6 Best Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts – Full Buying Guide

By Ben •  Updated:   October 7, 2022
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Spending time with your family is always a great thing, but the experience is much better if you’re all talking and sitting next to the wood-burning fireplace.

Not only does it heats you, but it’s a pleasure to watch as the fire effect is thrilling and cozy.

Before diving deep into some of the best fireplace wood inserts, let me tell you why they are totally worth it:

  • They are economic and save you plenty of money in the long run (it can lower your annual heating costs up to 40%)
  • A ton of wood inserts are compatible with your current fireplace, so you don’t have to spend money and time designing a brand-new fireplace.

Now, let me reveal some of the best wood inserts you can buy for your home.

1. Best Overall: ​ClassicFlame​

Our Pick
Traditional Built-in Electric Fireplace Insert
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This is definitely my favorite as it can be easily compared with all those advanced electric fireplaces.

The reason I love this fireplace insert is that it’s energy-efficient and it can heat up an 800 sq ft room really fast – pretty impressive if you ask me.

It has some advanced functions like an electronic timer, so you can set a timer to automatically turn it off from 30 minutes up to 9 hours. 

Also, it has five different brightening settings to maximize your pleasure while you’re sitting near it.

The setup is very simple and you can have it working quickly after it arrives.

2. Budget Option: ​PuraFlame

Our Pick
PuraFlame Western Electric Fireplace Insert
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03/22/2023 03:56 pm GMT

PuraFlame is known as an “economic” brand. This fireplace insert will save you tons of money each month as your electricity bills will be way lower than you expect.

The reason I love it is because you can literally run it a whole day and whole night and it will still work flawlessly while not consuming a lot of energy.

I would recommend this insert for a room less than 400 sq. ft. as it isn’t that strong.

An interesting thing about this insert is that it has 100% energy-saving LED technology.

3. Premium: Ashley Hearth

Our Pick
Ashley Hearth AW1820E 1,800 Sq. Ft. Wood Stove Insert
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03/22/2023 03:58 pm GMT

With the power to heat up to 1,800 sq. ft. this wood stove insert won’t disappoint you.

Also, it has over 75% efficient heating which is pretty solid for a powerful stove like this.

The only thing I personally don’t like is that the firebox is small and you can’t really enjoy watching the flame inside.

So, if you’re looking for an insert that also serves as a decorative object – this won’t be the best fit for you.

4. The Simplest: Timberwolf Economizer

Our Pick
Timberwolf Economizer EPA Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
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If I could describe this fireplace with one word it would be SIMPLE.

If you’re a fan of inserts that are simple and don’t require a lot of work around installation or maintenance – this might be the perfect insert for you!

It can heat a room without a problem, but it wouldn’t perform so well in a 2000 sq. ft. space (as advertised). My recommendation is to use it for a room not bigger than 500 square feet.

Also, it’s a bit noisier than the other inserts, so you need to take that in mind before purchasing it. Overall, it’s a decent insert and it can do the job.

5. Best Design: Napoleon EPI-1402

Our Pick
Napoleon Fireplaces Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
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The Metallic Black look is what makes this wood-burning fireplace insert so attractive.

However, the look isn’t the only thing that’s great about it. What I love about it is how there’s little to no smoke when you’re just starting the fire.

With Napoleon Fireplaces, you won’t have to worry about extra costs such as buying doors, trim, and blowers separately – you get the whole package at once.

The biggest advantage besides design is the automatic blowers.

You won’t have to wait to turn them on as there’s a built-in temperature detector that automatically turns them on.

What I also have to mention is great customer service and they ship your order quickly.

6. The Strongest: Drolet Escape

Our Pick
Drolet Escape 1800i Fireplace Wood Insert
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This is definitely the strongest fireplace wood insert and without any problem, you can heat up a 1,400 sq. ft. area.

The maximum burn time is up to eight hours which is not bad considering its power.

Same as the previous one I mentioned, the blower is turned on/off automatically with a built-in sensor. You can still adjust the airflow by button.

The fact that it can heat an old house with leaky windows tells you a lot about the power of this unit.

If you’re looking to heat a bigger area or whole house and you have the budget – you should go with this one.

Fireplace Illustration

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts – Buying Guide & Checklist

Before buying a fireplace insert, make sure to check all the things mentioned below.

It will help you choose the best insert based on your requirements and it will definitely save you some money in the long run.

Size of your fireplace

The biggest mistake you can do is to go out there and buy the best-looking fireplace insert. Why?

If you don’t know the size of your fireplace, you could buy a bigger insert that won’t fit in your fireplace (Yup, I’ve made this mistake).

So, go ahead and measure the dimensions of your fireplaces and then compare them with the dimensions of the insert you’re looking to buy.

Insert’s Efficiency Rating

Efficiency rating equals the electricity bill you’ll be receiving each month.

The higher the efficiency rating, the lower your electricity bill will be.

You should always look for a higher efficiency rating even if it will cost you a bit more.

📍 NOTE: Some efficiency ratings are “faked”, so only look for efficiency ratings issued by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

Insert’s heating area

Depending on the size of your home, you should look for inserts that can heat up a bigger space.

