The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) recommends considering the following information when selecting a fireplace insert:
TYPE: Fireplace inserts are distinguished by fuel. There are six different types: natural gas, propane, electric, EPA-certified wood, pellet and coal.
SIZE: There are many sizes of fireplace inserts, from small to extremely large. The key factor in selecting the size is based on the opening of the existing fireplace. To determine the right size, measure the following: opening height; opening width; opening depth (top and bottom); rear width and the depth of the hearth (area in front of fireplace).
LOCATION: A fireplace insert needs to be placed in an existing masonry or factory-built fireplace with a working chimney.
VENTING: Fireplace inserts are either vented naturally through a working chimney, direct vented or vent-free, depending on fuel choice. In most cases, a chimney liner is required. The type and size of the liner is specific to the fuel.
FEATURES: Fireplace inserts are made from steel or cast iron and may also have optional fans to better distribute heat into a room, as well as wall thermostatic, or remote controls, to help regulate the fire automatically.
STYLE: The style of fireplace inserts varies among fuel types. But, no matter what the fuel type, all fireplace inserts come in a variety of colors, finishes and designs, from modern to traditional.
INSTALLATION: To ensure the safe and reliable installation of a fireplace insert, the HPBA recommends that people use a specialty retailer and a certified professional installer. In addition to assessing the construction of a house, the professional will obtain the necessary building permits and make sure that the installation meets all local and state codes. He or she will also ensure that the insert is as airtight as possible, using approved fireplace insulating materials, to make the fire easier to control and increase the heat output. In the case of gas, the professional installer will carefully adjust the fireplace to ensure the proper appearance of the flame.
MAINTENANCE: The level of maintenance required for fireplace inserts depends on the chosen fuel type. A fireplace insert generally needs to be removed when the appliance is being maintained. But, no matter what type of fireplace insert is selected, the HPBA suggests that the chimney be inspected on an annual basis by a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
AVERAGE COST: The price of the unit itself is only part of the total cost of owning a fireplace insert. Other requirements include installation, delivery, annual fuel costs and annual maintenance.