If your home has an open masonry fireplace, you may want to consider having a fireplace insert installed. A fireplace insert is a fireplace contained in a metal box that converts your home’s inefficient, masonry fireplace into a gas, wood-burning, or pellet stove. Many homeowners in the Washington DC Metro Area find installing a fireplace insert to be a great option to increase energy efficiency while maintaining the natural beauty of a fireplace. For this reason, many chimney and fireplace companies like ours find fireplace inserts to be in high demand.
How does a fireplace insert work? In simplest terms, a fireplace insert consists of two parts: a steel shell and a firebox. The firebox is designed to contain a fire (and its heat) so that rest of the room is heated with minimal waste. The steel shell surrounding the box helps to improve efficiency. Together, these two components work to make your home’s fireplace safer and more energy efficient.
Types of Fireplace Inserts
There are many different types of fireplace inserts, though a few of the most common types include
Not sure which is right for your needs? Explore some details about each fireplace insert below.
Gas Fireplace Inserts
When you’re looking to convert your fireplace into an efficient and low-maintenance option, gas fireplace inserts are an excellent choice. Some of the key benefits of installing a gas fireplace insert in your home include:
- Unrivaled ease of use! Just flip a switch to get your fire started; no need to buy firewood or pellets.
- Low maintenance! No ashes to clean out after each use and no dangerous creosote deposits to worry about building up.
- More precise temperature control than a wood-burning or pellet fireplace.
- Environmental friendliness! Fewer pollutants released into the atmosphere.
If you’re considering a gas fireplace insert, it is worth noting that the cost of fuel to run your gas fireplace will likely remain higher than the cost of firewood or wood pellets, so this should also be taken into consideration as you make your choice.
Wood-Burning Fireplace Inserts
If you prefer the look of real wood burning and the classic “crackle” of a traditional fireplace, then simply installing a wood-burning fireplace insert could be a wise choice. Some of the top benefits of wood-burning fireplace insert installation include:
- Being able to retain the look and feel of a “real” fire.
- Achieving the smell of wood burning, which many people enjoy.
- Improved energy efficiency when compared to an open wood-burning fireplace.
- Added safety when compared to an open fireplace.
Furthermore, the cost of purchasing firewood tends to be much less expensive than paying for gas or even pellets for a pellet stove. Keep in mind, however, that you will need a place to store firewood inside or outside of your home, and you will need to clean out your fireplace after you use it.
Pellet Stove Fireplace Inserts
For a compromise in benefits between a gas fireplace insert and a wood-burning fireplace insert, a pellet stove insert can be a smart decision. Pellet stove fireplaces operate by burning small pellets of compressed wood for safe and energy-efficient home heating. Some of the critical benefits of a pellet stove fireplace insert are:
- A lack of creosote or other potentially dangerous build-ups.
- Environmental friendliness! Pellet stoves produce very little smoke.
- The energy efficiency of a gas fireplace with a more realistic look and feel.
- Easy maintenance.
Other Important Considerations for Fireplace Inserts
While there are indeed many benefits of having a fireplace insert installed in your home, there are also some important considerations worth keeping in mind before you schedule an installation. For starters, with most types of fireplace inserts, your home will need to have an existing and functioning chimney for safe ventilation of pollutants and gases created as a fire burns. If your home’s chimney is in disrepair, this is something you’ll need to address before an insert can be installed and operated.
Overall, installation of a fireplace insert in your home can be a great way to improve energy efficiency and make your home’s fireplace safer. Now all that’s left to do is decide on the type of insert that best suits your needs and find a reputable company to handle the installation!
Many homes in the Washington DC area have gas fireplaces. When you own a gas fireplace, it’s important to know about some of the more common repairs. Some gas fireplace repairs can be done on your own while others require the help of a professional chimney sweep company like ours.
Fireplace Burner isn’t Turning On
You may find that when you go to light your fire, the burner isn’t turning on. If the pilot light is still working, it’s likely a problem with the thermostat. The good news is that you can often fix this on your own by checking that the current room temperature is below the thermostat setting.
If the problem isn’t in your thermostat, you may need a professional to help you with several other aspects:
- Faulty wiring
- Dirty orifice on the pilot light
- Thermocoupler needs to be replaced
Once a professional comes out, they can troubleshoot the issue and make the necessary repairs so your fireplace burner can begin working once again.
