If you enjoy using your masonry fireplace but don't like the associated
energy costs, you might want to consider purchasing a fireplace insert.
An insert is basically a wood stove designed to fit into a conventional
open fireplace. Like wood stoves, new inserts must be EPA certified, making
them clean burning and highly efficient.
Inserts are usually made from plate steel or cast iron and have glass doors
so you can see the flames. Inserts either fit in the opening of the fireplace
or protrude onto the hearth. The latter position is more efficient because
the sides, top, and bottom provide additional radiant heat. Inserts often
have blowers, which can significantly improve efficiency. Blowers are usually
mounted in the front or along the sides of the insert. Some blowers are
controlled manually, while others are regulated by a thermostat.
In the past, most installers placed inserts in the fireplace without any
chimney connections. This method, in some cases, allowed creosote to build
up inside the fireplace, presenting a potential fire hazard. To prevent
this, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) now requires that
inserts be installed with a positive connection to the chimney. Inserts
must have a connector between the appliance outlet and the first section
of the flue liner. This sends the smoke and gases up and out of the chimney
more directly, minimizing combustible deposits that condense in the fireplace.
Inserts for fireplaces, are heavy, often weighing over 400 pounds. Since
inserts need to be removed when the chimney is being cleaned and maintained,
they can be awkward and heavy to handle. It is a job best left to a professional
chimney sweep. In some cases, however, you do not have to remove the insert
to clean the chimney. The insert can stay in place during cleaning if you
install a full relining collar, a stainless steel pipe that connects to
the insert and goes to the top of the chimney. A good quality fireplace
insert usually costs between $1,200 and $1,800. This price may be higher
if you need to purchase accessories such as a blower, glass door, or catalytic