Shopping for a wood-burning fireplace Insert – or an electric insert that looks like one?
You’re in the right place.
Only a few things feel as satisfying as spending time with your loved ones by an ambient, cozy fire.
While many houses have masonry-style fireplaces already built into them, the hassle of creating a fire from scratch can be too much work. Not to forget the harmful fumes and the cleaning afterward.
Fortunately, these days you can enjoy the same ambiance with a good wood-burning fireplace insert or an electric fireplace insert that simulates a log fire.
Fireplace inserts make it super easy to have a roaring, crackling fire in your fireplace without the mess.
They are available in a wide variety of sizes, styles and feature options, so you can easily find one compatible with your fireplace.
What’s In This Buying Guide
In this guide, we recommend and review the best wood-burning fireplace inserts available on the market.
We review wood-burning models as well as ventless and electrical models to help you find a suitable one for your fireplace. In our reviews we describe their features and list the pros and cons for comparison.
We also provide a brief shopping guide that discusses the key features and issues you should consider. Plus, we list some installation, cleaning, and maintenance tips to retain the new look of your fireplace insert.
Finally, we discuss some important safety tips and answer commonly-asked questions in our FAQ section towards the end.
So let’s get started with our list of top picks this year:
Best Wood-Burning Fireplace Inserts
Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com
- Best Budget Pick: Valuxhome Electric Fireplace with Log Speaker
- Best for Small Rooms: PuraFlame Western Electric Fireplace Insert
- Best for Medium Rooms: Duraflame Electric Log Set Heater
- Best for Large Rooms: Ashley Hearth AW1820E Wood Stove Insert
- Best for Extra-Large Spaces: Breckwell SP24I Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
1. Best Value: Valuxhome Electric Fireplace with Log Speaker
The Valuxhome 36-inch electric fireplace insert perfectly imitates a wood burning insert. It generates 5000 BTUs of heat which are enough to warm rooms up to 400 square feet.
This fireplace insert is a good choice for buyers on a budget. It comes at an affordable price, is very easy to install, and comes with a remote control for easier operation.
The built-in heater has two heating levels – high and low. Plus, the heat output is enough to keep you warm on cold nights.
- Electric fireplace insert that imitates real wood burning
- Remote control
- Multicolor top light & log speaker
- Can heat rooms up to 400 square feet
- Simple to install and operate
- Automatic shut-off for safety
- Timer and built-in thermostat
- Both heat and heatless functionality
- Not suitable for large rooms
- Don’t use as a primary heat source
The Valuxhome Home Lux Fireplace with Log Speaker is a realistic-looking electric fireplace insert that perfectly imitates its wood burning counterparts.
The device features a natural-looking resin log set that looks convincingly real. While burning, the Home Lux also produces wood burning sounds to provide a more authentic feel.
You can adjust this Valuxhome insert to produce heat on two different levels. Put it on high to chase the biting cold away, and when it is cozier, you can reduce the heating to medium to maintain a comfortable room temperature.
And if you want to use it during summers, you can turn off the heating and continue to enjoy the ambient effect of the flickering flames.
2. Best for Small Rooms: PuraFlame Western Electric Fireplace Insert
The PuraFlame Western Electric Fireplace Insert is a best-selling faux wood burning fireplace insert with great customer feedback to back it up.
It features a sleek and modern design that sits well in your fireplace.
This PuraFlame unit produces enough heating to warm a 400 square feet room. You can run it both with and without heating. Plus, the heating is adjustable with a built-in thermostat.
- Life-like resin log set
- Subtly hidden control panel and heat outlet vent
- Quick installation
- Produces realistic crackling sounds
- The flat bottom directly sits on the floor
- Convincing imitation of real wood-burning stove insert
- Remote control for easy operation
- Requires no venting
- 3 flame settings with variable brightness and intensity
- Low maintenance
- Cannot work as a primary heat source
- Batteries for remote not included
The PuraFlame Western Electric Fireplace Insert is a beautiful wood burning fireplace insert that runs on a plug-in power supply.
You can easily insert it into your existing fireplace, thanks to the flat bottom. It snugly fits inside suitable fireplaces and heats the room without burdening your energy bills.
This PuraFlame insert has a built-in heating system that can efficiently heat areas up to 400 square feet. You can adjust the heating level with the remote control. This fireplace insert heats on high and low, allowing you to adjust it according to your needs.
A noteworthy feature of the PuraFlame Western Electric Fireplace Insert is its customization. The resin log set sits on a faux brick fire chamber for an authentic look. You can use the remote control to adjust the flame intensity and brightness.
A button for sound adjustment also lets you choose between 6 different wood crackling sounds that further enhance its wood burning effect.
