Homeowners often ask about the efficiency of fireplace inserts. The answer is that wood stove fireplace insert efficiency is generally good, but some inserts are better than others.
By itself, a fireplace is actually an energy loser because it sucks warm air out of the room, uses it to fuel the fire, and sends it up the chimney as exhaust. Some estimates of heat loss from a traditional open fireplace run as high as 300 cubic feet per minute. So while an open hearth fireplace looks inviting, it’s a net energy loss.
A high efficiency fireplace insert reverses this energy loss and keeps heat in the room where it belongs. These inserts are similar to a woodstove because they are airtight so they don’t need a lot of air from the room to keep the fire burning. The models that extend out onto the hearth are even better because the additional surface area exudes more radiant heat into the room.
Fireplace inserts efficiency is increased if they are EPA approved. To receive EPA approval, the insert must have a catalytic afterburner to get rid of creosote and other gases that pollute the air. Not only does this make for a cleaner, greener world, but it also directs additional heat back down into the living area.
Although proper chimney installation doesn’t affect fireplace insert efficiency, it does make use of the appliance a lot safer, not to mention in conformance with the law. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommendations regarding inserts are now required in the United States. That means that your fireplace insert must have a direct connection between the unit’s exhaust outlet and the lower section of the chimney flue liner. This is to keep creosote and other debris from building up in the gap between where the outlet ends and the chimney begins.
Regular chimney cleaning is a must for anyone who burns wood. If the appliance and the chimney are only joined by a connector, then you’ll need to move the insert every time you have the chimney cleaned. The cost of this can add up fast. A better solution might be to pay up front to have a full length flue insert installed that makes a positive connection with the appliance’s exhaust opening. With this setup, you won’t need to move a 400-pound stove every time you have your chimney cleaned. For homeowners concerned about fireplace inserts and efficiency, saving money on chimney cleaning is part of the equation.
A fireplace insert guide to efficiency usually recommends purchasing one with blowers installed. This setup adds the benefit of convection to an already efficient appliances. The blowers catch heated air from hollow chambers built into the sides of the unit and blow it back out into the room. In combination with ceiling fans, the effect approaches the comfort of a forced air furnace if you close off any unused rooms in your house. And it definitely costs less than heating with gas or oil.
Aside from the financial benefits, a wood fireplace insert can look every bit as beautiful as an open hearth fire. Most models are available with glass doors so you can see the fire inside. Brass or pewter trim complements any décor. Best of all, it saves money on the heating bill and doesn’t pollute the air, unlike an inefficient fireplace.