A crackling fire is one old-house accessory that’s always in demand on cold winter nights, adding warmth and ambience to a room. While wood- or coal-burning fireplaces traditionally kept folks warm in the depths of winter, modern inserts can do the same with aplomb. New units are more efficient, less polluting, present fewer safety hazards, and come in a variety of styles and sizes. Inserts and stand-alone coal baskets or woodstoves can be a good choice for retrofitting a traditional fireplace for better energy efficiency and safety, or for getting flames into a non-functioning original fireplace. They have historical precedent, too: Victorian gas fire-log inserts were a fashion statement beginning around 1890.
Today you can find an array of historic-minded inserts in a range of sizes that burn a variety of materials—from wood and gas to pellets and cherry pits. When making selections, size is one of the most important factors—both the size of your original fireplace opening and the size of your room. Small, old fireplaces can be hard to fit, while smaller rooms can overheat under today’s hyper-efficient, high-BTU inserts. Read on for more essential things to consider before buying a fireplace insert.