3. Best for Medium Rooms: Duraflame Electric Log Set Heater
If you want the authentic wood-burning feel but don’t want a bulky fireplace insert, you should check out the Duraflame Electric Log Set Heater.
It features a large resin log set installed over a heating base. The unit slips inside the fireplace and generates both heating and flickering effects reminiscent of an actual fire.
The Duraflame Electric Log Set Heater generates enough heat to warm rooms as big as 1000 square feet. Plus, the integrated crackling sound enhances the wood burning effect.
- Plugs into any standard 120-volt wall outlet
- Heats areas up to 1000 square feet
- UL safety certified
- Handheld remote
- Inner glowing logs
- Breathes new life into your empty fireplace
- Comes with a multi-functional remote control
- Powerful quartz infrared heater
- Manual controls and remote control
- Short cord length
- Manual controls aren’t the easiest to use
The biggest selling point of the Duraflame Electric Log Set Heater is its considerably low price.
It creates realistic wood burning flickering flames and delivers supplemental heating to keep your room cozy.
Duraflame Electric Log Set is a durable one-piece unit that you can place inside your existing fireplace. It does not need gas or wood to burn.
Rather, it relies on electricity to create a wood burning effect. And it uses LED lighting technology to create the flaming effect. These are both installed within the resin log as well as projected from the unit’s rear for an authentic touch.
This Duraflame insert uses a powerful quartz infrared heater to produce heat. A blower forces hot air from the lower part of the unit and directs heat out the front. Its central positioning means even heat distribution throughout the room.
4. Best for Large Spaces: Ashley Hearth AW1820E Wood Stove Insert
The Ashley Hearth AW1820E Wood Stove Insert is tailor made for masonry fireplaces. It is easy to install and use and generates enough heating to warm an area as large as 1,800 square feet.
It has a large wood capacity that can accept logs up to 18 inches long. Plus, its 75% efficiency and 6,900 BTU heating output are impressive.
- 1,800 square feet coverage
- 6,900 BTU heater
- Blower for even heat distribution
- Durable ceramic construction
- Cast iron door with cool-to-touch handle
- Simple and easy installation
- Large viewing window
- EPA compliant
- Efficient heating
- Sturdy and durable
- No remote control
The Ashley Hearth AW1820E is an elegant wood burning fireplace insert in black finish. The device has a wood burning chamber that burns wood to produce heating.
This Ashley Hearth is quite efficient, produces about 6,900 BTUs of heat energy, and delivers 75% of heat into the room. You can use it as a primary heat source to keep you warm and cozy during winter.
Installing the Ashley Hearth AW1820E insert is pretty easy. It slides into existing masonry fireplaces and utilizes an automatic spring-loaded adjustment to facilitate the installation process. Plus, a large faceplate seals the opening to conserve energy.
The AW1820E is EPA certified for its particle emission, so you can use it without any worries. The firebox can easily accommodate logs as long as 18 inches, but you’ll find the fire chamber to be a bit shallow since it offers only 1.15 cubic feet of capacity.
Regardless, the burn time is long, continuing for up to an impressive 6 hours.
5. Best for Extra-Large Spaces: Breckwell SP24I Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
The Breckwell SP24I pellet stove insert produces enough heat to warm an entire home in a pinch. It features durable metal construction with a black finish. You can also choose to customize yours from the different options available.
This Breckwell unit is rated to cover areas as large as 2,200 square feet. The maximum hopper capacity is 60 pounds, allowing it to deliver 70 hours of continuous burn time.
- Constructed with durable and sturdy materials
- Covers areas as big as 2,200 square feet
- High heat output of 50,000 BTUs
- 60-pound hopper
- Adjustable thermostat
- Large heating capacity
- Offers various customization options
- High-quality, durable construction
- Does not take up a lot of space
- Fire can go out suddenly
Despite being a pellet stove insert, the Breckwell SP24I Wood Burning Fireplace Insert delivers impressive performance.
Unlike standard pellet stoves, this unit produces up to 50,000 BTUs of heat, which is enough to warm an entire house. It can warm areas as large as 2,200 square feet at maximum speed, making it a great choice for a primary heat source.
A good thing about this Breckwell unit is its ease of installation. You can easily slide it into your existing fireplace and continue to use it as your main heat source.
In addition, the large hopper can hold 60 pounds of wood pellets. At full capacity, it can deliver a burn time of up to 70 hours.
Wood Burning Fireplace Insert Buying Guide
What is a Wood burning Fireplace Insert and How Does it Work?
While a wood burning fireplace insert may initially look like an actual fireplace, it is actually more economical, low-maintenance, and affordable.
