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Did you know that a standard woodburning fireplace can be a source of heat loss for your home?
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Why a Fireplace Insert Should be Your Top Remodel Project

Do you have a standard woodburning fireplace? If so, did you know that it can actually be a source of heat loss for your home? According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a woodburning fireplace can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the outside, which in turn draws in cold air from the outside through the home's doors and windows. And since older woodburning fireplaces are only -15 to +15 percent efficient, the DOE considers them one of the most inefficient heat sources a homeowner can use.

In this era of rising fuel costs now is the time to convert your old woodburning fireplace into a highly-efficient gas, pellet or woodburning fireplace insert. This remodeling project not only enhances the aesthetics and beauty of your overall living environment, but also provides home energy savings. In fact, converting to a fireplace insert can make the fireplace up to 85 percent efficient.

Fireplaces inserts come in variety of shapes and styles to fit the décor of your home. You can select an insert that burns gas, wood or pellet fuel. Determining which fuel type is right for you requires considering fuel cost and availability, the desired efficiency and heat output, level of interaction and maintenance requirements, as well as the desired appearance of the fire.

Gas Fireplace Inserts

Operating at a flip of a switch, gas fireplace inserts offer you the greatest level of convenience. With a gas fireplace insert you'll no longer have to deal with the hassles of cleaning ash or hauling wood into the home. Gas fireplace inserts consist of a gas log set installed in a steel or ceramic molded firebox with two flexible vent pipes that run to the outside through the existing chimney. Many units have fans to assist heat movement into the room and are available with wall-mounted thermostats or remote controls so you can program them for automatic operation like your furnace.

When considering a gas fireplace insert, you should look to A.F.U.E. (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rated direct vent gas fireplace inserts as the smartest choice. A.F.U.E. rated fireplace inserts are tested to the same standard as furnaces.

Direct vent gas fireplace inserts achieve greater heating efficiency than a woodburning fireplace because they feature a sealed combustion system. This means that 100 percent of the combustion air necessary to produce a flame comes from outside the home through a direct vent pipe, eliminating the heat loss associated with conventional chimneys. Up to 85 percent of the heat direct vent gas fireplace inserts generate remains in the house. In addition, the direct vent pipe expels 100 percent of the fire's combustion exhaust outside the home, protecting indoor air quality. In fact, the American Lung Association states that direct vent appliances are the healthiest hearth choice a consumer can make.

Due to their high efficiency, direct vent gas fireplace inserts can pay for themselves in a matter of a few years through lower heating bills.

Pellet-burning Fireplace Inserts

Pellet-burning inserts continue to gain favor with homeowners because it can cost as little as $3.00 to provide 24 hours of steady heat. Thanks to state-of-the-art technology, pellet-burning inserts are convenient, easy-to-use and highly-efficient. They require simply loading pellet fuel such as wood pellets or corn into the hopper and starting the unit. An automatic feed system delivers the pellets into the burn chamber.

Quadra-Fire takes the technology even further with its new Mt. Vernon Advanced Energy Insert. Offering up to 75 percent efficiency, the Mt Vernon Advanced Energy Insert automatically tracks and adjusts heat output, and automatically cleans itself without interrupting heat output. In addition, the Mt. Vernon Advanced Energy Insert informs you that the fuel hopper is low, fuel quality is poor or a part needs replacement or maintenance. It also operates on multiple pellet fuels including wood pellets and corn making it one of the most versatile inserts on the market.

Woodburning Fireplace Inserts

For those that can't stand the thought of a fire without the crackle and aroma of burning wood, highly-efficient woodburning inserts are an attractive choice. Regulations enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require wood fireplace inserts manufactured and sold after July 1, 1992 to pass stringent emission tests. This means woodburning inserts burn much cleaner than older models and use less wood to obtain greater amounts of heat.

You can install woodburning fireplace inserts flush to the wall for a more traditional appearance or extended onto the hearth for additional radiant heating. In addition, they offer up to 78 percent efficiency making them a powerful home heating source with some units capable of heating 3,500 sq. ft.

Installation Considerations

Gas, pellet-burning and woodburning fireplace inserts range in price from $1,399 to $2,599; For those that do not want a real flame or have venting issues, an electric fireplace insert can be purchased for under $500.00.

You can install a fireplace insert on your own, however, it's highly-recommended a factory-trained professional perform the installation to ensure accordance with local and national building codes. Installation costs vary widely depending on each homeowner's circumstances and location; however, $500-$900 is an average range. This includes obtaining a gas permit if necessary and labor.

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