Fireplace inserts come in many styles, fuel types, and vary in their ease and cost of installation. The choices may seem overwhelming, but this best fireplace guide will make it easy.
Read on for help with choosing the best fireplace insert for your home.
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Our Best Fireplace Insert Picks
Best Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
DROLET ESCAPE 1500-I
Drolet Escape 1500-l’s high-efficiency firebox and updated blower will transform a dirty and home-heat-draining fireplace into an efficient system that emits virtually no pollutants. With this insert, even a small fireplace can become the primary heat source for your home.
Best Gas Fireplace Insert
The Duluth Forge has the power, along with a customizable appearance, dual-fuel flexibility, affordability, and safety features. This ventless system uses either propane or natural gas. It comes with its own logs, and has battery-assisted ignition, so setup is quick and easy in any home.
Best Electric Fireplace Insert
MAGIKFLAME ELECTRIC FIREPLACE
For the best electric fireplace insert, you can’t go wrong with Magikflame. It has the most realistic flames with sound effects, intuitive touchscreen controls, and it’s relatively easy to install.
Fireplace Insert Reviews – Electric, Gas and Wood
The Drolet Escape 1500-I is an update on the popular Drolet Escape 1400-I. Unlike its predecessor, 1500-l features a more powerful blower to disperse heat across up to 1,800 square feet. But why is this model the best choice if you prefer a wood burning insert?
Well, first off, it has received EPA Step 2 Certification, which means it releases only 1.26 g/h particulate emissions. If you or anyone in your family has asthma or other respiratory problem, the low emission of the Drolet Escape is undoubtedly one of its best features.
Another reason why this model is the best in wood burning inserts is its heating capacity – the 1500-l is rated at 65,000 BTU and 78% efficiency.
This attractive 27 ¼ inch wide insert comes with a 29 by 44-inch faceplate, allowing you to put logs up to 18 inches long. There are also many accessories to help in setting up your Drolet Escape, including a firescreen, a liner kit, and a fresh air intake kit.
Ashley Hearth AW1820E
- Wood burning fireplace insert
- 69,000 BTU warms 1,800 square feet
- EPA Step 2 Certified for efficiency
- Includes hearth and variable-speed blower
Despite its classy design, Ashley Hearth is one of the simplest and easiest fireplace inserts to install in your home. Featuring a spring-loaded hearth, you can easily snap it in your masonry fireplace – provided that your existing fireplace has the same dimensions.
This fireplace is compact, but looks can be deceiving. It has a blower that helps circulate the heat throughout a large living space. You can even put cordwood up to 18 inches in length inside the Ashley Hearth AQ1820E.
Just like the Drolet Escape 1500-l, this Ashley Hearth model is EPA Step 2 certified. However, despite the similarity, we chose the Drolet Escape as the best choice over Ashley Hearth primarily because of its safety features.
If you prefer a gas fireplace insert, you can’t get wrong with the Duluth Forge FDF300R – it is, after all, our best choice for gas inserts, and with good reasons.
First off, you can run this unit using natural gas or propane. We also admire Duluth Forge’s low-clearance design that offers installation flexibility even for small homes. Plus, it doesn’t require an electrical hookup thanks to its battery-assisted ignition. But, how about heat production? This fireplace doesn’t disappoint.
It can deliver up to 26,000 BTU per hour of heat, which means it is suitable as a primary heating source for a space of up to 1,350 square feet.
Alongside its heating capacity, design, and fuel source, this Duluth model deserves the best choice for a gas fireplace insert due to its safety features. It comes with an oxygen depletion sensor and automatic shut off, which not all gas fireplaces have.
Procom Universal Ventless Firebox
- Gas fireplace insert
- Extra-large viewing window
- Remote control
The Procom Universal PC32VFC is an attractive model. It has an extra-large viewing window to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere in your home.
Just like Duluth Forge, Procom Universal has a low profile and is approved for zero-clearance installation. That means this fireplace can be recessed into a wall or built into a cabinet. In other words, you’ll have more flexibility to customize and integrate Procom with your living room’s design.
This fireplace model includes a draw-screen and hood but does not come with a log set. You can use any 18- to-24-inch vent-free gas log set. Your choice of logs will determine the BTU per hour of heat the fireplace can produce. If you value maximum heat more than anything, Procom is best for you. Its heating capacity is typically 26,000 to 40,000 BTU per hour, which is enough to warm a small home.
Despite its wonderful features, we’ve excluded Procom from our best list because it doesn’t come with a blower. You have to shell out another $100 to get a compatible blower.
The Peterson Real Fyre Gas Log Set. With Vented Propane Burner is a log and burner kit that you can put inside an insert. If you don’t have an insert, you can use the Peterson Real Fry set inside an existing vented gas fireplace.
With a maximum of 65,000 BTU/hour of heat capacity, the Peterson Real Fyre is a powerful system. Its fuel source is propane, which is inexpensive and readily available.
To create a lifelike open-hearth fireplace, this log and burner set uses hand-painted oak logs, complete with realistic bark and split-wood details. The gas logs are made from ceramic and reinforced with steel rods for durability and better heat retention.
