Fireplaces vs Fireplace Inserts: What’s the difference?

A gas fireplace insert

Mark Twain once said that “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - 'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” That’s barely relevant, but it was a great opportunity to work in a quote by a Missouri boy and also use the word “‘tis.” The part that is relevant is that sometimes a seemingly small difference is actually quite large - for example between fireplace inserts and traditional fireplaces. 

If you’re still reading after that amateurish transition, let’s look at some of the differences between fireplaces and fireplace inserts. 

Traditional fireplaces are fairly simple. The fire burns in the firebox; then the fumes, soot, and smoke go past the damper and up the flue. You notice in the diagram below that there is a smoke shelf which helps to keep the smoke and soot from coming back into the firebox. A burning fire pulls air from its surroundings, warms it, and gives off radiant heat in the process. Traditional fireplaces are much less efficient than fireplace inserts because so much of the heat goes up the flue and not into the room. 


Fireplace inserts are more involved, for good reason. They employ several key features to capture a greater amount of heat before it leaves, which translates into a warmer home and fatter wallet. The most significant feature is an insert’s utilization of convection. In one sense, all fires pull cool air from below the burn and then exhale heated air at the top. But what an insert provides is a contained space and structure to maximize the heat. Instead of the lion’s share of heat going up the flue, that heat is captured, drawn over coils, and pushed into the room with a blower. 


While we have you here...let’s talk about the advantages of an insert . Here are just a few:

  • Energy savings. With tight-fitting, sealed doors and an effective convection system, inserts use far less fuel. Some newer fireplace inserts are achieving 80 percent efficiency ratings, which is much, much better than a traditional system. Burning less fuel is also more environmentally friendly.

  • Cost savings. Using less fuel will usually save money, depending on the fuel types. This reduction is due in part to requiring slower and lower burning. Fuel lasts longer when it’s burned more slowly. With energy prices rising, the efficiency and lower expenses as a consequence are even more significant.

  • Versatility. For inserts, there are many models of many types from many companies using many fuel sources. Not only do those options allow for a personalization matching your specific needs, they also provide copious styles to assist in the aesthetics of a home. Rustic, modern, traditional, and more - these styles make your fireplace a key accessory and often a focal point.

  • Safety. With a contained burn, effective exhaust ventilation, and other features, fireplace inserts lower the risk of sparks and embers igniting a fire in the room and also reduce carbon monoxide emissions. 

The Fireplace and More Store happens to sell a few inserts. With a wide selection of hearthy products, we offer excellent models from premier companies like Heat & Glo, Monessen, Outdoor Lifestyles, Quadra-Fire, and SimpliFire. If you contact us, expect to reach a company of knowledgeable, experienced professionals with a passion for matching you with the best fireplace products to fit your needs. Give us a chance to show you why we’re a growing, well-respected resource in the four-state area! 

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2009 Stephens Blvd.
Joplin, MO 64804

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