wood burning fireplace

Top 5 Best Wood Burning Fireplace Insert (Reviews & Buying Guide) 2021

Most people avoid wood burning fireplaces because of the challenges associated with traditional or masonry fireplaces. It makes sense since you’d have to endure a lot of smoke, use more wood, and the maintenance and repair costs aren’t cheap. In fact, those kinds of fireplaces are only about 10% efficient.

The best wood burning fireplace inserts offer more benefits compared to their traditional counterparts. You’ll still get a nostalgic feel but have an easier time since you won’t deal with some inconveniences.

Wood burning fireplace inserts make it possible for people to reduce their utility costs. Some of them have designs, which make them 80% efficient. They require less wood, have a high heat output, and even prevent the leakage of gases like carbon monoxide into your home. These are just some of the benefits they offer.

We went through tons of wood burning fireplace insert reviews to come up with this list. Our review consists of some of the best wood fireplace inserts on the market.

Wood Fireplace Insert Reviews

1. ​Drolet Escape 1800i Fireplace Wood Insert

Features Overview

  • 1.54 g/h average particulate emissions rate
  • Stainless-steel secondary air system
  • 77.2% efficiency

If you’re like most people, you’ve spent a lot of time looking for an eco-friendly wood burning fireplace. It’s only natural that you’d also worry about your health when it comes to pollutants. One great thing about this fireplace is that it’s EPA certified.

What this means is that it has been approved by The United States Environmental Protection Agency. As such, you can trust that this unit was tested to ensure that it’s less pollutant. Such fireplaces tend to burn wood completely, making it easier to clean the ashes afterward.

Product Highlight

It’s an excellent fit for people who want high-efficiency heat sources. It can heat spaces of up to 1900 square feet since it generates 75000 BTU. Once the fireplace is running, it can last for about seven to eight hours. So you can enjoy several hours of its cozy warmth, especially during winter.

However, you have to have a minimum fireplace opening of about 29in.W by 17in.D by 24in.H to install it. It’s also available in large and regular sizes, so you can choose the one that best meets your needs. The large model measures about 32inches by 50inches, while the regular-sized insert is about 29 inches by 44 inches.

You’ll have a clear view of the fireplace insert since it features an air-washed ceramic glass. It also has a heavy-duty door latch and a high-quality 130 CFM variable-speed blower. What’s more, the wood burning fireplace is designed with a heat activation Firebrick lining for even heat distribution and steel protection.

The Good/What I like

You will also be eligible for a $300 biomass stove tax credit if you buy this fireplace insert.

The Bad/What I don’t like

The model is new to some markets, so it hasn’t been used by many people. It’s not easy to assess its long-term performance.

Pros

Cons

2. Drolet Escape 1500-I Wood Insert with faceplate

Features Overview

  • 1.26 g/h emission rate
  • 29-inch by 44-inch black faceplate
  • Secondary combustion system

The Drolet 1500-I is one of the most efficient wood fireplace inserts on this list. It was manufactured as per the EPA’s new standards, so it has a very reasonable emission rate. The unit isn’t as powerful as the first Drolet model we came across, but it’s equally impressive.

Product Highlights

With this fireplace insert, you can heat 1800 square foot spaces. It’s an excellent way of upgrading your old masonry fireplace and bringing it back to life. The unit comes with a premium blower and produces a very low carbon footprint. Just like with the other Drolet model, you will also be eligible for a $300 biomass stove tax credit with your purchase.

The Good/What I like

It has a 65000 BTU heat output.

The Bad/What I don’t like

Not much information available about its performance

Pros

Cons

3. Drolet 60,000 BTU Escape Fireplace Wood Insert

Features Overview

  • Metallic black color
  • 4.3g/h emissions
  • High-quality Vermiculite

The third best wood fireplace insert on this list also comes from Drolet. Compared to the first two, you could say that this unit has the least heating capacity. This wood burning insert is an excellent choice for rooms that are about 500 to 1600 square ft. It is also a highly efficient EPA certified appliance.

Product Highlights

The fireplace insert is designed for quick and easy installation. It has excellent gas combustion thanks to its stainless-steel secondary-air system, and it’s about 75% efficient. Users like its uniform heat distribution. The unit’s firebox is lined with refractory bricks for exceptional results.

