Fireplace Insert Buying Guide
“If you’re putting a fire in your house—on purpose—it’s probably best to work with an expert.” That’s the opinion of Tim Reed, Hearth Expert and retail team leader at Fireside Home Solutions in Portland, Oregon. Luckily, he’s an expert on all things fireplace-related. And if you have a question about whether or not it’s time to consider a fireplace insert, he’s definitely the guy to talk with.
What Sets Fireplaces Inserts Apart?
“Here’s the thing—traditional fireplaces suck—literally,” Reed says bluntly. “They suck the air your furnace is putting out, and pull it right out of your house. Fortunately, there’s a better way.”
While Reed naturally loves the warmth, charm and ambiance of a fireplace, he’s a big proponent of using inserts in that space. “With an insert, you can seal the fireplace and keep the air you paid good money to heat in your house,” he says. He loves to stand outside a home with an insert and check the chimney: “You no longer see smoke pouring out. You just see heat waves…and that’s a good sign.”
Consider Zone Heating
“In our homes today, we buy a furnace that heats every square inch of that house, even in the spaces that are empty,” he says. “Zone heating is the way to go. It allows you to reduce your thermostat, then crank up your fireplace insert for a fraction of the cost. Why pay to heat spaces that you aren’t in? This type of heating is catching on more and more across the country.” (Curious to learn more about zone heating? Check out this full blog post on the topic!)
Ready to Go? Let’s Get Started
You may want to begin by thinking about the look you’d like for your insert. “I tell folks to bring in pictures of what they want their wall to look like. A lot of this comes from HGTV, Pinterest and Houzz. It really helps to understand their dream for the home,” Reed says. “I guarantee that with all the variety available through Quadra-Fire, we’ll be able to find a look for just about every home, from clean and modern to rustic and traditional.”
When you start shopping, you’ll get ahead by coming in with some basic dimensions, in particular, the front and back width of your current fireplace and its overall height and depth. “If clients can come in with that information it sets us up to find the perfect fit for them,” Reed says. “We can find an insert that is just the right size, gives them the perfect amount of warmth and fits the style of their room.”
Going with gas?
“Gas is a good choice for people who want to hit a button and have instant beauty,” Reed says. “While it doesn’t give off that dry wood heat, the convenience factor is pretty significant and its incredible how real they look.” Read about Quadra-Fire gas inserts here.
Firebox Options and Finish
If you decide to go with a gas insert, you can choose from basic metal or premium FireBrick™ inserts. “That premium FireBrick™ makes Quadra-Fire special,” Tim says. “Inserts with FireBrick™ have a significantly larger viewing area, for one thing. Plus, it’s made from thick ceramic material, so it holds more heat in the room than a metal firebox will. Because of that, you won’t need to rely on a fan to radiate the heat, so you’ll have a quieter experience. I always tell people that if they want to be able to read quietly or watch TV comfortably, they should go with FireBrick™ inserts.” Follow the links to learn more about Quad’s FireBrick™ inserts--Q135FB and Q130FB.
Prefer to burn solid fuel?
If you’d like an insert that burns solid fuel, there are two options, pellet or wood:
“This gives you the feeling of dry wood heat with the convenience of an automated system,” Reed says. “It’s a great green fuel, since the pellets are made from sawdust that would otherwise be discarded. You toss the pellets in the hopper, set the thermostat, and it takes things from there.” Read more about Quadra-Fire pellet inserts here.
Install Time & Annual Maintenance
Once you’ve made the decision to get an insert, plan on the installation taking at least half a day, depending on the specifics of your insert type and the space in which it’s being installed. “It’s most often a low-risk, low-mess project,” Tim says.
For all types of inserts, an annual checkup is recommended. But, since installs include closing up a chimney, Tim points out: “You’ll never have to clean your chimney again.”
“It’s best to work with a hearth professional who will do an in-home preview and install it for you, there are too many unknowns to take the project on by yourself,” Reed suggests. Then, he says, you’ll begin enjoying the benefits: “Once people adopt zone heating, it becomes a lifestyle they really enjoy. You aren’t paying to heat the space you’re not in, and you can enjoy gathering everyone around a warm, cozy fire.”
|Tim tells prospective insert buyers to collect some pictures of what they want by searching HGTV, Pinterest and Houzz. Tim says: "I guarantee that with all the variety available through Quadra Fire, we'll be able to find a look for just about every home, from clean and modern to rustic and traditional."
|Take measurements before you visit your Quadra Fire dealer: front, back, width, height and depth of current fireplace. Once you have those dimensions ready, your dealer can find an insert that's just the right size, provides the perfect amount of warmth and fits the style of the room.
|Most installations will take about half a day, depending on the specifics of your insert type and the space in which it’s being installed. “It’s usually a low-risk, low-mess project,” Tim says.
|For all types of inserts, an annual checkup is usually recommended. But since you’ll be closing a chimney, Tim points out: “You’ll never have to clean your chimney again.”
|“Gas is a good choice for people who want to hit a button and have instant beauty,” Tim says. “While it doesn’t give off that dry wood heat, they do look real and have a high convenience factor.” Read about Quadra Fire gas inserts. https://www.quadrafire.com/browse/inserts/gas-inse...
|Choose from basic metal or premium Fire Brick inserts, which offer significantly bigger viewing area and heat-holding advantages. “Because the Fire Bricks are made from thick ceramic materials, the insert also holds more heat in the room than a metal firebox will,” Tim says. “You won’t need to rely on a fan to radiate the heat, so you’ll have a quieter experience. I always tell people that if they want to be able to read quietly or watch tv comfortably, they should go with Fire-Brick inserts.”
|Get the feeling of dry wood heat with the convenience of an automated system. “It’s a great ‘green’ fuel, since the pellets are made from sawdust that would otherwise be discarded. You toss them in the hopper, set the thermostat and it gets to work,” Tim says. Read more about Quadra Fire pellet inserts here. https://www.quadrafire.com/browse/inserts/gas-inse...
|Enjoy burns up to eight hours, compared to two to two-and-a-half hours with a conventional wood burning fireplace. “Not only does it give a long burn time and use less firewood, it also burns nearly 20x cleaner than a standard wood fireplace,” Tim says. Read about Quadra Fire wood burning inserts here. https://www.quadrafire.com/browse/inserts/gas-inse...
|Solid Fuel-Burning Finishes
|Finish options are traditional steel or cast iron. “The cast iron can be very ornate, and it has the advantage of holding heat a bit longer than steel,” says Tim.