Unlike other inserts, it has a manual safety pilot for ignition. The design of the burner pipe directs the flames to dance from the logs and embers.
Best Electric Fireplace Insert
- Electric fireplace insert
- 5,200 BTU
- Numerous realistic holographic flame and sound options
- Control using your iPhone
The MagikFlame 28-inch electric fireplace insert is an elegant, high-efficiency 5,200 BTU unit with an infrared quartz heater.
Like all electric fireplace inserts, the MagikFlame is a supplemental heat source but you’ll be happy to know that its built-in blower helps disperse heat in areas up to 1,000 square feet.
There are two ways you can install MagikFlame. You can either plug it directly into an outlet or have it professionally wired into the wall. You also have an option to display it as-is or build a mantle around it.
But what really made us include MagikFlame in our top 3 best list are its pre-built and on-board features.
This insert has great reviews for offering the most visually realistic flames. It has built-in holographic technology that projects a video of a real fire, with embers and smoke, onto a physical log set. MagikFlame also includes a variety of sound effects for a more immersive fireplace experience.
You have full control over the visuals, sound effects, and heat via the intuitive and user-friendly touchscreen panel. A downloadable smartphone app is available too so you can turn on and off the fireplace wherever you are. Unfortunately, Android users can’t take advantage of this wireless feature yet. As of this writing, the MagikFlame app is only compatible with iOS devices.
The MagikFlame insert is not for those on a tight budget, it comes at a premium but is well worth it.
Touchstone Sideline Recessed Mounted Electric Fireplace is a beautiful electric fireplace insert that won’t break the bank. Plus, you have the option to either install it directly into the wall or mount it. Either way, you’ll be surprised how realistic this electric fireplace insert is.
It uses LED visual effects to replicate an open-hearth fireplace. The flames are adjustable to three different colors and come with five pre-built fire settings. Unlike many systems, you can quickly switch to different displays by using the included remote control.
Aside from looks and ease of installation, Touchstone Sideline heat production is highly commendable – despite its small size. At 5,000 BTU, you can use this fireplace as a secondary heat source. It also includes a blower that disperses heat over a 400 square foot area. For convenience and safety, a built-in timer is available too.
The Dimplex DFI2310 uses LED lights and a mirror to create a realistic three-dimensional flame effect. It gets particularly high reviews for ambiance and realistic fireplace appearance. However, there’s no option for you to change or adjust its visual display.
At only twenty-three inches, the Dimplex is narrower than our other choices. But don’t be fooled. This electric insert can heat a 400 square foot room. Setup is quick and easy too because you can plug it into a standard outlet.
The Dimplex’s best feature is its built-in thermostat that lets you set your preferred temperature. Plus, the unit will continually and automatically adjust to maintain a constant temperature in your room.
Another downside of this Dimplex model is that it does not produce soothing fireplace crackling sounds. You can eliminate this problem easily by purchasing an affordable “fire crackler” sound system (such as this option on Amazon).
What is a Fireplace Insert?
A fireplace insert is a device that fits inside an existing masonry fireplace. Like an open-hearth fireplace, an insert can emit heat, display a real or simulated flame, and in some cases project fire-like sounds. An insert can use wood, wood pellets, electricity, or gas as a fuel source.
Essentially an insert is a fireproof box surrounded by another metal box (cast iron or steel). This creates a closed combustion system, with the outer box capturing the heat. However, this doesn’t apply to electric fireplaces because they convert electricity to heat. They are basically a combination of a space heater and a more or less realistic-looking visual display designed to resemble an open fire.
In many systems, a fan blows the hot air from between the two boxes and into the room.
Advantages of a Fireplace Insert
Open wood fires in masonry fireplaces are romantic, but they have many disadvantages for homeowners. Fireplace inserts solve nearly all of these problems.
Even when they aren’t in use, fireplace inserts improve the heat efficiency of your home because they seal off the masonry chimney opening.
A direct vent gas uses two tubes to collect outside air and release gas and pollutants. Both of these vents are integrated into the chimney to minimize heat loss. An alternative is a ventless gas insert which, from its name, does not use vents. They draw from and release air into your house, trapping heat inside your home.
Like ventless gas systems, electric inserts do not require any vents. This eliminates the possibility of heat loss. They are 99% efficient and inexpensive to run. However, they have a lower heat output than other types of inserts.
Even a wood-burning insert is more efficient than an open fire. Wood burning inserts often operate at about 50% efficiency. For more information about wood burning insert efficiency, check out the Q&A section below.
Inserts keep embers in and curious hands and paws out because of its enclosed design. Some fireplace inserts even have built-in safety features to put you more at ease. For example, the Touchstone Sideline Recessed Mounted Electric Fireplace has a timer for automatic shutdown. Also, the Duluth Forge has an oxygen level sensor with an automatic shutoff. However, keep in mind that any kind of fireplace insert has its safety issues too. For more information and tips on electric heater safety, check out this guide.
Improved air quality
The smell of wood smoke is nostalgic and soothing, but it’s not great for air quality. All fireplace inserts, except for ventless gas inserts, will allow you to heat your home while substantially reducing the particulate matter polluting it.
