The Benefits of a Wood-Burning Insert
A wood-burning insert slides into your existing masonry or metal fireplace and burns real logs.
Your installer snakes a stainless steel liner down your chimney and fits a decorative flange made of black cast iron or steel or colored porcelain around the insert, hiding its steel sides and filling the gap between the box and your hearth.
A front door with ceramic glass radiates heat into the room. You open the door to stack the wood, then shut it, on most models, while your fire is burning. Most wood-burning inserts also create convection heat with a fan located underneath the firebox.
Wood-burning inserts can heat anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 sq. ft., depending on their size. Inserts are small enough to fit into most traditional masonry fireplaces.
An insert designed to heat 1,500 square feet will burn for three to five hours before you need to reload; for 1,500 to 3,000 sq. ft., you usually have an eight- to 10-hour burn window.
Wood burning inserts can be installed in almost any situation whether it be new construction, remodel, or replacing an existing insert. New framing can be installed to accommodate for the size of your new insert. This goes for almost any type of insert (gas,wood,pellet).
The Benefits of a Gas Fireplace Insert
Today’s gas inserts are heat-producing units that use propane or natural gas to power a steady flame dancing on fake logs, decorative modern glass chips, or stones behind a sealed glass face.
Gas inserts can be used in masonry or prefab fireplaces; they can be vented through the existing chimney (or a wall for a free-standing unit).
Gas is the easiest insert to use and requires very little maintenance beyond the annual check. Flip a switch; have fire. Its best application is for zone heating—turning up the gas in the room you’re in and lowering the thermostat in the rest of your house.
Green Factor: 58% to 85% efficiency rating, says HPBA; very little pollution, smoke, ash, or creosote. Zoned heating allows you to reduce overall fuel consumption.
When choosing a wood stove, consider the size of the space you’ll be heating. Wood stoves come in different sizes, and can be sized to heat a single room or an entire home.
- Small stoves are suitable for heating a family room or a seasonal cottage. In larger homes with older central furnaces, you can use a small stove for “zone heating” a specific area of your home (family or living room). This can reduce fuel consumption, conserve energy and save you money while maintaining comfort.
- Medium stoves are suitable for heating small houses, medium-sized energy-efficient houses, and cottages used in winter.
- Large stoves are suitable for larger, open plan houses or older, leakier houses in colder climate zones
The two general approaches to meeting the EPA smoke emission limits are non-catalytic and catalytic combustion. Both approaches have proved effective, but there are performance differences. Although most of the stoves on the market are non-catalytic, some of the more popular high-end stoves use catalytic combustion. Because they are slightly more complicated to operate, catalytic stoves are suited to people who like technology and are prepared to maintain the stove properly so it continues to operate at peak performance.
Non-catalytic stoves do not use a catalyst, but have three internal characteristics that create a good environment for complete combustion. These are firebox insulation, a large baffle to produce a longer, hotter gas flow path, and pre-heated combustion air introduced through small holes above the fuel in the firebox. The baffle and some other internal parts of a non-catalytic stove will need replacement from time to time as they deteriorate with the high heat of efficient combustion.
In catalytic combustion, the smoky exhaust is passed through a coated ceramic honeycomb inside the stove where the smoke gases and particles ignite and burn. Catalytic stoves are capable of producing a long, even heat output.
All catalytic stoves have a lever-operated catalyst bypass damper which is opened for starting and reloading. The catalytic honeycomb degrades over time and must be replaced, but its durability is largely in the hands of the stove user. The catalyst can last more than six seasons if the stove is used properly; but if the stove is over-fired, inappropriate fuel (like garbage and treated wood) is burned, and if regular cleaning and maintenance are not done, the catalyst may break down in as little as 2 years. (EPA note: Garbage should never be burned in a wood stove or fireplace.)
A Few Safety Tips
- Keep flammable objects away from your stove, especially clothing, drapes, furniture, newspaper, and kindling.
- Never put ashes in a cardboard box. Ashes should only be placed in a metal ash bucket. Once you have cleaned the ashes from your stove, the best thing to do with the ashes is to spread them above the snow that covers your vegetable garden. (Wood ashes contain potassium, a plant nutrient; ashes also help neutralize acidic soil. Never put wood ashes near blueberries, since blueberries prefer acidic soil.) If you can’t spread ashes in your garden immediately, place the ash bucket outdoors, away from the house, on a patch of bare ground, on a concrete slab, or in the snow — never on a wooden porch.
- Don’t turn on your range hood fan while your wood stove is operating unless you’re sure that the exhaust fan won’t make your stove backdraft.
- Before you go to bed, shut down the air intake dampers on your wood stove to a low setting.
Tired of that same old brick fireplace look? Or, just looking for something more modern? Whatever it may be that you desire we can help! We can install stucco over your existing brick, put a new concrete or stone hearth in, install a new mantel, or install stone. Give us a call a let us know what you want so we can help you get it. Be sure to check out some of our past projects and before and afters.