If you are considering renovating your fireplace, but don't want to invest the time or money to completely remodel the setup, a fireplace insert may be the thing you need!
- gas fireplace with white mantel
How they work
Gas fireplace inserts operate similarly to any other gas fireplace with the exception that they fit inside a pre-existing fireplace space. When a firebox is no longer able to be used in a factory-built fireplace or if you want to update a wood burning masonry fireplace, a fireplace insert is a great option.
One important point to note is gas fireplace inserts can only be put into an existing wood burning fireplace. The system set up in gas fireplaces does not allow for an insert to be housed within it. Although, a wood burning fireplace can accommodate a wood burning or gas insert.
- inserting a gas insert
If you are interested in purchasing a gas fireplace insert, here are a few pros and cons you need to consider before shopping.
- You can easily convert your fireplace from wood to gas without opening the wall and destroying the current tile, stone, or brick.
- Simple to install. If there is an active gas line in the existing fireplace, due to a previous gas log set, you can quickly slip the insert into position and attach the surrounds to cover the gaps between the edges of the insert and the existing fireplace.
- Large range of styles. Gas inserts have dozens of design options that range from the traditional look of wood burning logs to linear boxes that include fire glass and fire art.
- front view of a gas insert
- Must use a surround. Inserts only come in fixed sizes so there will always be a gap between the edge of the fireplace and the insert. This means you must have a surround. Anyone who wants a “sleek” trim around their fireplace i.e., no overlap, will need to consider another option.
- Smaller viewing area. Because inserts are installed into an existing fireplace and cover part of the space with a surround, the viewing area of the flames is reduced. If a large open viewing space is a requirement for you, getting a fireplace insert may not be your best option.
This type of pipe system has aluminum inner walls since the flue temperatures from propane and natural gas are cooler than solid fuel. The direct vent system is made up of an exhaust pipe that expels hot gases and an intake pipe that uses outdoor air for combustion. This combination of venting creates excellent heating and operational efficiency.
- direct vent setup graphic
The B-vent system sucks in air from the room for combustion then sends exhaust through a singular pipe in the chimney system. Because the B-vent relies on indoor air for combustion, it tends to absorb all the heat you would expect a fireplace to put out. This type of venting is best for people who live in warmer climates and wish to use a fireplace for looks.
- b-vent setup graphic
The term "vent free" applies to fireplaces or inserts that burn gas and do not require any kind of chimney or vent system. Vent free systems are a great option for people who have budget restrictions or logistical difficulties installing a chimney. However, some places in the United States, including the entire state of California, have outlawed indoor vent-free gas appliances due to health concerns.
- vent free setup graphic
Gas fireplace inserts need a gas line and sometimes, an electrical supply, to power ignition modules and blowers within the unit. If a gas line already exists and there is a nearby power source, your fireplace just earned itself a front-row ticket to being upgraded with a fireplace insert.
If your appliance happens to not have either of these features, contact a local electrician to find out if it will be worth it to adapt your current system to fit an insert. Otherwise, you may need to destroy what you currently have and start over from scratch.
Now that this article is coming to a close, if we haven't covered every detail you hoped we would, you can check out the full-length fireplace insert article here.
That is sure to cover the rest of your questions on insert types, venting and installation. If not, please reach out to our NFI certified techs by email or phone.