Choose Best Fireplace Inserts
Maybe you are remodeling your home for a new look. Maybe you are just taking on some home improvement projects to help your house be greener and environmentally friendly. No matter the reason, you are probably considering converting your existing fireplace into an electric fireplace. This is a great idea. Homeowners everywhere are updating their old fireplaces and making them a brand new fireplace with a cost-effective electric fireplace insert conversion. If this is a good way to describe yourself, you might be wondering which fireplace inserts match your home decor. This post will go over important information regarding electric fireplace conversions. It will also guide you through different styles to choose from so that you can pick the perfect one for your home.
What Is A Fireplace Inserts?
Inserts are fireplaces that can be placed into the fireplace opening, essentially converting it into a fireplace of some other type. Usually this is done to make it more energy efficient, safe, or to just update the aesthetics. By using inserts in your fireplace instead of buying fireplaces to install other places in the home, you don’t have to worry that your existing chimney and fireplace will be sitting there with an empty firebox. It will be used to house your new insert. For some inserts, the chimney and flue will still be used as venting. This is not the case with electric fireplaces because they are vent-free since they don’t have any emissions other than warm air emitted into the room.
Inserts are commonly one of the three following types:
- Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts – These are inserts that go into an open hearth fireplace. The fireplace still has a log burning fire, but it is now inside of an enclosed system with glass doors so the fire is still visible. By making it an enclosed system, it increases both the safety and efficiency of the fireplace. The heat output remains about the same, but over time you can keep a room warm by using a little less wood.
- Gas Fireplace Inserts – These are inserts that turn your wood fireplace into a gas one. There are two types of these gas style fireplaces. One of them is vent-free, the other is a direct vent kind. With vent-free, you don’t have to use the existing ventilation that you already have in your fireplace, however the flame will be blue. For a direct vent fireplace, you have a slightly more natural looking flame, but you have to hook it up to your existing ventilation or install some new ventilation. Either way, your gas style fireplace will need a gas source. This means running gas lines for natural gas or connecting propane tanks that need to be changed regularly. Sometimes these fireplaces come with a gas log the flame emits from, but they rarely capture the real ambiance of a proper fireplace.
- Electric Inserts – These are the inserts we are focused on in this post. Electric inserts are installed the same way, but it is much easier. No ventilation needs to be installed or connected. You will still need to make sure you have a nearby wall outlet for the fireplace to plug into, or you can run a direct electrical line and hardwire it for the cleanest look.
Why Should I Convert My Traditional Fireplace Into An Electric One?
If you still have reservations about electrical fireplaces, let’s put your mind at ease. Here are all of the problems you need to worry about with traditional fireplaces:
- Piles of Wood – All of the wood needed to keep you warm throughout the winter months ends up costing quite a bit of money. You will also need adequate space to store all of this wood or else have it delivered in more frequent, smaller shipments.
- Safety Hazards – House fires are always a big risk with traditional fireplaces. Flammable soot accumulating on the inner walls of the flue, embers that spark into the room, and a log on fire falling off the pile and onto your floor are all things you have to be careful about. Although you should always have carbon monoxide detectors in your home regardless, with wood burning fireplaces, they are that much more important and you have to be extra diligent about changing batteries in both these detectors and smoke detectors.
- Inefficient Heating – By design, wood fireplaces just aren’t that efficient of a way to warm your home. Heat loss is a thing due to hot air rising through the chimney and out of the home. Also, to keep a fire burning strong, cracking a window is pretty common. This is another point where warm air escapes and some cool air enters.
- Constant Work – You can’t just flip a switch to turn wood fireplaces on. You have to build a proper fire by stacking logs and using kindling. As the fire dies down, you have to frequently stoke it to keep it going. If you need to get away from the home for a while, you have to put out the flames and begin again when you return. Lastly, ash piles up in the bottom of the fireplace. That has to be scooped up and disposed of on a regular basis, being careful not to get any ash spread around your home.
