If you are thinking about buying a fireplace insert, you may have some questions about what fireplace inserts are and how they work. You may not know the difference between the different types of fireplace inserts, which are divided based on fuel and venting. In this case, I’d recommend starting by reading our article Understanding Fireplace Inserts to give you a solid foundational knowledge about the variety of fireplace inserts that exist.
If you already know some basic insert info, you probably have some other questions: Where should I buy one? What are the best brands with the best price points? What additional services and equipment will I need? I’ll answer these questions in this article. Feel free to jump around using the table of contents to find the answers to specific queries, and leave any additional questions you may have in the comments below.
Step 1: Determine your fuel and venting
The first step in purchasing a fireplace insert is determining what type of fuel you want to burn and what venting system you want to use. Do you prefer the smell of wood or the ease of gas? The safety of an electric fireplace or the efficiency of pellets? Make a list of what is most important to you about your fuel then look over this table to see what fuel best matches your needs.
|Wood||-Traditional smell, sound, and appearance|
-Requires lots of storage space
-Can attract bugs and rodents
-Can be difficult to light
-Highest heat production
-Lots of cleanup required
|Pellets||-Very efficient with low emissions|
-Easy to keep a fire going
-Minimal storage space
|Gas||-Fire starts instantly|
-Decor options (rocks, logs, glass, etc.)
-Can be ventless
|Ethanol||-No smoke or toxins produced|
-No venting system needed
-Easy to start
-Takes time to refuel (the insert must cool down before more fuel can be poured in)
-Modern look with real flames
-Minimal heat output
|Electric||-Holographic flames (not real)|
-Heating coils are hidden and cannot be touched
Once you’ve chosen a fuel type, you’ll need to decide a venting method. Ethanol and electric inserts are naturally ventless. Gas inserts can be ventless, direct vent, or vent through a pre-existing chimney. Wood burning inserts can be direct vent or vent through a chimney, but can’t be ventless. The type of venting you choose is a big part of where you’ll put the insert.
Step 2: Choose a place for the insert
Do you have a masonry fireplace that you want your insert to go into? Or do you have a prefab? Is there a particular wall or corner you’d like your insert to fit into? Or did you want to build a frame?
You can install any insert into a pre-existing masonry fireplace. If you choose to install your insert here, any venting required will be through the chimney. You’ll have to line your chimney and install a chimney cap. Unfortunately, very few prefabricated fireplace accept inserts so insure that your masonry fireplace is indeed masonry, not prefabricated.
If you want to install your fireplace insert into a wall, you’ll use direct venting (if you need venting). This option can be somewhat expensive since installers will have to cut a hole into your wall and oftentimes take additional safety measures.
Perhaps you want to build a frame. If you’re installing an electric insert, you can build a frame yourself with few problems. However, if you’re installing a wood, gas, or ethanol insert, there are safety measures that come into play. Talk to your insert manufacturer and your county’s fire regulations team before starting a project like that yourself. Remember, if you’re building a frame for a wood or venting gas fireplace, you’ll still have to use direct venting to vent the fumes.
Now you should have an idea of what type of fireplace insert you want. You know the fuel you want to burn, the place you want to put it, and the venting method you’ll need to use. One other thing to consider is the style of fireplace you want. Generally you have three design types: modern, traditional, and stove.
Modern inserts are unique and eye catching. Traditional inserts deliver that classic night-by-the-fireside feel. Stove inserts typically produce the most heat.
Step 3: Pick your company
After you have an idea of what style of insert you’re interested in, you’ll be better able to pick a company. You can buy fireplace inserts from huge companies like Amazon and smaller, specialized companies like Napoleon. In some cases, you can even buy from companies like Napoleon through Amazon or other, more specialized websites like eFireplaces and Woodland Direct. Here are the key factors to look for:
- Customer service: You are probably going to have a lot of questions especially when it comes to installation and maintenance procedures. You want to invest in a company that will be with you every step of the way to answer questions, troubleshoot problems, and provide support.
- Reputation: You will probably spend a good bit of money on this fireplace by the time you’ve bought the insert, had it installed, and paid for maintenance fees, and it will be a focal point in your home for a long time. Look for a company with a reputation. You want to be a happy, satisfied customer so look for brands that have lots of them already.
- Information: Your fireplace insert should have information that answers questions you didn’t even know you had. What is the maximum BTU per hour? What size room can it heat? What is the emissions rate? Brands that provide a lot of information are demonstrating their expertise and care in building fireplaces that meet certain specifications. Don’t forget to call the company and ask any questions you might not have been able to find answers to. If the company can’t provide the information you want about your insert, that’s a serious red flag.
Some sellers manufacture products and sell only through Amazon. While you might get a good price, you won’t get good customer service. It’s usually hard to contact the seller directly and get your questions answered. Even if you’re buying from an established brand with their own website, buying through Amazon means you won’t get the same customer service as you would if you bought through that brand’s platform.
Sellers like eFireplaces and Woodland Direct, however, specialize in fireplaces and will sometimes give you better customer service than the brands they are selling. These sellers are usually quick to answer any questions you may have.
|Brand||Fuel Types Sold||Styles Sold|
|Napoleon||Wood, gas, electric||Stove (for wood and gas); modern (for electric)|
|Majestic||Wood, gas, electric||Traditional (for wood and gas); modern (for gas and electric)|
| Superior||Wood, gas, electric||Traditional (for wood, gas, electric); modern (for gas and electric)|
|Dimplex||Electric||Traditional and modern|
|Modern Flames||Electric||Traditional and modern|
|Moda Flame||Electric, ethanol||Traditional and stove (for electric; modern (for electric and ethanol)|
There are some of our favorite brands, but feel free to branch out! There are lots of other great companies out there! Make sure to look out for the three points I mentioned earlier: customer service, reputation, and information.
Step 4: Don’t Forget Installation
Installing a fireplace insert is a complicated process! Inserts are very particularly designed and can be damaged during the installation process. Damage can make your once-safe insert a serious fire hazard.
If you buy through a reputable seller with good customer service, they will recommend an installation team that will take care of the whole process for you. These teams are experts and know how to troubleshoot problems that may arise. Call the company you’re buying the insert from to talk about installation costs.
While its complicated and somewhat dangerous, if you want to install your insert yourself, you may be able to. Check out our article How to Install a Wood Burning Fireplace Insert or How to Install an Electric Fireplace Insert for more information.
Buying a fireplace insert can be a daunting prospect. Breaking the process down into simple steps allows you to focus in on what’s really important to you and to insure you get exactly what you want. If you have questions or concerns, leave them in the comments below. Our team would be happy to help.