A common fixture of many homes built nowadays is the inclusion of a fireplace. The problem is that many homeowners don’t use their fireplaces, so this space is wasted. When people do use their fireplace they’re often disappointed to find out that the heat doesn’t radiate into the rest of the room. So what’s a fireplace owner to do? Read our wood burning fireplace inserts reviews and get an insert that’s what! These small wood burning stoves fit inside your existing fireplace, but have a construction that allows them to radiate heat to the entire room. They can be used for extra heat, while at the same time keeping your room looking nostalgically elegant.
Best Fireplace Insert Reviews: Wood, Pellet, Gas, Electric, and Infrared
#1 Napoleon Timberwolf Economizer EPA Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
- Heats up to 2,000 sq feet
- Cast iron door
- EPA certified
The Timberwolf is one of the best wood inserts, and earns this status due to a combination of value and reliability.
- Heat Output: Reviewers loved this stove’s reliable heating and high output even when using subpar fuel like semi dry wood. This is not a stove you need to worry about overusing, because people have ran it for extended periods of time (~3 months) without any issues. When it comes to doing it’s job and heating the home you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option
- Clean Burn: This is an incredibly clean burning stove that produces very little creosate not to mention ash. The end result is that you save money, because the maximum amount of heat is extracted from your fuel. Additionally, there’s a lot less ash and gunk to clean up, so it is a win-win.
- The Price: The price may seem high to first time stove buyers, but you can easily spend much more for a stove that heats such a large amount of square feet. With this reasonable price you are also getting an attractive stove with an intensely reliable heat output (non catalytic).
- Complaints: There were two (minor) complaints about this stove. The first being that the metal used to make the stove is relatively thin, so the stove expands and contracts (due to heat) during usage. This causes some metallic popping sounds, but if you dampen the stove (i.e. adjust air vents after consulting manual) after inserting wood you should not have this problem. The other complaint is that the blower (included) is too loud, but this is a matter of personal taste. If you don’t mind something akin to a louder fan blowing then you’ll be content.
In the end, this is a solid insert that will keep you toasty warm and perform admirably for years to come.
#2 PuraFlame Western 33in Embedded Electric Firebox Heater
- Adjustable thermostat
- Fake flames
- Comes with remote control
The Western is currently the best rated insert on Amazon, and for good reason-It is well made, and mimics the appearance of a traditional wood fireplace. Obviously, nothing will look exactly like a real fireplace, but the Western’s combination of fake flames and realistic charred logs does a fine job.
- Heat: What is definitely not fake with this insert is the heat. This baby puts out supplemental heat for an area as large as 400 square meters. It won’t be as hot as a wood stove, but sometimes all you need is a little extra heat. You can also opt to run the insert without heat, and use the Puraflame solely for adding atmosphere (although no crackling wood sound).
- Build Quality: The construction on this unit is fantastic. It comes fully assembled, and the unit is precisely made and polished. The interior features the faux flames, which we discussed and is bordered by a brick interior.
- Portability: This electric heater is very ergonomically friendly. There are discrete handles built into the side to make transportation easier, the power cord has been lengthened, and the included remote is simple to use.
Overall, this is a well machined, quality product. If you don’t need a ton of heat, want to add an element of coziness to any room, and enjoy easy installation-this stove is for you.
#3 Napoleon Timberwolf Economizer Pellet Insert TPI-35
- 2,000 sq feet max heating range
- Burns for 25-30 hours
- 40-45 lb Hopper
This is the pellet version of the Timberwolf, and it is the same in its heat output, but the fact that it uses wood pellets for fuel brings up some extra considerations.
- Fuel Flexibility: One advantage to this stove is that it is certified to burn pellets and corn (50/50 ratio). If you are involved in agriculture, and have access to a lot of extra corn, then you now have a way of saving some money on pellets. Speaking of pellets, the hopper (stores the pellets) only has enough capacity for about a day of burning, so you will have to refill it daily.
- Extra Features: The back of the stove has a digital control panel that you can use to adjust the heat level. Additionally, there is an auto ignitor to help you light your fires faster. The heat output of this stove is substantial, and the high EPA efficiency rating of 76.3 will ensure you make the most of your pellets.
- Design: Other than what was mentioned above, this stove is pretty similar aesthetically to the wood Timberwolf (above). They both have cast iron doors, painted black design, etc. The only difference visually, will be the way the flame acts. The flame pattern on a wood stove is more natural and beautiful, while the flames in pellet stoves resemble furnace flames.
Overall, this is a great choice for a pellet insert, but if you are trying to heat a larger area we might recommend a different model.
#4 Dimplex DFI2309 Electric Fireplace Insert
- Most affordable
- Good for tiny rooms
- Plugs into normal outlet
This is an electric insert for everyone. Let’s put one of these in every home in America! In all seriousness, this is a tiny heater insert that gives off a pretty realistic fire for the money.