Fireplace Doors Not Sealing Properly
Often, the glass doors to your gas fireplace might not be sealing properly, which is a relatively simple fix. The first sign that will tell you that your seals aren’t in place is that you will smell the gas coming out of your fireplace. The clips and glass fasteners both have to be in place firmly.
The Ignition Isn’t Working
If you try to start a fire and the ignition isn’t working, you will need a repair of some sort. You may want to check the breaker box first to see if there has been a trip. Otherwise, it may be that you need to open the gas valve to restore the flow. If neither of these issues is the problem, you will want to get a professional in to check on the natural gas lines or the propane supply and to check the function of the wiring.
Gas fireplaces leave soot that can build up over time. You should be cleaning your fireplace on a regular basis so that you don’t get significant soot buildup. Residue can affect the oxygen flow within your unit. There may not be enough oxygen flow, or there might be too much gas flow. Additionally, you should consider getting a professional chimney inspection to find out if any blockages could be causing the problem.
A few other things that you can do for soot buildup
- Adjust the air setting
- Adjust the damper
- Align embers and logs according to fireplace instructions
- Clear off the combustion screen
- Remove leaves and debris from the chimney
When you can get soot buildup under control, it will help your fireplace to last much longer – and look its best, too.
A blower can create a grinding or shrieking noise. It may be an indication that the blower needs work. Loud blowers can be deceptive. Some older models are always louder than newer units. Newer technology has come out to provide fans that barely make any noise. You may want to call in a professional to see what they can do about your existing blower.
The type of gas fireplace you have may determine the kinds of repairs that you will have over its lifetime. For example, there are ventless and vented fireplaces. Unvented fireplaces shouldn’t produce soot.at all. In ventless fireplaces, you may experience odors as a result of such things as dirt, dust, and pet dander that get into the burner and the other components that are responsible for combustion.
Potential gas fireplace problems are the reason gas fireplaces should be cleaned every year. By keeping your fireplace clean, you can keep the unit in better condition. You can also catch problems at their early stages. Do the basics yourself and hire a chimney sweep every year to do the rest.
Want to learn more? Read this article from the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Homeowners across the Washington DC Metropolitan Area are reaping the benefits of having fireplaces installed in their homes. One of the most underestimated aspects of using a fireplace is preheating your flue. Many homeowners wonder why preheating your flue is so important. When there is a fire in your fireplace, cooler air from your home fuels the fire, the air above it gets hotter. The chimney flue provides allows the hot air to rise out of the house along with the smoke and other fire byproducts. Preheating your flue warms the chimney causing the air to start moving in the right direction. Below are some additional things that you should know about preheating your flue.
Things that you should check prior to preheating the flue
- Before using your fireplace it is essential to make sure that you have had your annual chimney sweep and cleaning. Preheating the chimney is a waste of time if your chimney is not safe to use.
- Is the damper open all the way? You’d be surprised at how many of us forget to check the damper position before building a fire.
- Is the chimney flue cold? Chimneys that are allowed to get cold between fires are full of cold air. This cold air acts like a plug because it is heavier than the warmer air in the room.
- Check to confirm your chimney is drafting properly.
- Open the damper all the way
- Use a lighter or match to see which way the air is flowing. The flame pulling upwards means the smoke will go that way, too. The flame pulling back into the room means that you need to preheat your flue or the smoke will also come back into the room.
How to preheat your chimney flue
When you know that the chimney has passed inspection, you know that there is probably nothing wrong with the chimney except that it is too cold to draw properly. Keeping the damper open while laying the fire will sometimes be enough to move some warm air into the flue but that can take up to a half hour and there are quicker ways to preheat the flue:
- Make four or five newspaper “torches” by rolling a few pages up tightly. Lighting a few of these torches and holding the flame up so the heat rises into the flue will usually heat the air enough to make a draft go up the chimney. This is the most common procedure and it works.
- A blow dryer or fan can be used to push the cold air up out of the flue. The warm air in the room draws after it and the flue is warmed. The air being blown up the chimney doesn’t need to be hot because the air from the room is still warmer than the air in the flue.
Other Tips To Help Your Chimney Vent Properly
- Cracking open a window (about one inch) helps the fire get started because it pulls more air in over the flames.
- Using dried, seasoned wood makes the fire burn hotter.
- Build the properly sized fire for your firebox.
- Use a metal grate so air can get underneath the wood.
