The Differences Between an Open Fireplace and a Wood-Burning Insert
By Doug Hetsch
April 26, 2015
Inserts vs Fireplaces
Although you love the whole experience of sitting by the fire, smelling the wood burn, and hearing the embers crackling, you are probably familiar with the downsides of having an open fireplace. One of the main problems is that while you are provided with warmth directly by the fireplace, most of the heat from the fire immediately escapes out the chimney. Even though a traditional open fireplace gives you the comfort of a wood fire experience, it is an extremely inefficient way to heat your home.The United States Department of Energy (DOE)even says, “Designed more for show, traditional open masonry fireplaces should not be considered heating devices.” At All American Chimney Service, LLC, we prefer the newer EPA-approved wood-burning fireplace inserts that can convert your old masonry fireplace into an efficient heating appliance. We would like to share with you some information from the DOE about the differences between these two heating appliances, including why a wood-burning fireplace insert is more efficient than a traditional open fireplace.
What causes open fireplaces to be such poor heating appliances?
The typical masonry open fireplace draws in as much as 300 cubic feet of heated room air per minute for combustion and then sends this air straight out the chimney, according to the DOE. Another disadvantage of the open fireplace is the amount of air pollution it can produce. Even though some fireplace designs have tried to make the traditional open fireplace more efficient with glass doors, dedicated air supplies, and heat recovery systems, most older open masonry fireplaces are major energy losers.
What exactly is a wood-burning fireplace insert?
This type of insert is basically a wood-burning stove that has been designed to fit into the open masonry fireplace and use the existing chimney. However, it is crucial that your insert is professionally installed for it to function efficiently and safely. Your wood-burning fireplace insert should be as airtight as possible because the more airtight it is, the easier it is to control the fire and its heat output. Most open masonry fireplaces have flues that are disproportionately larger than fireplace inserts, which is why our technicians at All American Chimney Service, LLCwill also install a new stainless steel flue liner to fit the insert exactly.
How are wood-burning fireplace inserts more efficient and cleaner burning than traditional masonry fireplaces?
Despite the belief that burning wood always causes pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has certified many wood-burning fireplace inserts as low emission heating appliances. Constructed to provide the traditional wood-burning fire experience, these fireplace inserts are also designed to heat much more efficiently and effectively. Room air is drawn in through vents under the firebox, heated through a heat exchanger, and sent back into your home either through vents at the top of the fireplace or through ducts leading to other rooms in your house. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry estimates that installing an EPA-certified fireplace insert could result in 70 percent fewer particulate emissions and reduce your wood use by 30 percent compared to an open fireplace.
Interested in installing a new wood-burning fireplace insert? ContactAll American Chimney Service, LLCto ask our expert staff anything you would like to know about this efficient way to heat your home with a wood fire.