April 18th, 2014
According to the National Association of Home Builders, fireplaces rank among the top three features desired by new homebuyers. Unfortunately, fireplaces are also major air gaps—they can send up to 8 percent of valuable furnace-heated air flying out the chimney, making them really fun to look at but inefficient as heating sources. Here’s the good news: You can transform your firebox into an efficient room heater by adding an insert.
On these warm sunny days, you might not want to think back to the cold days in the recent past. But recalling them could save money for your wishe for a cozy fireplace or the need for extra heat in the family room.
Summer is a good time to make choices and decisions because a fireplace insert is the farthest thing on most people’s minds. Choices include low-cost prefabricated wood-burning units, personally designed masonry fireplaces and high-efficiency gas fireplaces.
Your first consideration should be the purpose of the fireplace. One that is for purely aesthetic purposes is different from one that provides needed heat.
Free-standing wood stoves are a popular choice for adding heat, as are fireplace inserts. An insert converts fireplaces into an efficient heat source.
Professionals will do a site survey to make sure that where they put it meets code requirements and that they can do the chimney or venting on the appliance properly.
They will advise do-it-yourselfers and help them as much as they can, but the homeowner must check with local government to ensure there are no restrictions or heating requirements involved.
With a wood-burning stove, a flue pipe has to go up through the height of the house and out the roof.
With gas, you may not have to do that. Some gas fireplaces can be vented through the wall. Some are unvented, but you have to be sure the square footage of the room is sufficient.
An insert, installed by a factory-trained professional (to ensure proper venting and best efficiency results), will draft-proof an open fireplace while the unit’s shell keeps heat in the room and away from the masonry. The cost can can set you back about $2,000 to $4,000 (pro install included), depending on the state of your existing chimney (does it need relining?) and the model you select. But this investment pays for itself by slashing those monthly heating bills.
What if you already have an insert and you don’t think it’s working well? Hire a professional to give it a tune up and check how well it’s working. There was a period of time in the 70s and 80s when fireplace inserts were installed but not well done. The installers were more interested in quick rather than correct. So you may need to have some modifications done, or have it replaced entirely to bring it up to code and provide the heat that you want.