- Build the fire as far back in the firebox as you can.
- If the fireplace has glass doors, open them so air can draw in from the room.
Remember that a cold flue can keep the smoke from rising so try preheating your flue the next time you start a fire. If you still are having problems, call a chimney specialist to evaluate what is going on.
There is a growing trend of gas fireplaces installations like ours in Washington DC. There are many reasons for this pattern. Some homeowners love not having to clean up ash. For many other homeowners, it comes down to how easy they are to use. Gas fireplaces also require fewer chimney repairs. There are many aspects to gas fireplaces. Below is essential information that you will need to know about gas fireplaces.
Advantages of Gas Fireplaces
Easy to Use
Gas fireplaces are incredibly straightforward and easy to use. The temperature can be set quickly, and they typically can be turned on or off at the push of a button. Just press a button and enjoy the warm, toasty feeling that you always want in the winter.
No Carrying or Chopping Wood
There is nothing fun about carrying stacks of wood in the bitter cold of winters in Washington DC. Chopping wood in the inclement weather is even worse. Even if you pick up wood from a local store, you still have to carry it. Many people choose gas to eliminate these inconvenience of carrying, chopping and handling the wood. The hassle of handling wood is a common reason why many people change their convert their wood-burning fireplaces into gas as you see here.
Wood leaves ashes when it burns. Gas does not. You don’t have to scoop out ashes when you’re done or clean soot off the grids of your fireplace.
Read this article to learn additional benefits of gas fireplaces.
Disadvantages of Gas Fireplaces
Higher Purchase Price
Perhaps the most significant obstacle of a gas fireplace, on the other hand, can be summed up in a single word: cost. According to the experts at HouseLogic, gas fireplaces have purchase prices that range 20%-30% higher than other options.
Higher Fuel Cost Compared to Wood
Gas fireplaces, as their name suggests, burn natural gas instead of wood or other fuel sources during operation. Depending on how much you’re paying for natural gas in your area of the country, along with how often you have the gas fireplace on in the first place, you could easily be looking at an operational cost of several thousand dollars per season.
With wood, on the other hand, all you have to concern yourself with is the cost of wood. Buying bundles of wood from a store are usually cheaper than natural gas. If you have a tree in your backyard that you’ve been thinking about chopping down all summer long, you’ve got enough wood to last you quite awhile to be sure. However, you may need to ask yourself what you are going to do the next season?
Types of Gas Fireplaces
Note that there are also a few different types of gas fireplaces that you can choose from depending on your needs. These include ones like:
These are the cheapest option concerning gas fireplace installation, as they’re mainly just a stack of ceramic logs with a built-in gas burner that sits inside your existing fireplace.
Gas fireplace inserts are installed within an existing fireplace opening. In doing so, they convert inefficient wood fireplaces into energy efficient, easy to use gas fireplaces.
Free Standing Fireplaces
As the name suggests, these are free standing gas fireplaces that do NOT require your home have an existing fireplace or a chimney installed. Free standing fireplaces vent through a metal pipe that extends from the unit out the roof. Installation requirements result in this being the most expensive gas fireplace option.
Gas fireplaces are also available in “ventless” and “vented” varieties. Vented options discharge all heat and exhaust up a chimney, while ventless units discharge into your house. Manufacturer of ventless fireplaces claims that the discharge does not present a health risk. However, many chimney professionals do not offer ventless out of safety concerns created by gases being released in the home. We recommend against going with ventless units.
Properly Maintaining Gas Fireplaces: Things to Consider
Once you’ve installed a gas fireplace in your home, the final thing you have to concern yourself with is maintenance. Gas fireplaces are far easier to maintain in the long run than their wood-burning cousins, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few things to keep in mind.
- Remember that dust, dirt and other elements can build upon the ports of your gas fireplace – eventually leading to clogging and inefficient burning. Always make sure to safely clean this build up at least once every few weeks for the best results.
- You should always have an annual inspection, cleaning, and adjustment of your gas fireplace performed to help address small problems before they have a chance to become much bigger and more expensive ones down the road.
- Clean the glass on both sides of your gas fireplace with glass cleaner at least once per month to prevent buildup.
- If you have a vented gas fireplace, always pay careful attention to the unit’s outside vent to make sure that dirt or debris are not blocking it.
