Choosing Your Fireplace Insert

If you use an old fireplace to help heat your home, you can quite likely save yourself some money on your heating costs as well as increasing the efficiency and cleanliness of your fireplace by installing a fireplace insert. However, all fireplace inserts aren’t right for every situation so it’s important your take the time to choose the fireplace insert that right for you.

Start by thinking about the fuel

Consider the cost and availability of fuel for your insert. Units are available that burn wood (most common), natural gas or propane and pellets and even coal so your choice of fuels is virtually unlimited, and you can make your choice based the cost and availability of different fuels in your area. If you are considering a wood-burning insert ensure that the model is EPA certified. A certified wood burning insert will burn wood more efficiently than other wood burning designs while heating your home effectively and producing much less smoke. This is an important consideration, since according to the EPA web site “Wood smoke is waste. Any smoke that escapes from your wood stove unburned is wasted fuel that will stick in your chimney as creosote or be released as air pollution.”

How big a unit

Fireplace inserts range from quite small to large. However, since by definition they are ‘inserts’ you need it to fit into the opening of the existing fireplace to minimize installation costs. Determining the proper size is a matter of measuring the height, width and depth of the existing opening as well as the rear width and depth of the hearth.

Style and features

The styles of inserts will vary among the different fuel types, but regardless of the fuel type, inserts are available in a range of colors, designs and finishes from traditional to modern
Since a fireplace insert will be in plain view it’s important to take some time to choose an insert that fits both your needs and your lifestyle whether laid back and relaxed or more formal.
Among the features you will be able to choose from for your insert are self cleaning glass doors that will allow you to watch the flames, fans or blowers to distribute the heat throughout your home and even thermostat and remote controls to regulate the fire.
You will also be able to choose from aesthetic features such as gold or brass doors, and hearth accessories to blend in with your existing décor.

Installation considerations

A fireplace insert requires a proper installation and a working chimney in good repair. Inserts usually have a liner installed inside the existing chimney and regulations require the unit be installed according to prevailing building and fire codes. Because of the potential for fire and the complexities of the codes, installing a fireplace insert isn’t usually a job for a DIY’er.

A qualified certified installer is the proper choice for installing an insert. Most retailers can recommend a qualified installation professional or if that that’s not possible, the EPA web site suggests a good way to find a qualified installer in your area is through the National Fireplace Institute® (NFI). NFI is a non-profit certification agency that conducts nationwide education and testing of hearth professionals. You can learn more learn more about the NFI and locate an NFI Wood Burning Specialist, by visiting their website at

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted at