In modern times, remodeling an old, drafty and cold fireplace is a lot easier than it was decades ago. Most homeowners simply opt for a fireplace insert. A fireplace insert is more or less a fireplace within a fireplace.
Asides from giving your fireplace an updated look, an insert is a very efficient heating option that takes away the concern of losing most of the heat through the chimney. What’s more, it is less than half the price of renovating an existing fireplace.
With modern technology and craftsmanship, fireplace inserts now come in different looks, designs and finishes. Manufacturers give their all to ensure the insert is not just durable, but appealing as well.
With all of these obvious benefits, one is forced to ask if fireplace inserts are worth the hype. Do they last long? If yes, how long? And just how can you make a fireplace insert last long?
Can A Fireplace Insert Be Replaced?
Yes, a fireplace insert can be replaced. It is called an insert for a reason. It is a box made of cast iron or steel with a glass front that is securely insulated.
It has the shape of a wood stove and is usually installed into a home’s existing masonry fireplace. Just the same way the insert is installed into the fireplace, it can be removed and replaced when necessary.
Whether it’s a wood fireplace insert, electric or a gas fireplace insert, you’d do your home a lot of good by avoiding the temptation of thinking inserts last forever; they do not.
Furthermore, chances are that your insert is already more than 20 years old. Newer products offer improved technology and better efficiency, so it will make a lot of sense to upgrade to a new product.
They are also EPA-certified for up to 70% efficiency. However, replacing a fireplace insert is a technical activity that requires specific tools and skills.
If it is a gas fireplace, you’ll need to be extra careful to avoid leaks that may result in poisoning or fire. Ensure you disconnect the gas supply by shutting it off. Then disconnect the gas hose or pipe from the insert and seal with a pipe cap and durable sealing tape.
After the gas supply has been successfully disconnected, you can go ahead to remove the insert using tools such as a hammer or mallet, wrench, pry bar, safety boots and gloves, and a bucket.
If you’ll be replacing it with another gas fireplace insert, simply repeat the process you followed the first time or do the exact reverse of the process you followed in removing the old one. And if you’re replacing it with a wood-burning fireplace insert, those tools will help.
How Long Will a Fireplace Insert Last?
A typical fireplace insert will last for an average of 20 to 30 years. The actual lifespan is determined by a variety of factors which we’ll discuss later.
By contrast, actual fireplace masonry can last for generations and even centuries, perhaps for as long as the house is standing. As long as they are built with quality bricks and properly sealed to avoid moisture absorption and condensation.
For fireplace inserts, iron cast and steel are the two most common materials used, and these tend to wear over time.
So, if you’re purchasing a fireplace insert today, you should expect it to last for at least 20 years and maybe as much as three decades, depending on how well you take care of it and the quality of the product.
Top 3 Fireplace Inserts with Best Lifespan
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Fireplace Inserts
1. Frequency of use
The formula is quite simple; the less frequently you use the insert, the higher the lifespan. But if you use your fireplace insert for more than 16 hours every day, don’t expect it to last very long.
2. Servicing and maintenance
This is also a crucial factor when it comes to the lifespan of a fireplace insert. Servicing and cleaning your insert box and chimney often is one sure way to extend the lifespan of your unit.
3. Quality of product
Before you purchase a fireplace insert, be sure it is from a trusted brand and the product has gathered a lot of positive reviews from verified buyers. Otherwise, you may be gambling with your money.
4. Region’s climate
There’s something about pressure and the amount of work an appliance has to do before it can deliver results.
The same way an AC can’t do so much when the weather is extremely hot, it will take a lot of effort from your insert if you live in an extremely cold region and this can affect its lifespan.
How Do You Know The Fireplace Insert Needs To Be Replaced?
When it comes to fireplace inserts, there is no one-size-fits-all logic to knowing when to replace them. However, certain factors should indicate a need to get a replacement altogether rather than attempt a repair. A fireplace insert should be replaced if;
- It has become less efficient over a long period, especially after several repairs.
- It has suffered severe bodily wear, creating an eyesore in your otherwise beautiful livingroom.
- It is more expensive to repair a damage than purchase a new unit altogether.
- It has been used for a period of at least 25 years and beginning to show signs of inefficiency.
- An expansion in your home requires additional heating.
Are Fireplace Inserts Worth the Money?
Considering that they are cheaper than renovating your fireplace masonry and can last for as long as 30 years in some cases, fireplace inserts are worth the investment.
An average fireplace inserts costs between $3,000 and $5,000, a worthwhile investment considering the following;
1. They burn less fuel and give more radiant heat
Radiant heat is certainly more efficient using an insert than in traditional fireplaces. There is also less pollution and smoke expelled through the chimney.
According to EPA, inserts are as much as 75% more efficient than traditional wood fireplaces. In fact, traditional wood-burning fireplaces lose as much as 90% of the heat produced out the chimney.
2. They are cheaper than renovating a fireplace
We already mentioned this earlier. Remodeling an existing fireplace can cost upwards of $8,000, which is way higher than the cost of purchasing a fireplace insert. You can save as much as $4,000 or $5,000 by choosing to go with an insert.
3. They are more energy efficient
Energy efficiency in fireplaces is often measured by the amount of energy used versus the amount of heat released into the house.
For traditional wood-burning fireplaces, only about 5% to 10% of the heat produced is released into the home compared to about 75% when you use fireplace inserts. Energy cost is also significantly reduced.
4. Easier and cheaper to maintain
With fireplace inserts, what you get is like a stove box. Simply open up and clean the glass doors and inside walls using a wire brush. Be sure to remove all residual creosote hanging on the walls and the floor of the box.
Ash and small pieces of wood are also likely to be on the floor of the box. If you’re using a gas or electric insert, it is even easier to clean.
5. Multiple options for fuel sources
As you may have figured already, a fireplace insert can use one of many gas sources, such as wood, gas or electric. You have the option to choose which you prefer based on your needs and what makes more economic sense to you.
Replacing your old fireplace insert certainly has a lot of benefits. Not only are you doing away with a unit that no longer performs as best as it should, but, you’re also bringing in a new, upgraded and modern unit with more advanced features and increased efficiency.
Doing a DIY replacement shouldn’t be a problem if you’re good with appliances. However, you should consider calling a professional if things appear too complicated for you.