- Inspect the gas fireplace gasket at least once a month to make sure that it isn’t cracked or missing any pieces. If it is, get this issue taken care of immediately.
Gas Fireplace Installation: Breaking It Down
The gas fireplace installation process itself isn’t necessarily the most complicated task in the world, but it should not be seen as a DIY project. We strongly suggest hiring a licensed chimney company to install your gas fireplace. Here are some of the steps involved with installing a gas fireplace.
- Review the manufacturer’s directions before choosing a location for your fireplace so that you are aware of all required clearances. Clearances from the fireplace box to the surrounding walls (along with the wood framing) will be specified in these directions.
Note that the vent will also need to be kept a certain distance away from insulation, wood and any other type of material that might combust.
Start by building a fireplace platform, which acts as a foundation to keep the base of your fireplace up and off the ground so that heat has a way to dissipate during use. You’ll typically build the frame (again – follow the specific manufacturer’s directions), cover it with drywall or another recommended material and secure it in place.
Unless you’re using a ventless gas fireplace (which we do not recommend), you’ll need to punch a hole in the wall of your home to install the vent that will eventually attach to the fireplace itself.
Once the actual fireplace unit is in place on top of the frame, you’ll need to build the wall surrounds that both help to keep it in place and help it achieve the desired look and feel. After this, you’ll likely want to add a mantel to the top of the structure for the sake of functionality.
At this point, you’ll also need to run a gas line directly to the gas fireplace unit itself. You may even need to run an electrical line if you’re installing a fan, remote control or another type of optional item.
Now, you’re ready to finish everything off. Once the gas fireplace unit is secure and in place (and you don’t need immediate access to the rear to install gas or electrical lines), you can cover the area in wood and drywall and paint to give it the proper finishing touches.
As you can see, there are many steps involved in installing a gas fireplace. It is important to remember that you are dealing with something that generates heat. When done correctly, installing a gas fireplace is lovely. When done incorrectly, it can threaten the safety of your home. Improperly installing a gas unit can lead to house fires. It is always best to hire a professional repair technician.
If you’re looking for a straightforward and efficient way to heat your home during those cold winter months of the year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than gas fireplaces. Pick the right type to fit your needs. Perform the recommended maintenance and your investment in a gas fireplace will serve you and your loved ones well for years to come.
Many homeowners in Washington DC are considering fireplace installation. Pellet stove fireplaces offer a home heating option that provides not only heat but also another place to cook. Knowing more about what they are, how they are installed, and the pros and cons will make it easier to decide if installing a pellet stove is an investment you want to make in your home.
What is a pellet stove fireplace?
A pellet stove fireplace is both a stove and a fireplace. It can burn a variety of materials, including biomass pellets and compressed wood. A source of heat is then created for your residential space. The fire is fed fuel from a hopper that goes into a burn pot area. By doing so, a constant flame is produced, reducing the physical adjustments that have to be made.
A variety of makes and models are available on the market. This ensures that homeowners can find a design that works with their overall décor.
A pellet stove fireplace is considered a renewable energy source. Depending on how it is operated, it can reach an efficiency factor of 90 percent or above.
The earliest concept of the pellet stove fireplace as in 1930, which included the Presto-Log made from scrap sawdust. In the 1980s, a miniaturized pellet stove emerged. Over the past 30 years, it has gone from being a box-shaped workhouse design to a modern appliance. They are often made from cast-iron or steel and then encased in stainless steel for exhaust and circuitry purposes.
How do pellet stoves operate?
There are various models of the wood pellet fireplace. Some will only burn pellets that are made from wood, bark, sawdust, and wood byproducts. Other models will allow you to use an array of biofuels, ranging from nutshells and barley to beet pulp and sunflowers.
Many of the units are electric. This means that you will be able to find some sophisticated units, many with control panels and thermostats that are wall-mounted. It will allow you to control the temperature more efficiently.
The pellet stove operates with the use of pellets. The pellets are compressed and may only measure about half an inch in length and diameter. They’re commonly available in bags that weigh 40 pounds. They could be made of any number of materials. The higher the quality pellet, the better the stove burns clean and hot. On average, a home will go through two tons of pellets in a heating season, which comes out to be approximately 50 bags at 40 pounds each.
The pellets are poured into a storage hopper located at the top of the stove. There is then an auger that sends the fuel from the hopper into a burn chamber. A sensor in the unit will monitor the fuel supply. If the amount is low, a signal will be sent to the auger to send more pellets down. The system is smart enough only to drop enough pellets to keep the fire hot, while still relatively small.
