How Much Does a Fireplace Insert Cost
How much does a fireplace insert cost? The insert and the required venting system are generally between $700 and $5,800. But you should ask yourself: is the cost of a fireplace insert worth the value? With an insert, you will enjoy 60% to 90% more heating efficiency, enhanced safety, and cleaner smoke than your standard wood-burning fireplace.
Three primary considerations can impact fireplace insert installation cost. They are fuel type, installation type, and additional maintenance. If you'd like a more in-depth look at fireplace inserts, you can find that information in our Fireplace Insert Buyer's Guide.
Fuel Types of Inserts
A fireplace insert is a great way to bring new life to an existing fireplace. The insert's fuel type helps determine the upfront costs, and manufacturers design inserts for various fuel types: wood, pellet, gas, and electric. Every model can add heat, efficiency, and aesthetic value to your home.
Electric fireplace inserts are typically the least expensive, and the heat produced is comparable to the warmth of a conventional fireplace. Electric, high-efficiency wood, and biofuel fireplace inserts are great green options. It is hard to beat natural gas and propane inserts if you prefer a convenient fuel source with real flames. They can be a do-it-yourself (DIY) project and are a moderate fuel cost, usually between gas and wood. Technological advances constantly improve the appearance and heat production of electric inserts.
Different fuel types produce different levels of heat. Gas inserts usually produce fewer BTUs than wood inserts do. 30,000 BTUs will heat around 600 square feet, while 60,000 will heat a larger space. Updating your fireplace with an insert that features high heat output is a great way to supplement a furnace that barely keeps up with frigid climates and can save you money by heating a specific room rather than your whole house. If you are in the Florida Keys, wood is costly, and heat is rarely needed. Electric options are great for warmer regions and will allow you to use your neglected wood-burning fireplace more often.
Wood stove inserts are the most popular solid fuel style. You can either cut or purchase logs to cut and split into firewood, also known as cordwood. The downside of cordwood is that you need to buy or harvest it yourself, and you need room to store it. For more information about firewood, check out our article How Much Firewood Do I Need?
Pellet fireplace inserts provide another solid fuel option with different benefits. The most significant advantage of pellet inserts is that they can burn for long periods with electric-powered augers. If you want to heat with biomass in an area with limited access to wood, this can be a convenient solution.
Plumbers and electricians are more expensive in some parts of the country than others. Deciding how to do the installation impacts the cost and can impact the quality of the installation. No one wants to spend money if it's not necessary! To keep costs down, you may consider a DIY installation versus hiring a professional. Sometimes DIY is a good plan, but sometimes it can lead to more problems than it's worth.
Low gas pressure from undersized gas lines reduces the quality of the flame appearance and may even prevent gas fireplace inserts from staying lit. Electricians unfamiliar with fireplaces may need help with the low-voltage systems used by some fireplace inserts. Conversely, electric fireplace inserts can be installed without needing as much professional guidance.
Don't take on more than you can handle—fireplaces and their components are dangerous. You are playing with fire! The amount of labor you take on can save you a proportional amount of money; however, if you have an issue with your DIY fireplace installation, figuring out how to fix it may be challenging. Remember that if you hire a professional, the installer must ensure the fireplace works correctly.
Installs require various specialized tools for a safe installation. If you want to install, plan to invest in the necessary tools. Electronic gas leakage testers and non-professional grade gas pressure gauges are relatively inexpensive. Some pellet stoves require pressure meters to adjust the air intake, so don't assume you can set it up and go. Pellet stoves are built more efficiently now than in previous years, meaning the combustion air is more balanced and must be adjusted appropriately.
The learning curve is the most challenging thing to overcome. Installing a fireplace must be done according to the manual or installation guide. Even a pro should be checking the manual during an installation! Another critical point is that fireplace and liner instructions are written for trained professionals, often leaving out things they assume you know.
Hiring a technician to fix something installed inappropriately usually costs more than having it done correctly first. If there is a product defect, the technician should be able to identify it and may even correct it before they leave. They have the tools and training to service your appliance in the long run, and higher labor costs may also come with a labor guarantee.
NFI-certified hearth technicians specialize in fireplaces and hearth appliances, and you can find local technicians on the NFI website. There are wood, gas, and pellet certifications, with Master Hearth Professionals having all three certificates. Some won't install anything they didn't sell, which may mean you'll pay full retail on the insert and installation. A pro means more guarantees but at a higher cost—it is up to you to decide if this is worth it for your installation.