A traditional fireplace is an open structure that connects to a chimney, allowing fires to burn inside it.
On the other hand, a wood burning fireplace insert is usually an enclosed structure with an exhaust hole. It goes inside the open fireplace to replace the open fire, which can be a hazard if not appropriately tended to.
The insert keeps the fire inside and allows the fumes to only exhaust out of the chimney, lowering the risks usually associated with open fires.
So how do wood burning fireplace inserts work?
Just like a masonry fireplace, wood burning fireplace inserts also use wood to generate light and heat. They have a front opening chamber with a firebox inside.
Some of these feature auto-ignition that allows you to build a fire conveniently. All you have to do is load the logs inside the firebox and press the ignition for the fire to start.
These fireplace inserts have blowers to distribute heat around the room and an exhaust hole to expel the smoke and toxic carbon monoxide fumes outside through the chimney.
What to Look for
Wood burning fireplace inserts come in a variety of designs and styles. Of course, they differ in terms of features and functionality too.
While finding the right one for your fireplace greatly depends on your requirements and budget, some important things to look out for include:
Your biggest consideration when choosing a wood burning fireplace insert should be your fireplace’s size. You can go all out and purchase the best, most beautiful fireplace insert, but all your effort and money will be wasted if it does not fit inside your fireplace.
Knowing the exact size of your fireplace can help find the most compatible fireplace insert that not only fits well but also completes the fireplace’s aesthetic appeal.
If you don’t already know the dimensions of your fireplace, go ahead and measure it and then compare it with the model you have shortlisted to find a suitable model.
Efficiency rating determines the insert’s power consumption. The higher the efficiency rating, the less electricity it will consume.
An energy-efficient device will surely save you money in terms of lower energy bills. So even if you find the upfront cost of an energy-efficient fireplace insert to be high, we suggest going for it because it will pay for its cost by reducing your monthly electricity bill.
Keep in mind that some manufacturers fake their energy ratings, so look for a model with an EPA-issued efficiency rating. Doing so will ensure that your money doesn’t go to waste.
Each wood burning stove insert has a specific area limit that it can heat effectively. This is known as its heating area. Some models can heat areas as large as 2,200 square feet, while others perform optimally in rooms measuring 400 square feet or below.
When looking at different units, be sure to choose one that effectively heats the room you want to install it in.
For example, if your room measures 500 square feet, choose a unit with an area coverage of at least 500 square feet. Any less, and it won’t deliver the desired results.
And, of course, your wood burning stove will require more wood if you have a bigger room. You can determine the power you require by using this BTU calculator.
Wood Capacity & Burning Time
A wood stove insert’s wood capacity shows how big the logs it can hold. The bigger the wood capacity, the less time you’ll have to spend chopping wood.
Most wood burning fireplace inserts can easily hold logs as big as 18 inches. But some models require smaller logs for efficient burning. A few even rely on wood pellets as fuel to produce heat.
Similarly, a wood fireplace insert’s burning time shows how fast it consumes the fuel (wood). If it burns wood slower, it can heat bigger rooms in less time without needing constant refills. But if it consumes wood quickly, it won’t be able to heat the room efficiently.
When comparing different options, be sure to choose one with a high wood capacity and burning time. This way, the insert will heat the room more efficiently without you having to refill it very often.
As mentioned earlier, manufacturers often fake their wood stove fireplace insert’s efficiency rating to boost sales. To avoid getting scammed and ensure efficient heating performance, look for an EPA-approved model.
EPA tests and measures the performance of different heating and cooling devices and issues its efficiency rating based on the results. Units that comply with EPA’s energy-efficiency standards are then given EPA approval.
Cleaning & Maintenance of Wood-Burning Fireplace Inserts
Since the fireplace is the focal point of your room, you should be very particular about its cleaning and maintenance.
Here are some tips for maintaining your wood burning fireplace insert in an appealing and functional form:
Clean its insides
Wood produces a variety of by-products that collect inside your insert’s fire chamber. You should clean the ashes and soot after each burning session. Doing so will not only improve its aesthetic appeal but also make the fireplace insert more efficient.
Use the right wood
If you think all kinds of wood are created equal, you can’t be more wrong.
Seasoned hardwood like maple, cedar, and oak burn more efficiently, generate more heating, and produce fewer by-products. The logs you burn in the hearth should be properly dried to ensure maximum efficiency.
Inspect the vent
The vent is the most important component of a wood burning fireplace insert. It expels fumes, including toxic carbon monoxide, which can be a health hazard if leaked indoors.
Check the vent for cracks, rust or dent. Also, make sure that the chimney cap is intact so that rain or birds don’t come inside.
