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While many homes have fireplaces built into the living rooms, they are rarely used as intended. Few of us can be bothered to chop or purchase wood or coals, and then there’s the added hassle of lighting the fire and cleaning up afterward. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fun and cozy ambiance of a fire in your own home!
By introducing fireplace inserts, appliance manufacturers make it super easy to have a roaring, crackling fire in your fireplace, without the mess. Let’s take a look at what these inserts are, what kinds are available in the market, and how to select the right one for your home.
Best Wood Burning Fireplace Insert Comparison Chart
Classic Flame 36EB220-GRT Traditional Built-in Electric Fireplace Insert
PuraFlame 33" Western Electric Fireplace Insert
Timberwolf Economizer EPA Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
Century Heating High-Efficiency Wood Stove Fireplace Insert CB00005
Drolet EPA-Certified Escape Fireplace Wood Insert
EPI-1402P Napoleon Wood Burning Insert
US Stove 2200i EPA Certified Wood Burning Fireplace Insert, Medium
What is a Fireplace Insert?
Inserts may look like fireplaces but they are not the same thing. They cost much less than a complete renovation to install a gas fireplace or to replace your existing masonry fireplace.
This makes inserts a versatile and fashionable choice since they can change the ambiance of a room from traditional or rustic, to contemporary without breaking the bank. Inserts come in many shapes and designs, so they end up looking very much like the real thing.
Fireplace inserts can burn gas, wood, or pellets, and are inserted into the existing masonry fireplace. Installing an insert requires connecting it to the chimney and flue leading outside.
Types of Fireplace Inserts
Fireplace inserts use various fuels and sources of heat. Here are the most common ones:
Natural gas fireplaces are very popular due to their convenience. A gas line can be connected to the gas nozzle in your fireplace and used to light the flames. This means you don’t need to deal with the cleanup or loading of wood fuel.
Gas type fireplace inserts come in vented and ventless options. Vented ones pull in air from outside the home for oxygen, and expel all the harmful gas. Unvented ones provide more heat, but the potentially harmful combustion fumes are vented back into your home.
Electric fireplace inserts are also popular and safe. They are designed to look like fake logs that can be plugged into a normal power outlet, and they radiate heat for a r200-400 square foot room.
The advantages of this type of insert include safety, high efficiency, ease of operation, and no required cleanup. The downside is that the flames are not very realistic, nor do you get the attractive sound and appearance of a real flame.
Wood burning inserts offer the traditional experience of using wood, but you will need to obtain the wood, clean up the ash, and start the fire (although some have ignition assist options).
However, this is still an unrivaled experience for watching the fire in your hearth.
The final type of fireplace insert is the pellet stove, in which the flame looks a lot like a wood fire. Pellet stoves are easier to keep clean than wood burners, but they still require you to refill the pellets daily and clean the ash-tray weekly.
Wood Burning vs Gas Fireplace Inserts
Buyers often want to know which one is better, a wood-burning fireplace, or a gas one? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type to determine the answer.
A wood burning fireplace insert creates a cozy atmosphere, is traditional, blends into the room and doesn’t require a gas line. In addition, the crackling, popping sounds of the fire and the comforting smell make this kind of fire a treat to the senses.
On the other hand, wood burning fireplaces are more time-consuming to get started and produce smoke, which must be properly vented. They are harder and more costly to install and run. You also need to clean up the ash and must continuously purchase wood.
Now let’s look at gas fireplaces. They are easy to light, convenient to operate, and often require little to no weekly maintenance. They don’t look as good as a wood fire, but give off plenty of heat. Depending on the design, the smoke and gases are vented outside so there’s no indoor pollution.
However, gas fireplace inserts require a gas line, and sometimes their design doesn’t blend into the room very well. The glass doors can get hot though they are still very safe.
Quick Take: Best Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
These are our recommendations for the best wood burning fireplace insert:
Reviews of the Best Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
Now that you know the basics of fireplace inserts and how they work, it’s time to look at our top picks for your home. We’ve narrowed down these picks based on the price, features, look, and reviews from previous buyers to allow you to choose the right fit for you.
The ClassicFlame 36" is a traditional, built-in, electric fireplace insert which features a traditional log set. It has a multifunction remote control, wall mounted thermostat, and integrated junction box for hard-wire applications.
