A Guide to Buying The Best Fireplace Insert (Reviews & Buying Guide 2017)

Direct vent fireplaces are known to be exceptionally efficient compared with other more traditional fireplaces such as stoves. In fact, there are now ones on the market that operate at 85% efficiency making them a wise investment in terms of both cost and heat output.

A direct vent fireplace is a prefabricated, metal fireplace that can be installed directly into the walls of your home. Unlike other fireplaces and stoves, the best fireplace inserts do not require a chimney as they can be vented through the wall or the roof with ease using flexible venting kits. For many homeowners, one of the greatest benefits of this type of fireplace is that it can be activated without the need of electricity. Instead, it can be run on batteries or a millivolt system system that can activate the burner and initiate the flame, making it an ideal option for homes without a masonry fireplace.

Top Rated Fireplace Inserts 

  • Napoleon B36NTRE Ascent 36 Direct Vent Gas Fireplace
  • Price: $$$
  • Heats: up to 1,000 square feet
  • BTUs : 18,000
  • Deluxe Direct-Vent NG Millivolt Fireplace
  • Price : $$
  • Heats up to: 1,200 square feet
  • BTUs: 20,000
  • Duluth Forge Dual Fuel Vent Free Fireplace Insert
  • Price : $
  • Heats up to: 1,350 square feet
  • BTUs: 26,000
  • ProCom 32 Zero Clearance Fireplace Insert
  • Price: $$
  • Heats up to: 1,500 square feet
  • BTUs: 32,000

What is a Fireplace Insert?

A fireplace insert is used to modify an existing masonry fireplace into an efficient heating structure. Normal masonry fireplaces aren’t very effective at their job, they lose a lot of heat and are extremely polluting, however an insert is designed to fit neatly into your fireplace with ease, much like a wood stove it is composed of a firebox and an outer steel case.

fireplace insert reviewsThere are many inserts available, however they are not all equal. The best fireplace insert will be constructed of a robust material such as steel which serves to retain heat and withstand extreme temperatures and rapid cooling. For this reason, you need an insert that has a quality design and weld that can endure the expansion and contraction to ensure your fireplace or masonry is not damaged.

Another important factor to consider is the hearth accompanying the insert, the hearth is what protects your home and fireplace from extreme heat, so it is essential. A good hearth usually consists of your firebox and either a fire brick lining or steel lining; not only does this serve to protect your liner and home, but is can also retain heat for longer and radiate it through your home gradually. This is one of the key features that make inserts so efficient.

You’ll also want to think about the type of venting options your insert comes with as venting is required to remove the dangerous exhaust fumes from your home. Most inserts will come with a built in options so you can easily connect it to your existing chimney, or if you don’t have a functioning chimney or venting system you will probably prefer a vent free insert. You certainly want to avoid an insert that requires you to install your own side venting and other features.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about the airflow control that comes with your insert, this will enable you to modulate the amount of warm air distrusted from your insert to your living space which is an incredibly helpful feature.

What should you look for in the Best Fireplace Insert?

It’s a wise idea to think of your fireplace insert as an investment, and the good news is that many states in the US offer tax credits and other incentives for investing in more energy efficient heating systems. Therefore you should always opt for a high efficiency fireplace insert, as this feature won’t just make your life easier, but will make your insert more efficient and in the long term save you a lot of money on fuel. Other features you should look out for, include:

  • Venting – you should look at the venting options offered, for instance if you have a working chimney you’ll want to select an insert with direct venting, yet if you have no chimney you’ll probably want to select a vent free heating appliance.
  • Air flow control – this is an amazing feature that will optimize your heating system, enabling you to control the airwash that is applied to your burning fuel, be that pellets or wood. This lets you control the temperature of your living space so that you can always feel comfortable.

What are the Benefits of a Fireplace Insert?

fireplace insertThe purpose and popularity is mainly down to the fact that they are much more efficient than other heating systems and as a result save you money on your heating bills. To truly comprehend the amount it can save you, it is estimated that an insert fitted with dual blowers can the average home as much as 50% on their yearly heating expenses. That means that within just 2 years the insert will have paid for itself, so it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.

Another major benefit of a fireplace insert is that they aren’t as difficult to maintain as wood burning stoves, but practically do the same job. For instance as they can be inserted into your homes existing fireplace, the heat is transferred up your chimney and radiated through your entire home.

Lastly, most inserts are compatible with existing chimneys and only require minimal modifications such as installation of a chimney liner which is very easy to accomplish thanks to chimney liner kits. Although in the long term it will be an investment you won’t regret as it will save you money and has the potential to let you and your family run off the grid providing you with that extra security and peace of mind.