As I mentioned in the recommended inserts, some of them can heat up to 1,400+ sq. ft. On the other hand, others perform better below 400 sq. ft. room.

The thing you need to know is the bigger your heating area is, the more wood it will require per hour/day.

So, to determine how powerful your insert should be, use this calculator and find out.

Insert’s hardwood capacity

Insert’s hardwood capacity has a lot to do with heating a bigger space in less time.

If you’re looking to heat up a bigger area and you want your average 8-hour burn to be better – you need a greater hardwood capacity.

It will save you a ton of time as you won’t need to refill often.

Burn Time of the Insert

If you’re a lazy guy like me and you just want to lay on your couch without having to refill the insert every few hours – then the burn time will play a big role for you.

My honest recommendation is to go with ClassicFlame (the best overall insert) as it has a burn time of 9 hours. Of course, energy efficiency and hardwood capacity are both on point.

📍 Fun Fact: Some fireplace inserts consume less energy than space heaters.

EPA Approved

EPA issued a new rule where wood-burning inserts emission must be under 2grams/hour. I would recommend buying units that are EPA-approved as this is both for safety and health regulations.

It’s interesting how EPA-approved wood inserts are more efficient as they burn less wood than the other ones.

Installation process

In most cases, the installation is very simple and straightforward.

However, some inserts might be more difficult to install than others and you will need professional help if you’re not a technician.

Use the form below to get offers on how much would it cost you to install the fireplace 👇

Or feel free to call this number if you prefer to chat over the phone 👉 (855) 659-3394

If you’re not looking to spend another penny on the insert, look for inserts with a simple installation that you can DIY within a couple of minutes.

7 Specs You Need To Pay Attention To

Okay, now you know what to look out for before buying a wood-burning fireplace insert.

You might want to go a step further and check some of the specs that guarantee you’ll buy the right insert for your home.

Adjustable Air Flow

Do you want your wood stove insert to maintain a comfortable temperature in your room at all times? That’s why you need adjustable airflow.

This control gives you a tool that can regulate the temperature of the fire and the heating space around it.

Direct Venting

Most inserts have two different venting options – fan or fanless.

I recommend going with fanless and I have two strong reasons to back it up:

  1. Inserts without fans make absolutely no noise which is much more comfortable for your entire family.
  2. Since fans work on electricity, you can expect lower electricity bills each month.

Also, you can always get wood stove fans to spread the heat throughout your home without bigger costs. It’s still up to you to choose what fits you better.

Cast Iron Door

Without a doubt, stainless steel is the best material you could get in wood-burning fireplace doors. However, it is also the most expensive.

Inserts with stainless steel doors cost up to 10-20% extra – that’s how good they are.

If you’re not on the budget, you should go with cast iron doors. Why?

Well, they conduct less thermal heat so they lose less heat than stainless steel doors.

📍 Note: Cast iron doors won’t resist rust, as well as stainless steel doors, will.

Circulation System

A circulation system will give you control over heat and help you heat the whole home instead of heating just one room.

Of course, inserts with the circulation system cost a bit more, so it’s not worth the investment if you’re trying to heat up just one room.

Thermostat and Adjustable Flame Size

The adjustable flame size has a lot more to do with visual appeal than the performance of an insert.

If you want to have a better view and just enjoy watching the flames – you’ll probably find this valuable.

This is also an important feature when you’re looking for gas fireplaces.

However, the thermostat is a must-have in areas where mercury dips below zero in winter.

Self-Cleaning Glass doors

If you want a good view of the fire, a self-cleaning glass door might come in handy. Using the air from the circulation system to wash the glass, self-cleaning glass doors would provide the perfect scenery of the fire.

📚 Recommended reading: How To Clean Brick Fireplace AND How To Clean Fireplace Glass Doors

Electronic Timer

Do you think it’s great if you can schedule when the fireplace will turn on/off? If so, this will help you a ton.

Whether you want to set it to automatically turn on a couple of hours before you come home, or to turn it off in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping – it can do both!

Not only that it’s helpful, but it also saves you a couple of bucks each month on bills.

How Does A Wood Burning Fireplace Insert Work?

A wood-burning fireplace insert is a fireproof box made of steel or cast iron. You need to place it in your existing fireplace.

Most owners switch from regular fireplaces to inserts because of heat loss as inserts are much more efficient.

Inserts take the air from an outside source, then recirculate it to push it away through a duct.

The main difference between inserts and fireplaces is they take the air from two different sources.

Fireplaces take the air from the room and then the smoke escapes through a chimney.

It’s interesting how fireplaces convert less than 20% of fuel into heat, while inserts can convert up to 75% of the fuel into heat.

How to Install a Wood Burning Fireplace Insert?

Bookmark or save this page and come back later once you already have your fireplace to see how to correctly install it.

Although installation isn’t that hard, I prepared for you 8 simple-to-follow steps to successfully install your insert without having to hire a professional.

However, if you don’t want to bother with the installation, complete the form below and get offers from local contractors in your area 👇

Or feel free to call this number if you prefer to chat over the phone 👉 (855) 659-3394

Step 1: Measuring

Even before you purchase the insert, you have to measure the dimensions of the fireplace. They need to be the same as the dimensions of the insert, so there’s no room for error.