- Maintenance Concerns – Because a fire inside of the chimney is such a risk due to soot, professional cleaning and maintenance appointments will need to be made, two, three, or more times per year. It’s vital not to forget about these cleanings and the cost of them can add up.
- Smells and Stains – When you run wood fireplaces all of the time, your home will smell. Your furniture will smell. Your curtains will smell. Your clothes will even smell. Smoke gets into everything, especially cloth. White walls can also start to yellow from some smoke seeping into the room every day.
Not only do electric fireplaces fail to have all of these problems listed above, but they have plenty of benefits on top of it:
- Simplest Fireplace Installation – Even with an insert fireplace, they are quite easy to install. If the clearance is a good fit, it can slide right in and will naturally look like part of the fireplace that you already had. The trick is to make sure there is zero clearance leftover, or close to it. Of course, you don’t want it so tight it ruins the fireplace when pushed in, but a good fit is best.
- Cheapest Fireplace Operation – If you compare gas and wood fireplaces to these, electric ones are actually the cheapest to operate to keep your house warm over time. Don’t be surprised when you see significant savings on your first heating bill after installing one of these. For optimal performance, make sure nothing is blocking the blower in the front of the fireplace. Keep it free from any blockages that might keep heat from cycling back out into the home.
- Many Different Flame Visual Effects – There are tons of different brands of fireplaces that all have their own ways to produce the visual effects of the flames. The low-end ones are just mechanical with colored lights. However, when you spend more on a better fireplace, the effects get pretty good. For instance, one of these brands is Dimplex. The Dimplex Opti Myst does a decent job at a 3D flame by shining lights onto movie water vapor streams. While the Dimplex fireplaces are okay, for a superior, ultra-realistic flame simulation, you would install an insert that utilizes holographic flames like MagikFlame electric fireplaces. The MagikFlame holographic flames are even projected atop a physical log set for added realism.
- Atmospheric Sound – The visuals aren’t complete without the sound to go with it. What is the point of all of those glowing flames if you can’t actually hear the crackles and logs of the pop to go with it? Good electric fireplaces include these sounds in their simulated experience. Some do it so well that it sounds like the real thing.
- Remote Control – Being able to change the thermostat without getting up from your blanket-bundled spot on the couch is very satisfying. Some fireplaces use a smartphone app instead of a remote for added convenience. Either way, you have full control of the temperature, fire effects, and other features.
- Peace of Mind – There is no greater benefit than being able to let go of your worries. With electric fireplaces, you don’t have to worry about safety hazards. You don’t have to worry about cleaning or maintenance. You don’t have to worry about ordering more wood, stacking it, or splitting it. You can enjoy the peace of mind of having a fireplace that just works so you don’t have to.
What About A Gas Fireplace Insert Or A Pellet Stove?
Both of these seem like great options, and they are certainly going to be better than your old wood fireplace, but they still can’t compare to electric fireplaces.
Since you are burning sometime, fire is still involved, therefore a risk of house fire is always present. Likewise, fuel burning that isn’t a complete burn has that always lingering danger of releasing carbon monoxide that is extremely dangerous to breathe in. Electrical fireplaces simply don’t have either of these major issues.
Keep in mind, pellet stoves are generally large, heavy cast iron units that take up a lot of space and can get extremely hot to the touch. They have more in common with a more old fashioned wood stove than a modern fireplace. One of these might be great in a cabin in the woods that doesn’t have electricity or other utilities, but many people avoid something like this in a normal house because of all of the problems listed above.
Are You Remodeling Your Home Entirely Or Just Adding An Electric Fireplace?
If you are completely remodeling your home, the choices of electric inserts are far greater. You can figure out your exact design style you will be remodeling your home with and then get a fireplace to match that style.