The Best wood for Fireplace Inserts

The best wood to burn in fireplace inserts depends on the type of heating appliance you have. If you have a wood burning insert, then the best wood tends to be hard woods such as oak and ash as they burn longer and produce a more steady flame. However, if you have a pellet stove insert then pellets are generally very efficient anyway as they are made from recycled wood, incredibly cheap and typically enriched with environmentally chemicals to make them burn longer and slower.

What is a Direct Gas Fireplace Insert?

Direct Vent gas fireplace inserts are among the most popular heating solutions, due to their efficiency and straightforward installation process. “Direct Vent” refers to the sealed-combustion of their design, through which air required for the combustion process e.g. creation of a fire is sourced from the outside of your home via the piping system. This is important to be aware of, since many consumers think “direct vent” simply means that all gases produced via combustion are vented out.

There are two major components of a direct vent fireplace, which are the outer housing and the flue system. The outer housing features the firebox where the actual combustion takes place and the fire can be viewed, therefore, this is the space in which the fuel, typically gas is burned. However, as many homeowners prefer the natural look of a fire, imitation logs or charcoal is used to provide a rustic, old-wordily fireplace feel. In addition to the firebox, there is an outer shell, referred to as the empty space, which is filled with air that is used to heat the room without the addition of toxic exhaust fumes from combustion.

The outer and inner flue system is another crucial component of the direct vent system. The outer flue transports air to the lower portion of the firebox to power combustion, while the inner flue transports hot exhaust gases from the upper portion of the firebox out through the wall or up through the roof of your home.

How do you install a gas fireplace insert?

A gas fireplace insert is an option for residents who wish to have a fireplace that is easy to maintain and those who want to stay away from the messy and complicated task of cleaning a fireplace and chimney, not to mention maintaining a chimney, which can be a very costly exercise. Here are the steps involved to install a gas fireplace insert.

  1. Installing any type of fireplace can be complicated especially for someone who has not performed the task before. Hence, consider getting the services of a professional contractor to have it installed. Some stores offer free installation when you buy this unit from them so make sure to check if the service is available.
  2. When installing your gas fireplace, make sure to use only the parts that came with the unit. If an accessory is missing, then you have to contact the manufacturer or the store where you bought it from immediately to report the issue. Do not use an alternative part that you got somewhere else as it may not work well with the unit and eventually damage it. Doing it may also cause fire or other untoward situation. This is the last thing that you want to happen so make sure to follow this reminder strictly.
  3. No matter how familiar you are with the installation process, always refer to the instructions or the manual that came with the unit. Follow it carefully for proper installation. If you have installed one before, never assume that the steps are the same. Not following the installation guide may damage the product and cause some more serious problems for you.

What else do you need to know about fireplace inserts?

As well as being a beautiful and warming addition to any home, as mentioned, direct vent systems don’t require a fireplace and are super energy efficient. But, apart from that, what else is there to know?

  1. Traditional fireplaces can operate as poorly as 15% efficiency. On the other hand, a direct vent fireplace can offer an incredible 85% efficiency.
  2. This fireplace is also known for its safety as this kind of fireplace does not use a chimney or flue through the roof so a backdraft is not going to ever be a potential danger.
  3. Similar to traditional fireplaces, direct vent fireplaces also use propane or natural gas. The difference is that direct vent fireplaces transform the fuel into a usable heat which isn’t lost via the chimney or into the external environment.

Deluxe 36″ Direct-Vent NG Millivolt Fireplace

81uiynljg-l-_sl1500_This fireplace uses natural gas which means that it can be operated without electricity through the millivolt ignition system. This is going to be very useful for consumers especially during winter when power outages are most prevalent. Also, unlike the traditional fireplaces, this type of fireplace is very flexible in terms of where it can be installed. As mentioned earlier, it does not need a chimney, hence it can be set up anywhere in the house depending on the preference of the client. Moreover, at just 36 inches wide, this fireplace is not going to take too much space in the house, making it ideal for the bedroom or lounge. Safety is also on top of the list for this product as this fireplace does not need a pipe through the roof so a backdraft, which poses a serious risk, is not going to happen.