- Installation/Usage: It is dead easy to install (like all electric heaters), because it can plug into a normal wall outlet and it has adjustable heat settings. You could run this thing year round, and just adjust the heat output (ie. none in the summer/full blast winter) similar to the higher priced, best rated PuraFlame.
- Cons: The only downsides are the lack of real fire sound and the lower heat output. The first can actually be fixed with the purchase of a device known as a fire crackler sound system. These machines emit sounds to mimic the audio behavior of a wood fire.
The Dimplex is an affordable option that will appeal to those looking for a little supplemental heat, and a lot of supplemental atmosphere.
- Nine hand-painted logs
- Up to 1,500 sq feet of heating
- Uses Natural gas/propane
The ProCom is a no frills Amazon gas fireplace insert that sits beautifully in a fireplace, and sets a cozy tone with its creative fake log layout. The fact that you get 9 logs goes a long way in making the insert look more real.
- Zero Clearance: Since this insert is “zero clearance approved” you can actually install it flush to the interior fireplace walls without worrying about leaving air gaps. This results in a more natural look overall, because it makes it seem like the fireplace and insert are one piece.
- Cool Features: We love this insert, because of some convenient features it has such as sparking ignition (like what you would find on a grill) and the fact that it can automatically shut off. The fireplace screen and logs come attached and assembled, so setup is exceptionally easy. These attributes, combined with the convenience of using a remote control, make this a great all around contender for best gas insert.
Overall, this is a smart choice for the homeowner who isn’t ready to deal with a wood or pellet stove.
What are They?
An insert is made to solve one basic problem: you’re fireplace is inefficient and drafty, so you lose heat. What an insert does is seal off the fire from wind, and provide a space for air from the room to be heated (air travels between the frame and the actual stove insert). Inserts can be fueled by a variety of substances, but the most popular are gas, wood, wood pellets, and electricity. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but the outcome is the same-more heat and more efficient burning (less heat loss per unit of fuel). If you want to learn more about inserts, check out this Wikipedia article.
Types of Fireplace Inserts
Natural gas insert
These are some of the most popular because of their convenience. If you have a gas nozzle in your fireplace then you have an easy direct fuel source for a gas stove insert. The main benefit is that the fuel is sealed off, and that there is no need to deal with the cleanup or loading of wood fuel. There are two types of gas inserts.
- With Vent: This means that air from outside of your home is used for oxygen, while all the harmful gas is expelled.
- Without Vent: This means that you won’t give up any heat, but the downside is that the potentially harmful combustion fumes will exit into your home.
These normally come in the form of log inserts, which are fake logs that can be plugged into a normal 110v outlet, and which then radiate heat for a room about 200-400 square feet. The major benefit of electric is that it is very safe because no fire is actually produced. They also have 99% efficiency, which is extremely high relative to other stoves. The downside is that you do not get the beautiful appearance of real flames. Some inserts offer fake flame effects, but these rarely capture the nature of a real flame accurately.
Wood burners have been used for heating for centuries, but wood burning fireplace inserts are a more recent invention. These offer the traditional experience of using wood, but at a high maintenance cost. You have to source your wood (chop or buy), and you have to clean up the ash and start the fire (although some have ignition assist options). All this being said, there is still nothing that can rival the bucolic comfort of watching a wood stove burn.
Using a pellet stove is the second best thing to wood from a visual perspective. Pellet stoves are easier to keep clean than wood burners, but in the end they require daily chores as well. You will have to refill the pellets each day, and also perform weekly cleaning of the ash tray.
Wood Insert Installation
As usual we recommend professional installation for, because wood burning insert stoves (or any type of stove for that matter) can be dangerous when not properly installed. Depends on what type of insert you get, there are different procedures.
A log insert just involves placing the unit in the fireplace and plugging it in. Some more advanced electric inserts will come with what is called a “builder’s box” this is a container used to house the stove within the fireplace that must be constructed.
For Wood/Pellet/Gas stoves just consult with the pros.
Finally, make sure you measure your fireplace before buying an insert! It seems stupid to explicitly say, but you need to make sure the stove actually fits in the fireplace
Here are a few general tips when dealing with a fireplace box, as they are often called.
- We advise placing a screen in front of the fireplace while the stove is in use. This will help keep people and children away from the glass and metal which can get quite hot.
- Wait for awhile (at least 45 minutes, but it will differ based on which stove you own) before touching the stove after it has been turned off.
- Have a yearly fireplace checkup to make sure everything is functioning properly. These are not that expensive ($70-$175) and are great for peace of mind.
An insert is a great way for the majority of homeowners to incorporate a wood stove into their lifestyles. It fits with their existing fireplace, and offers a way of elevating any room. The fact that it can be used as an extra source of heat will be happily noted during those unforgiving winter months. If you ever need any more wood burning or heating reviews be sure to drop by again.
Decided against inserts and need help with installation? Check out our guide to wood burning stove installation cost.