is it modern? Classic? Does it fit a particular motif? (Colonial, Southwest, Asian, et cetera.) If you’re renovating the room as well as the fireplace, you should consider making the fireplace one of the room’s main design “anchors.”

Though the classic image of the fireplace involves rustic or classic Americana design schemes, in fact the fireplace remains perfectly suitable for any decorative ambition. The most sweeping – that is to say the most readily apparent – changes will come when you alter the surround (the area around the fireplace’s opening), the mantel, and the interior portion of the chimney.

Re-stain or Resurface Your Chimney

In terms of fashion, brick chimneys and mantels are often the worst offenders when it comes to looking outdated. Bare, “natural finish” brick and heavy wooden mantels can weigh down otherwise careful room renovation plans, throwing the room’s design balance out of whack. Fortunately, they’re some of the easiest elements to change.

A fresh coat of white paint will brighten not just your brick chimney but help to brighten and enliven the entire room. Installing a larger surround that complements the room’s new color palette will also help minimize the brick’s presence in the finished room. Surrounds are also great ways to add texture and contrast: using a tile, metal, or ceramic model can give a room depth and nuance that ordinary paint sometimes cannot.

Upgrade to a Decorative Surround

Fireplace Renovation

Instead of constructing a surround out of materials, using a surround component provides a strong decorative voice that can serve as a centerpiece for the fireplace renovation as a whole. Surrounds also work powerfully as contrast to the chimneys behind them.

When replacing your surround, it’s also a good idea to go ahead and update your flashing (the filler between the fireplace insert and the surround or firebox edge) as well as your fireplace or insert’s decorative panels. Replacing all three components will give your fireplace the fully restored look that will complement the renovated room or chimney to its ultimate degree.

Replace Your Mantel

Mantels don’t have to be strictly contemporary. In fact, classic- and traditional-styled – even retro – mantels often make the most interesting visual elements. Remember, too, that mantels range in size from simple shelves to elaborate hand-carved wood or stone centerpieces.

Keep the mantel at the same size scale as the furniture surrounding the fireplace. If your end tables and coffee table are relatively small, the mantel should be small as well.

Install a Fireplace Insert For Greater Efficiency, Convenience

 

Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts are self-contained but fit comfortably within the firebox, or opening, of your existing fireplace. Some are direct vent, meaning they use a ventilation shaft, while others are entirely self-sealed. Besides the traditional wood-burning fireplace insert, there are also electric, propane, and natural gas burning models.

Inserts provide greater energy efficiency by more effectively containing the heat they produce when compared to traditional fireplaces. Heat is not lost through the chimney but redirected back out towards the room.

Install New Accessories For the Fireplace and Chimney

Don’t let this step’s place on the list fool you: the new accessories you select for your fireplace and chimney should be more than an afterthought. A new grate will make your firebox seem instantly alive (when installed after a thorough cleaning), and a new tending kit will likewise energize your hearth. For the chimney, a mirror above the mantel will make your room brighter but can also make it seem larger.

Finally, your fireplace can remain a place of light and warmth in the spring and summer by burning candles in the firebox and atop the mantle. Use different-sized candles within the firebox and hearth, and a simple string of tea lights on the mantle to create a charming mood, day or night. Warm weather, after all, is no reason not to enjoy a newly renovated fireplace.

Fireplace InsertsIn fifteen words or less, can you describe what a fireplace insert does?

It’s a tough definition. The name “fireplace insert” isn’t entirely descriptive of its renovation potential, or its unique ability to make old fireplaces fully functional again without the need for extensive reconstruction. They also tend to offer greater fuel efficiency than traditional, chimney based fireplaces thanks to their comparatively more modern design and construction.
In the simplest terms, fireplace inserts are fully self-contained fireplaces that are placed inside the firebox (the open area at the bottom of the chimney) of an existing fireplace. Several different manufacturers offer them in many different styles, and there are additional accessories and add-ons that help increase the beauty of their physical appearance.

Different Kinds of Inserts, Different Kinds of Fuel – Wood, Gas, and Electric

Fireplace inserts can be organized into three varieties according to fuel type. Though gas fireplace inserts are the most popular with the general public, electric and traditional wood burning fireplace inserts are also available from some manufacturers.

One of the chief advantages to the gas fireplace insert, in terms of fuel variety, lies in its versatility. Many natural gas fireplace inserts are also capable of operating on propane. Some gas fireplace insert models come with propane orifices already attached as a standard accessory; others rely on conversion kits to help them shift from using natural gas to propane.

Electrical fireplace inserts are prized for their economy and for their low-maintenance construction. Of course, traditionalists will insist on the classic wood-burning fireplace insert. As a means of giving a second life to an existing fireplace, the wood-burning fireplace insert does offer a one-step solution. When choosing which fireplace insert is the best option for your home, consider what fuel type works best for you, and what venting capabilities your home or fireplace already possesses.

How to Choose A Venting System

Fireplace InsertsIn most cases, fireplace inserts will use one of two venting systems, or ways to remove their exhaust. Direct vent fireplace inserts function much the same as traditional fireplaces, with exhaust funneled through the fireplace chimney. One advantage of the fireplace insert over the fireplace itself is that the combustion exhaust is kept sealed and away from the room air. This provides a cleaner, safer fire than conventional fireplaces can offer.

Vent free fireplace inserts are entirely self-contained. They produce no harmful byproducts, and burn cleaner than direct vent and conventional fireplace models. They also offer additional energy efficiency than direct vent fireplace inserts, since they are able to retain all the heat they produce rather than allow some heat attrition through the vent. Vent free fireplace inserts also provide the opportunity to make older fireplaces with non-functioning chimneys usable again. The insert simply fits inside the old firebox but does not use the chimney flue.

Installing a Fireplace Insert – Models and Accessories

Fireplace insert models are much like motorcycles, cars, or other heavy machinery. There’s a wide selection of accessories to fit most models, and getting your fireplace insert up to top functioning capacity – and appearance – will likely involve investing in some optional extras.

Surround kits are sold to help frame your fireplace insert within the firebox, giving it a seamless, “built-in” appearance. Surround kits may include flashings, which close the gap between the fireplace insert edge and the edge of the firebox, and fronts, which fit over the fireplace insert and work to conceal that gap.

Other optional fireplace insert accessories include decorative panels that fit inside the insert itself, safety screens, and operable front doors. Such accessories vary by manufacturer and model, so it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right accessories at the time of purchase to avoid the hassle of returns and exchanges.