Other Features: 

  • Deluxe 36″ Direct-Vent NG Millivolt Fireplace
  • Dimensions: 37″ Width x 35 5/8″ Height x 16 3/8″ Depth.
  • Millivolt Control with On/Off Switch
  • Aged brick liner and matte black louvers included

PuraFlame Western 33 inch Embedded Electric Firebox Heater With Remote Control, Black

71zpxihkbpl-_sl1200_This best selling fireplace uses 100% LED technology (electric), which is one of the reasons why it is considered an environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient product. An electric fireplace requires less energy than the typical fireplace which uses wood as fuel, or ones that consume gas. In terms of cost and energy efficiency, this one rises above the rest as the electricity it uses is directly transformed into a heat. It is also much easier to use than other models as you simply need to plug it in and push the power button. The product also provides heat that can be felt in a room up to 400 sq feet, making it ideal for the average home. The downside is that this type of fireplace is useless during a blackout as it requires access to electricity mains to run. Some people have also observed a humming or vibrating sound, which may not be very appealing to some homeowners, who may be searching for that classic crackle of a warm fire.

Other Features:

  • Dimensions: 35.04″ L X 8.78″ W X 26.99″ H
  • Includes a one year warranty included
  • Electronic temperature control gives more precise temperature; Adjustable thermostat; Temperature range: 60 °F to 84 °F; Provides supplemental heat for up to 400 sq. ft.
  • Remote control provided for easy use

Direct Vent Fireplace Insert DV35IN33LN – Natural Gas

512l7i3qltlSimilar to the last two fireplaces presented, this fireplace also follows a very simple installation guide, which is going to appeal to a lot of consumers who want it to be as hassle free as possible. Unlike the traditional fireplace which uses wood for fuel, this fireplace provides artificial flames that provide the authentic look of a natural fire. In addition, this fire benefits from a consistent heat output, all throughout the night, which is impossible to achieve with traditional fireplaces that alter depending on the type and amount of fuel. Its advanced heating control system also allows homeowners to adjust the temperature conveniently and with ease through its user-friendly remote control.

Other Features: 

  • Advanced control system allows you to manage the flame height and temperature output
  • Built-in automatic blower quietly and effectively circulates heat
  • Includes black louvers and ceramic banded brick liner

Napoleon Woodburning Insert

51rvogpj1ul-300x300Although this wood stove fireplace insert does have an expensive price tag in our view that isn’t without reason, as this is one of the most stunning wood burning stove inserts. Additionally, unlike the majority of inserts, this can run off the grid quite easily as it doesn’t require other power systems to work. Another benefit of choosing this stove is that it can burn up to an incredible 9 hours saving you time having to refuel your insert.


Other Features:

  • Whisper Quiet fireplace insert with blower.
  • Multiple door options including 24 karat gold plated, traditional painted black, or satin chrome plated.

Timberwolf Economizer EPA Wood Burning Fireplace Insert

41l4j1aslnl-300x300This is an EPA certified fireplace insert perfect for upgrading your masonry fireplace to run efficiently and look beautiful. A lot of wood burning fireplace inserts with blower come with a single blower, yet this model comes with a dual blower system which circulates heat throughout your home uniformly. This insert can keep burning up to 8 hours reducing the amount of wood you’ll need to burn throughout the year.

Other Features: 

  • Fireplace blower insert with dual functionality.
  • Includes black cast iron door and flashing.

Vogelzang TR004 Colonial EPA Wood Stove

91-fkrx0fyl-_sl1500_-300x232With the Vogelzang Colonial, you’ll be opting for a true combination of efficiency and beauty, and the best part is that it comes with one of the most reasonable prices, so in our view it’s a great option for the frugal home owner who doesn’t want to lose out on form and function. Heating up to 1,800 square feet the Colonial meets all EPA requirements for certified wood burning appliances by generating just a mere 4.02 grams an hour.

If you have you have one of the best gas fireplaces, then you’re probably not that concerned about efficiency, yet you should be as gas is inherently not very efficient. A gas fire place will never be as efficient as a wood stove or fireplace wood inserts, but you can definitely improve the efficiency and use less gas by using a gas fireplace insert. Gas fireplace insert prices vary tremendously, however there are many reasonable options out there, see our gas insert reviews and buyers guide.

Final Words 

fireplace insertsTruly, nothing is more relaxing and welcoming than to go home to the comfort and warmth of a direct vent fireplace especially during the winter. The best fireplace inserts provide radiant heat just as a natural fire, only with the bonus of increased efficiency due to metal casing that retains heat and minimises heat loss.

Remember that it’s important to install your insert correctly, therefore, always consult the expertise of a qualified and experienced professional and be aware that you will need to clean it on a regular basis as recommended to ensure efficient burning and longevity of your fireplace.

If you have a limited budget or don’t have the option of modifying your property, you may want to consider one of the best electric fireplaces.