When you buy this wood burning fireplace, you’ll also get a Drolet faceplate, flexible Vortex stainless steel liner, a vortex connector, a screenless stainless steel chimney cap, and a stainless steel top plate. This model can also run for about five to six hours.

The Good/What I like

All the unit’s venting components are ULC/UL listed.

The Bad/What I don’t like

The fan takes long to turn on.

Pros

Cons

4. Napoleon EPI3C Oakdale Series Cast Iron Wood Insert

Features Overview

  • 55000 BTU heat output
  • EPA certified
  • Low profile design

This Napoleon fireplace insert features the largest ceramic glass viewing area on this list. The model comes highly recommended in wood burning insert reviews and with good reason. It’s about 21.3 by 26.5 by 17.3 inches in size and can heat up a 300 square foot room.

Product Highlights

It comes in a beautiful black finish and contemporary design, making it a worthwhile addition to any home. The wood burning fireplace insert offers consistent warmth and efficient combustion. It is also built according to the highest quality standards. The insert’s low emissions and high performance, are part of the reasons why it’s a customer favorite.

It’s an excellent fit for people with small spaces, and it has a firebox that’s designed to maintain its interior temperature. The insert can easily fit into appropriately sized fireplaces, and users can install it in different ways as well. However, one of the things that make it stand out is its “air wash” combustion system. This system is convenient since it helps keep the viewing glass clean.

The Good/What I like

The insert consists of heavy-duty cast iron material.

The Bad/What I don’t like

It takes some time to heat up.

Pros

Cons

5. Comfort Flame Builder Wood Burning Fireplace

Features Overview

  • Beautiful design
  • Self-contained unit
  • Uses Comfort Flame wood burning chimney pipe, IHP, or FMI

Lastly, we have Comfort Flame’s wood burning fireplace. This unit is part of the brand’s popular builder series. It’s an excellent small wood burning fireplace for people who are looking for reliable inserts for small rooms.

Product Highlights

The face of the insert is about 38 inches wide, but the firebox itself has a width of about 36 inches. Your purchase will also include a wire mesh screen, stamped louvers, and a steel grate. The wood burning fireplace comes with a 20-year limited warranty for the ceramic glass, firebox, and product body.

The Good/What I like

The fireplace comes with a refractory concrete full brick liner.

The Bad/What I don’t like

The glass bi-fold doors are sold separately.

Pros

Cons

Buyer’s Guide

Given that there are more manufacturers on the market, it’s become harder to differentiate between good quality fireplace inserts and knock offs. Even though we’ve provided you with high performing options, you only stand to choose the right unit for your home if you’re well informed. This buying guide includes some of the things you should keep in mind when making your selection.

1. The Size of the Woodburning Fireplace

We can’t emphasize enough on the importance of getting the right unit size for your heating needs. One of the things you can look at to determine the size you need is the square footage of the room or space where you’ll install the unit.

Most manufacturers indicate the heating capacities of their fireplace inserts, so all you’ll have to do is compare the provided heating information to your room size. You can also look at the BTU output numbers provided to determine how big or small the fireplace insert is.

If the insert is too big, it will end up overheating your room. However, if it’s too small for your room, the wood burning fireplace insert will burn less efficiently. Such a fireplace insert will also have more particulate emissions.

2. Type of Woodburning Fireplace

These fireplaces are either built-in or freestanding. Built-in models look more like traditional fireplaces, but they have glass doors. Their heat output is more like that of a furnace since they can heat up a whole house. They can even spread heat from your living room area down to the basement.

Freestanding fireplace inserts have a visible pipe and legs for support. They don’t have the same capacity to heat a whole house, but they can effectively heat up a room. Some of these inserts also have fans or blowers that help with the heat circulation.

3. Efficiency

We highly recommend that you buy a wood burning fireplace that is certified by the EPA. As we mentioned earlier, the EPA is The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Fireplace inserts that are certified have efficiencies of 70% and above.

What this means is that you’ll spend less time and money on wood. The fireplace will use a little amount of wood to provide you with the heat you need. EPA certified units also have less emission than their non-certified counterparts.