For zero pollutants inside your home, you can opt for electric fireplaces because they create heat using electricity, not combustion. Direct vent gas fireplace inserts are also a good option for air quality. Unlike ventless systems, the emissions of a direct vent system flow out of a tube running up the chimney.
Easier to use
With inserts burning more efficiently than traditional open-hearth fireplaces, you can get a warm and cozy home with less firewood to buy, haul, store, move, and clean up after. Plus, they are easier to maintain, unlike wood-burning fireplaces that require professional chimney cleaning. However, all inserts should be inspected regularly for safety.
Vented vs Ventless Inserts
You can get a fireplace insert with or without vents. With a direct vent insert, two small and flexible tubes run to the outside of the house through the chimney of a wood-burning fireplace (or you can use the vent from a previously-installed gas fireplace). One of these flexible lines feeds the fire with outside air and one releases the gas exhaust outside.
Ventless systems, on the other hand, draws air from your house and do not release the emission outside – they stay in your home. Some states and localities ban the installation of ventless systems because of their potentially harmful emissions, so make sure to check the laws in your area before purchasing one.
If you’re going to buy a ventless gas insert, having carbon monoxide detectors (like this one) can alert you if there are any leaks. Because ventless systems draw air inside the house, you will also want an oxygen depletion sensor (built into some models), especially in newer, well-sealed homes. These sensors shut off the fireplace if levels of oxygen in the house get too low.
For more information, read this resource on the pros and cons of ventless systems.
What Is Involved in Installation?
The ease and cost of installing a fireplace insert are based on two factors: fuel source and current setup.
Electric fireplace inserts are the cheapest and the most convenient option for many homeowners because they do not require a chimney or a vent.
However, before buying an electric fireplace insert, you should consider placement, fit, and installation. A short power cord or unavailability of a nearby outlet may require hiring an electrician for rewiring.
If you have a chimney, wood-burning and gas inserts are great choices. However, professional installation is necessary and unavoidable. Both inserts require a stainless-steel connector and flue line fitting and rewiring.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does A Wood Stove Insert Need Electricity?
Technically no, but effectively speaking yes. A wood burning insert can generate heat without using electricity. However, the built-in blower will not run. For maximum heat efficiency and dispersion, keep the insert plugged in.
What Is The Best Fireplace?
The best fireplace that you can get for yourself and your family depends on your budget and heating requirements. Most of the models listed in our fireplace inserts guide are categorized by fuel source, price, heating capacity. If you only need a secondary heating stove, electric models like the MagikFlame is suitable for your needs. But for primary heating, we highly suggest that you get a model with a higher BTU capacity.
Can Fireplace Inserts Provide The Same Heating Efficiency As A Regular Fireplace?
Yes, inserts can provide the same heating efficiency as regular fireplaces, but without the headaches of chimney cleaning. However, you should always consider the size of your living room. If you’re going to install an insert in a huge area, you should consider a unit with an equipped fan and a higher BTU rating to keep the entire space warm and cozy. When you have a small living room, you can go for less powerful models.
Is Wood Burning More Efficient Than Other Types of Fireplace Inserts?
Yes, adding an insert will convert your existing fireplace from 10-20% efficiency to 60-80% efficiency. This is because sealing off the chimney flue stops furnace-warmed air from escaping (whether or not the fireplace is in use). The increased efficiency has multiple benefits such as using less wood and increased heat retention.
Is There A Burning Smell?
It depends on what kind of insert you will be getting. Most gas and wood burning stoves have a faint smell but most of the time it’s due to poor or improper sealing. If you want to enjoy a cozy and warm living room without any odor, your best choice is an electric insert because they rely on electricity to produce heat.
Where To Find and Shop For Inserts?
If you are ready to convert your fireplace, you can find inserts in many retail stores. However, if you prefer to order online, we’ve included links to all the models mentioned in our review for convenience.
How Much Do Wood Burning Inserts Cost?
The cost of installing a wood-burning insert depends both on the insert itself and on the condition of your chimney.
Hiring a professional installer can cost as much as the insert itself. For example, if you buy a $2,000 insert, you may need to pay an additional $2,000 for installation. If your chimney is in poor condition, a reconstruction can drastically increase your expenses.
Is an Insert More Durable Than A Regular Fireplace?
Fireplace inserts are designed to last for a decade or more. Although many are backed up by long warranties, irregular maintenance and poor use can drastically affect their durability and lifespan. For better longevity, always follow the model’s recommended operation.
Can I Convert A Gas-Powered Fireplace To Wood Burning Stove Or Insert?
Converting a gas fireplace to a wood-burning insert is not possible. If you have a gas fireplace and want to burn wood, you will need to hire a professional to remove the gas system and construct a chimney. This is a difficult and expensive process, and is illegal in places where new wood-burning fireplace construction is limited.
The Wrap Up
Whether you are interested in a wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplace insert, there are many great choices available now. With our eight top picks, covering all the key categories, you can find a great option for any home and lifestyle.
Do you know of a great fireplace option that didn’t make our top picks list? If so, tell us about it in the comments section. For more information on home heating, check out our other articles, guides, and reviews.