The fixed, tempered-glass panel gives the look of a built-in fireplace, and the 8,900 BTU heater can heat up to 800 square feet and the insert ‘s flame effect can be used with or without heat for year-round enjoyment. The total surround flange allows for flush mounting to finished wall surfaces.
The traditional flame effect includes five brightness settings and the electronic timer function allows an automatic timed shut off from 30 minutes to 9 hours.
This unit will easily install into your existing fireplace and give off a somewhat realistic flame,.which you have complete control to change the look of. It won’t provide as much heat as a wood burning fireplace insert, however, so take that into consideration.
This electric fireplace insert uses energy saving LED technology for its flame effect, which combined with life-like resin logs, ember bed, and three flames with variable intensity, give a traditional log fire effect. The flame can be used with or without heat and the insert has a three-sided interior brick wall design.
The electronic temperature control and adjustable thermostat give precise control in the range of 60 °F to 84 °F. The insert provides supplemental heat for up to 400 sq. ft. and the included remote control allows for easy operation from anywhere in the room. It is easy to install and uninstall.
This insert not only looks like a real fireplace when it is on but also when it is off. The fake embers glow different shades like real coals. While not as effective at warming your home as a wood burning fire, it will be fine for supplemental heating.
The Timberwolf Economizer is easy to install and comes with two 55 CFM blowers that help it burn wood cleanly and warm your room. It heats up to 2,000 sq. ft. and the exhaust gases are vented through your chimney, once the flue vent is connected.
Go for this option if you have plenty of cheap wood available to cut your heating costs, or if you really desire the look of a wood burning stove. It gives plenty of heat and will keep you and your family warm through the cold winter nights.
The EPA Certified Century Heating High-Efficiency Wood Stove Fireplace Insert will transform your inefficient masonry fireplace into an efficient heat-producing unit. The unit puts out 65,000 BTU with a 76% efficiency rate.
The built-in variable-speed blower can spread heat around a 1600 sq. ft. area.
Choose the Century Wood stove insert if you have plenty of cheap wood available to cut your heating costs, or if you desire the look of a wood burning stove. It heats a larger area than most gas or electric fireplace inserts.
The Drolet Escape Fireplace Wood Insert is EPA-certified and generates 60,000 BTU to heat up to 1600 sq. feet. Thanks to high-temperature secondary combustion, it provides 30% greater efficiency and cleaner emissions.
The air washed ceramic glass gives you a clear view of the fire and the 130 CFM variable-speed blower spreads the heat throughout your room. The firebox has firebrick lining to protect the steel and provide even heat radiation.
If you need plenty of heat to warm up your house, go for this Drolet wood burning insert. It is reliable, well built, and puts out plenty of heat from the wood fire, plus you can fit larger logs in the firebox.
This stylish Napoleon wood burning insert gives you clean burning fires, a perfect fit, and efficient wood burning.
The Napoleon Oakdale™ 1402 wood insert includes surround and trim, plus two powerful heat circulating 100 CFM blowers. The elegant, arched cast iron door and air washed glass mean that the viewing window is kept clean. It gives off around 70,000 BTUs of heat and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. The refractory-lined firebox keeps it well insulated and helps combustion.
This is ideal for really cold climates or places with harsh winters as the stove gives off plenty of heat. You can use it for primary heating or for supplemental heating with your HVAC system.
US Stove's 2200i fireplace insert is an efficient, air-tight insert that is equipped with a spring-loaded automatic adjustment to make installation a breeze.
The heavy cast iron door has a cool touch stainless steel handle and an air washed ceramic glass window that gives you a clear view of the burning fire. It comes with the Hearth Surround to fully enclose your home's existing fireplace. This EPA Certified fireplace insert heats up to 1,800 square feet and accepts logs 18" in length.
This is ideal for really cold climates or places with harsh winters as the stove gives off plenty of heat. You can use it for primary heating or as supplemental heating with your HVAC system.
Purchasing a new fireplace insert can be expensive, but the contemporary look and cozy feel it brings to your home is well worth it. Fireplace inserts are available in gas, wood, pellet, and electric options, and each one has their pros and cons.
Keep in mind the convenience of gas and electric fireplaces when making your purchase, as you will need to refill and clean up wood and pellet burning fireplace inserts. At the same time though, you get the best, most authentic flames and cozy fire experience from using real wood for fires. Whatever type you end up choosing, our list of top picks will help you make the right choice.