4. Features

Woodburning fireplace inserts come in different designs. You should go for a model that has less framing and a glass front if you want a great viewing area. Viewing areas create a lovely atmosphere and contribute to the aesthetics of the fireplace. Also, consider getting a unit that has a metallic or black steel finish if you’re going for a modern look.

FAQs

1. Why should I add an insert to my woodburning fireplace?

You should add one because traditional wood burning fireplaces are inconvenient and inefficient in many ways:

a) You lose most of the heat it generates through the chimney; they’re only about 5-20% efficient.

b) The open fire poses a fire hazard.

c) The fireplace generates harmful fumes and particles

An insert takes care of most of these problems:

  • They have an improved heating and venting system that generates more heat and directs it to your home. They’re about 60-80% efficient.
  • There is no threat of an open fire since it’s contained by the glass door.
  • They burn the harmful byproducts completely.
  • Wood supply lasts much longer, and maintenance time and costs reduce significantly.
  • You also stand to gain much more if you purchase an EPA-certified woodburning fireplace insert.

2. Can I install one myself?

Yes, it’s possible. Strictly follow the guidelines on the user manual.

However, it’s also advisable to have an expert install one for you. There are strict EPA rules and guidelines in regards to woodburning fireplaces. With that in mind, having a professional install one for you ensures maximum safety and adherence to these rules.

3. Is there a difference between a woodburning fireplace insert and a wood stove?

There is no difference between the two. A woodburning fireplace insert is also known as a wood stove insert.

4. What’s the difference between catalytic woodburning inserts & non-catalytic ones?

In catalytic wood burning, the pollutants released mix with other components to burn at a low temperature of around 500 degrees. This chemical process is known as catalytic combustion. As a result, you use less wood for cleaner and safer burning.

For non-catalytic burning to have almost the same results, it requires a temperature of about 1,100 degrees. However, they are more common because they’re less expensive and simpler to operate. They also don’t require catalyst maintenance or cleaning. Additionally, the flames are more visible.

Catalytic inserts are ideal for those who use fireplaces frequently and for longer hours. On the other hand, non-catalytic units are more suited for occasional supplemental heating.

There are hybrid versions that allow cleaner burning at both low and high temperatures. Some allow you to choose one of the two at a time.

5. Should I add a fan to my woodburning fireplace insert?

You can, but most fireplace inserts have pre-installed fans.

Fireplace blowers or fans increase the heating efficiency of your fireplace. They force the heat into your home, thus reducing the time and fuel it would normally take for proper heating.

You should keep in mind that they need to be plugged into a power outlet. They, therefore, wouldn’t work without electricity. Fans also produce some noise. If it is too noisy, be sure to call an expert for inspection or replacement.

In case you want to add a fan, ensure that the fan you want to buy is compatible with your fireplace.

6. How can I get rid of the odor in my wood-fireplace insert?

To get rid of the odor, you must first know its source.

First and foremost, thoroughly clean the fireplace before using it in case you haven’t used it in a while. In some cases, a buildup of particles and dirt tends to cause the smell.

Should the smell persist, you can disassemble the fireplace and inspect each part. If one of the parts is the source of the odor, thoroughly clean it as per the manual. In case the odor is still there, you can order for a replacement altogether.

The odor can also come from firestarters, among other sources. Feel free to contact the manufacturer for further assistance.

7. Can I convert it to a gas fireplace?

Yes, but it’ll cost you. It’s more challenging to convert wood burning fireplace inserts into gas fireplaces. You’ll have to purchase a suitable conversion kit and have an expert do it for you for safety purposes.

On the other hand, you’ll have an easier time if you’re trying to convert an original masonry fireplace instead of an insert. There are several ways to go about it, and most of them are straightforward.

Conclusion

Our recommendation for the best wood burning fireplace insert is the Drolet Escape 1800i Fireplace Wood Insert. The insert is certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It is eligible for government incentives and is 77.2% efficient. The fireplace also has a high heat output and can heat rooms that are 1900 square ft.

If you’re looking for something more affordable, we recommend the Comfort Flame Builder Wood Burning Fireplace. It comes with a 20-year limited warranty for the ceramic glass, firebox, and product body. It also features a refractory concrete full brick liner for uniform heat distribution.

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