The stove contains a combustion blower that pulls air from the outside and through the stove. The smoke and fumes are then blown out through an exhaust vent. A convection blower also takes air from the room into the stove and blows out the heated air into the room. This is done through several heat-exchange tubes. The heat is delivered automatically based on the setting of the thermostat.
The only thing that you need to do is keep the hopper loaded with pellets.
A pellet stove has the potential to produce around 40,000 to 50,000 BTUs per hour, which can heat a living space of roughly 2,000 square feet.
Your maintenance on the pellet stove fireplace will depend on the model as well as the quality of pellets. Often, it will involve light daily maintenance and cleaning out the ash pan on a weekly basis. Be sure to read this article with maintenance tips for pellet stoves.
How are pellet stoves installed?
There are many options for pellet stoves. It is best to consult with a professional installer to review options and select what works best for your home and budget.
One popular option is a free-standing unit. The unit will be brought into the area where it is to be installed. Freestanding units can even be installed in homes that currently do not have a fireplace. It should have the necessary clearance from all combustible surfaces. The vent pipe is then attached to the stove. Ventilation pipes will need to go from the inside to the outside, which involves cutting and caulking. The power cord is then plugged in, and the hopper is filled.
Knowing a few things about a free-standing pellet fireplace will guide you:
- You will likely need a hearth pad
- The fire can be adjusted to burn hotter
- You can place a fireplace in virtually any room of the house
- You will save energy in comparison to running central heat
The other option is to install a pellet stove inside of a pre-existing fireplace. This is known as an insert. It might be more decorative and include a metal chimney liner so that all of the gases and smoke go up through the chimney. If you have an existing fireplace, this is likely to be the best option. Fireplace inserts have a reasonably simple installation process because the ventilation aspects are already done for you.
There are a few things you need to know about an insert:
- Uses existing ventilation system
- You must have an existing fireplace.
- Tends to have more style options
Regardless of whether it’s free-standing or going inside of a fireplace, it’s important to note that the average unit is around 400 pounds. This means that it’s best to get professional assistance with the installation. The stove also needs to go on a fire-resistant surface, such as stone or tile. If the room has hardwood or carpeting, a hearth pad will need to be installed first
The venting required will also vary based on where it’s being placed in conjunction with windows and doors. If the stove isn’t given the proper ventilation, it can lead to a lot of smoke and fumes lingering inside the home.
By working with an experienced fireplace installer, you can rely on them to design a system that is designed to work within your specific home.
Additionally, some thermostats will need to be installed. Many are hard-wired, but it’s also possible to invest a little bit more to get a wireless remote thermostat, which provides a lot of conveniences.
Advantages & Disadvantages of pellet stoves
It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of pellet stove fireplaces. It will make it easier to decide if it’s going to save money and provide the desired benefits inside the home.
There are quite a few advantages to installing such a fireplace:
- It is an eco-friendly option
- Lower heating costs in comparison to central heat
- It uses a renewable source of energy
- You reduce carbon emissions
You might not realize some of the advantages until after the fireplace is installed. For example, when you buy pellets from a local fireplace installer, you’re probably supporting a local business by purchasing their materials. This means you’re also giving your local economy a boost.
The cost of pellets has also been relatively low and has been stable over the past ten years. If you install the fireplace in a room where you spend a lot of time, you can lower your thermostat and watch the cost savings on your thermostat.
You will also want to explore tax credits that are available. You may qualify for credit up to 10 percent of the cost of the fireplace.
Just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages:
- The feeder needs to be kept full, which means loading daily
- The fireplace needs frequent cleaning
- Lower quality pellets will produce a higher amount of ash
- The cost of the unit is relatively high
- If your power goes out, you lose your heat as well
Most units recommend that the fireplace is cleaned lightly on a daily basis and more thoroughly at least once a month. This is done for safety as well as efficiency. You will have to decide if you want to do the cleaning on your own or hire a professional company to come in and do it for you.
Overall, it’s important to look at the various makes and models available to see what would work for within your home. If you use the heat a lot within your home, you can save a lot of money over time by installing a pellet stove fireplace. It’s a chance to be energy-efficient at the same time, thus allowing you to reduce carbon emissions and help the environment.