If you skip this step, it would be the same as you’re throwing a bigger ball into a smaller hoop.

Step 2: Starting

Take a large chunk of cardboard as the inserts are heavy and bulky and you don’t want to scratch the tile.

Once you have placed the cardboard, place the insert on top of it before sliding it towards the opening. Push the insert as far as it can go into the fireplace.

Step 3: Angle Girder and Electrical Outlet

Use an angle grinder to grind the bricks around the existing fireplace so the insert has a stable area to stand on.

The insert will have some kind of electrical instrument (air circulation system or fan vent) and you need to provide it with a 110-V electrical outlet. You can hire an electrician to install it and it needs to be installed close to the back-read corner.

Step 4: Removing any existing gas line (optional)

If your fireplace doesn’t have a gas line, just move to the next step.

Otherwise, shut off the gas supply and unscrew the gas line using two pipe wrenches. Now, block the gas pipe by installing a half-inch cap.

Step 5: Installing the Vent Liner

First, take a pulling cone and attach it to the outward end of the vent liner. Next, tie the pulling cone with a rope. Go to the roof, and drop the rope inside the fireplace chimney.

Now, insert the vent into the chimney. 

Note: Make sure the vent is placed squarely and perfectly into the fireplace vent opening.

Step 6: Installing Electrical Connections

Before installing the electrical connections, make sure to install an adapter elbow at the end of the vent after removing the pulling cone which I described in the last step.

Now, install the electrical connections on one side of the fireplace insert and plug the power cord of the insert into the electrical outlet.

Step 7: Trimming Vent Liner

Next, by applying pressure, pull down the vent liner. Go to the roof, and using tin snips, trim the vent liner.

Step 8: Final Step

I would recommend you to apply a silicone sealant around and over the upper edge of the flue tile – the one that is protruding out from the chimney.

Next, install a chimney cap so you can block the chimney with it when it’s raining to prevent the water from coming in.

Finally, on the face of the insert’s faceplate, screw the surround panel.

Here you go – you should successfully install a wood-burning fireplace insert by now.

BONUS: If you want to see all these steps come into action, check out this youtube video and it will be easier for you to understand it.

Catalytic vs Non-Catalytic Wood Burning Inserts

Non-catalytic fireplace inserts use ultra-heated oxygen and air tubes to generate the gas coming out of the stove.

They are very efficient and they reduce emissions.

Catalytic fireplace inserts use a catalytic combustor and air tube to burn gasses three times – this results in longer burn times.

As you can see, the main difference between these two is the way how they burn the fuel after initial combustion.

If you want to see a more in-depth comparison, you should check out this comparison video.

How to Ensure Safety While Using Wood Fireplace Insert? 

Wrongly installed fireplace inserts might be more dangerous than you think. Maintenance is also important, but installing it properly should be your main goal. We have a whole guide on how to properly use a fireplace if you want more details.

How do you know if you installed your insert correctly?

Well, here is what you need to look out for:

  • The bricks and mortar on the chimney shouldn’t be missing
  • The distance between the top of the chimney and the exit should be at least 2 feet
  • The crown of the chimney should be beveled
  • The chimney shouldn’t be leaning to any side
  • Make sure no birds nest or debris buildup exists on the chimney cap

📚 Recommended Reading: How To Start The Longest Fire In A Fireplace [5 Steps]

Now, let’s talk about wood…

Choosing the Best Wood for Your Insert

Want your insert to provide higher-than-average burn time and impressive heat output? The solution is high-density wood

Here’s which wood you should use:

  • Ash: Rated as the best wood for burning, ash produces a strong heat output and a steady flame, so you get the best of both worlds out of it.
  • Maple: If you properly seasoned it, it will produce even longer burns in your wood stove. What I love about it is how easy it is to find quality maple, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most used firewood. 
  • Horse Chestnut: Thanks to its ability of spitting during burning, the horse chestnut wood produces strong heat output and a good flame. It’s also very exciting to watch the flames.
  • Oak: If you ask veteran fireplace owners for advice, they’ll tell you to go for oak. Although oak is great, you have to know that it is the most expensive of all firewood. Put your budget in the first place.
  • Thorn: Hate firewood which produces excessive smoke? You’ll love the thorn because when it burns it has very little smoke and still has an impressive heat output.

📚 Recommended Reading: Best Ash Vaccum Cleaners

Decision Time 

Well, now that you know all about wood-burning fireplace inserts and how to choose the best one, it’s up to you to make a decision.

If you scroll a bit up, you’ll see inserts I personally recommend that won’t disappoint you.

So, if you find this mini-guide helpful – go ahead and click the buttons below and share it with your friends and family, so they can also know what to look for when buying a fireplace insert.

Thank you for your time!

Hey there! I am Benas, the founder of Home Caprice. Thanks for reading the article, I hope you were able to find what you were looking for. Me together with my team, are here to simplify heating and cooling for everyone. If you want more details about the website and our team, please check the about page.