If the insert fireplace conversion is just a standalone project you are doing, you need to choose an insert style that goes well with the fireplace style you already have. If you have a masonry fireplace, make sure to choose one that looks great with masonry. If you have a modern fireplace built into the wood, choose an insert that fits a more modern and sleek style.
What Are The Different Fireplace Insert Styles To Choose From?
For most inserts, there is only one style per brand or model. The real choice is if you choose to get a mantle to go with it. This is great if you don’t already have a mantle and your fireplace is just bare. You can get the insert, put it in the fireplace, and affix the mantle to house your new insert. A recessed insert adds interesting depth and sophistication with an included mantle. Also, by adding a mantle to your fireplace, you have a space to decorate, further increasing your home decor options.
How Much Does Size and Fit Matter?
Size and fit will matter quite a lot. Some people don’t think too much about this and end up getting whatever electrical fireplace they see first and putting it in the fireplace opening. If the insert is significantly smaller than the opening, it looks really strange and is an obvious eyesore to the room. If the insert is too big, it won’t fit into the opening at all and you’ll need to return it for a new one.
Before buying your insert, make sure to measure the interior of the fireplace at your home. Find an insert that is slightly smaller, but will still fit relatively well with not a lot of room around it. Luckily, the good inserts on the market are usually a standard size that fits most fireplaces.
Is It Better To Choose An Insert Style And Find A Brand That Matches Or Choose A Brand First And Then Pick A Fireplace Insert?
If you just look for pictures of fireplace models that you think look good, you risk getting a brand of fireplace that doesn’t work well and you can severely regret your decision later.
It’s usually a better idea to research brands first and the technology within their fireplaces to find one that meets all of your needs and you can be confident is reliable. Once you have found a brand that is the absolute best you can afford with your budget, choose one of their inserts for your home.
Remember, how the fireplace performs as a heater and how well it simulates the fire effects should always be your top priority when hunting for your first electrical insert kit.
If I Find A Brand I Like, How Can I Find All Of Their Different Models?
If you choose the exact brand of electric fireplace you want to use for your fireplace conversion, usually you can just go to the company’s website and check out all of the different models they offer. Most companies will have plenty of pictures of the fireplaces in a real living room setting so that you can get a feel for how it might look in your home.
Sometimes, discontinued models are removed from the manufacturer’s website but are still available through other retails. To give yourself a few more options, you can try some Google searches and see what additional models you might be able to get from that brand. To do this you are going to search for the term:
Where it says “Brandname” replace it with the brand of fireplace you want to get. Where it says “Keyword” replace it with one of these search terms below:
- discounted pricing
…or anything else that you think might fit the description of something you want. This can be a particular style, color, material, or more.
If you don’t see any further models available online from other websites, then you can just choose from one of the many models that are still listed on the manufacturer’s own website. Luckily, most companies have a wide variety to choose from, so it really shouldn’t be a problem.
Can’t I Just Get A Generic Insert And Place It In The Old Fireplace?
No. Don’t do this.
Every time people do this just to save a few bucks, they end up with a fireplace that really doesn’t leave them satisfied. The heater won’t work very well, the flame effects will likely be really unrealistic, and the additional features will be few if any.
Also, with generic electrical fireplaces, there is really no telling how long they will last. You’ll just end up replacing it soon anyway. Save money, get a good electrical insert from a top brand from the beginning.
If I Go With A MagikFlame, What Can I Expect From Their Fireplaces?
MagikFlame electric fireplaces have pushed realistic fire simulations further than any other brand out there. Holographic technology allows 30 different types of realistic flames to be displayed in 3D. It simply looks real when others don’t.
To go with their 3D hologram flames, crackling log sounds make the entire fireplace experience feel incredibly authentic.
The 5,200 BTU heater doesn’t disappoint. A single MagikFlame unit with 5,200 BTU heater can keep an apartment or small house cozy and warm. Two or three units placed in different rooms can warm an extremely large house using a cost-effective zone heating plan.
Some additional resources about MagikFlame fireplaces: