Pros & Cons of a Wood Burning Fireplace Insert


A fireplace insert is a metal box designed to fit inside of an older fireplace. This box is made of very durable metal and often stands on supports that allow air to flow around the entire box before circulating back into the house. Fireplace inserts are made for both wood and pellets, but wood-burning inserts are very popular for their traditional, cozy appearance.

Requires Less Structural Work

  • Wood burning fireplace inserts are installed inside old fireplaces, renewing them and in the case of defunct fireplaces and chimneys, allowing them to function again. This means that homeowners do not have to plan and build a new fireplace or worry about a new venting system. They can upgrade their original fireplace and keep all of the old structure in place.

High Efficiency

  • Fireplace inserts have a much higher efficiency than the older fireplaces that they replace. The fireplace insert contains the heat and lets it radiate out evenly around the firebox. Many include a fan that circulates air around the firebox as well, quickly passing the heat into the rest of the house. Older fireplaces leak heat into the stone or brick that they use---a much less efficient arrangement.

Smoke Safety

  • Older fireplaces tend to be more drafty and leak more contaminants into the house through the smoke that escapes the chimney. Fireplace inserts, on the other hand, are strictly regulated by the EPA---as of 2010---and limit the amount of contaminants they can release into the house. This allows them to channel a greater amount of smoke into the venting system.

Installation Difficulties

  • Insert installation tends to be complicated and expensive. Professionals need to install a steel collar and steel pipe---the insert itself tends to weigh over 400 lbs. and can be awkward to move. Inserts must also fit very precisely into the old fireplace, so exact measurements are necessary. Not all inserts work with all fireplaces.


  • Fireplace inserts do improve efficiency, but they do not provide enough heat to warm the entire house. In most ways, they are as limited as the old fireplace and are still limited to providing heat for only one room. Homeowners must rely on other means for whole house heating.


  • Fireplace inserts require just as much maintenance as the fireplace itself. Because the insert is wood burning, homeowners must regularly clean out ashes and examine the chimney for creosote build-up.

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  • Photo Credit fireplace image by Ekaterina Sidorenko from
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