Other Installation-Related Costs
When installing an insert, you should always have the chimney cleaned first. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep can often do Level II inspections. During a level II inspection, the sweep will put a camera through the chimney, looking for any gaps or problems. If they find that the chimney exterior is okay, but the liner has failed, an insert will save you money. The cost to repair a chimney liner is lower when there is less demolition, and inserts use liners that will fit inside fireplace chimney liners.
For either natural gas or propane inserts, a professional must install either a gas line from the main or a tank for propane. Natural gas is typically cheaper than propane and a popular option if you want to save money on your utilities bill. If you get natural gas from a utility company, a plumber can tell you how much running a gas line to your fireplace will cost. A propane tank may be a viable alternative if you don't have natural gas. In that case, get an estimate from a local propane company, and remember BTU input determines the tank size needed.
Though somewhat rare in comparison, other hidden costs can be related to changes needed in the chimney. An example of that is unused thimbles. These openings into the brick chimney must be closed appropriately before liner installation. Any misaligned flue tiles, missing air space clearances, specialized sizes of flue liners, and other chimney and hearth issues can cause additional costs. During the quote or before the installation, these must be found.
Even in areas without building codes, there are some limitations to what fireplace inserts can do. For example, vent-free gas appliances won't work above 4,500 ft because the air is so thin that the fireplace shuts itself down quickly. Speaking with a qualified fireplace technician can avoid these types of surprises!
Venting and Accessory Costs
Inserts require smaller vent systems than open fireplaces. Cutting down wasted air loss is one way to improve the performance of your fireplace. Replacing or installing venting for gas, pellet, or wood-burning units will add additional up-front costs. Venting for solid fuel smoke is also more expensive than the cost of venting gas exhaust.
In direct vent gas inserts, the fresh air enters the combustion chamber through a vent in the chimney. A second exhaust vent expels the hot gas back out. Proper airflow through a special termination avoids draft problems. Gas inserts can use a flexible aluminum pipe similar to a flexible dryer vent pipe. If you live close enough to the ocean to smell salt, consider upgrading that pipe to stainless steel.
Wood and pellet inserts require a stainless steel liner from the insert collar to the top of the chimney. Consider hiring a chimney sweep to install the liner. Or, if you want to do it yourself, use a product like Duraliner, which comes in smaller sections.
If you've never designed a vent system for a fireplace insert, free help is available from the eFireplaceStore experts. Just remember to contact someone for your venting needs before you start! That way, you can have all the components ready when you begin the installation.
Accessories are another consideration when it comes to fireplace inserts. Some accessories improve function and efficiency, while others may be for aesthetics. Blowers, remotes, and interior lights are accessories that are considered both aesthetic and functional.
Other accessories required or recommended by professionals include firebox liners and trim plates. The liner goes inside the fireplace insert and helps protect the metal walls from heat. Since the insert has to be small enough to fit into your fireplace, there will often be a gap. Trim plates close the space between the fireplace insert and the fireplace opening's edge. They sometimes come in different styles, allowing you to customize the look of your new insert.
Most owner's manuals include recommended and required maintenance for your fireplace insert. If your unit has a glass front, cleaning the glass is needed sometimes. Oftentimes you only need water and a rag or paper towel to clean fireplace insert glass. Never use ammonia products to clean fireplace glass.
For an electric insert, the maintenance is little more than dusting. Wood stove inserts must have the fine ash removed once every few days and an annual inspection, requiring a sweep once a year.
Gas insert maintenance can be technical since the thermocouple or thermopile needs cleaning yearly. After a few years of use, these and any other sensors need to be replaced. Be sure to consult your product manual for any additional maintenance instructions.
Pellet inserts need monthly and annual maintenance, requiring the most out of any fuel type. These units operate highly efficiently under specific parameters, so it is essential to consider the care of pellet inserts before choosing one. Ash must be removed from the burn pot daily, and the ash pan should be emptied at least once a week. A good ash vacuum and some pellet stove tools simplify that maintenance. The auger motor, the blower motors, and other electronic components will also require maintenance based on the manufacturer's directions.
The owner's manual will include recommended and required maintenance for all fireplace inserts. Blowers may also have some maintenance requirements. Be sure to follow the schedules for care in the owner's manual as well! For more information about maintenance, please see our DIY Fireplace Maintenance Guide article.
Is it worth it?
A fireplace insert is a great way to bring new life to an old or non-functioning fireplace. Even repairing a damaged brick fireplace chimney will cost more than installing an insert. Choose based on your needs, what is available, and what you want for your home. If this article still leaves you with questions, you can contact us for professional advice on what works best for you.