Take safety precautions
As the homeowner, it is your responsibility to ensure everyone’s safety. You can start by ensuring that all the combustible furniture and carpeting is far away from the fireplace.
It is also important to use proper tools while cleaning the insert’s insides. Never leave the door to the chamber open or unattended, especially around children. Always extinguish the fire when going to bed or out of the house.
Installing a Wood Burning Fireplace Insert
Installing a wood burning stove insert is not difficult. If you know your way around some tools, you can manage to install it yourself without having to hire a professional.
- Measure your fireplace’s dimensions and purchase an insert accordingly.
- Take a large piece of cardboard and place the insert over it.
- Now push it into the fireplace as far as it goes.
- Your insert will need some sort of electrical connection for ignition and blower functions. Make sure you have one in place. If not, hire a professional to install one for you.
- Now take an angle grinder and grind the bricks to create a smooth surface for the best insert to stand on.
- If the fireplace has a gas line, block it and shut off the supply line.
- Take a pulling cone and connect it to the vent liner’s outer end. Tie a rope to the pulling cone.
- Go to the roof and drop the rope into the chimney.
- Insert the vent squarely into the chimney. Position it perfectly into the fireplace vent opening.
- Remove the pulling cone and attach an adapter elbow at the end of the vent.
- Apply pressure to pull down the vent liner. Go to the roof and use tin snips to trim the liner.
- Take a silicone sealant and apply it around and over the upper edge of the flue tile.
- Also install a chimney cap to block the chimney during rain.
Pros and Cons of Wood Stove Inserts
- They fill in the empty fireplace and blend well with most interior decors
- Powerful heating devices with more heat output than a conventional fireplace
- Often equipped with blowers for better heat distribution
- Quite user-friendly with little to no smoke and fewer emissions
- Continue to work even during power failures, which makes them great for use during winters or storms
- High-quality wood burning stove inserts cost more than other heating methods
- Require a steady supply of hardwood
Since wood burning inserts produce an actual fire, you have to be very careful about your and others’ safety. This applies to installation, operation, and even woodcutting.
You should carefully read the user manual to ensure that the unit’s installation is simple enough for you to handle. If you’re even a little doubtful, we recommend you hire a professional for the installation as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Most inserts require some sort of electrical power source. If you’re unsure of anything, hire a licensed electrician. Do not mess with electrical circuitry, as the smallest mistake can lead to hazardous consequences.
When chopping up hardwood, be careful with the axe. Also, be sure to keep bystanders at a distance because small splinters of wood sometimes fly around as you chop wood.
Lastly, fire safety. Be very careful around live flames. Never open the combustion chamber when the fire is at its peak – not even for roasting s’mores.
Keep combustible items away from the fireplace and ensure children’s safety by not allowing them to approach the fireplace. Never keep the fire burning while you sleep or step out of the house.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between a wood stove and a fireplace insert?
A wood stove is a standalone heating device that can produce high amounts of heat to warm an entire house.
A fireplace insert is a slightly smaller stove, whether gas, wood, or electric, that goes inside a fireplace and heats the room where it is installed.
Where fireplace inserts are smaller and more eye-appealing, wood stoves are bulkier and more space-consuming. Plus, wood stoves burn more efficiently and produce more heat than a fireplace insert.
Wood Stove vs. Gas Fireplace Inserts: Which is the best option?
It all really comes down to your preference. If you already have a fireplace in your home, a fireplace insert is a better option. But if you want a heating system for the whole house, opt for a large wood stove.
Which is better, a wood stove insert or a pellet stove insert?
While a pellet stove insert is certainly easier to install and less space-consuming, it typically produces less heat than wood stoves.
Wood stove inserts might be bigger and bulkier and sit partially in and partially out of the fireplace, but they are more efficient when it comes to heating.
Which is better, catalytic or non-catalytic wood burning insert?
Catalytic wood stove inserts offer better control over the fireplace experience. They boast extended burn times and have a more stable heat output than their non-catalytic counterparts.
However, non-catalytic stoves have higher efficiency ratings and can warm larger areas. In the end, it all comes down to your needs and preferences.
How Do I Turn My Gas Fireplace into a Wood Stove Insert?
Gas fireplaces don’t have a chimney and flue installed, so if you want to convert yours into a wood stove insert, you’ll need to completely replace your fireplace.
Once you have a venting solution for smoke expulsion in place, you can simply block the gas supply line and install a wood stove insert in its place.
Final Verdict: What are the best wood burning fireplace inserts sold today?
Wood burning fireplace inserts are ideal for putting your high-maintenance masonry fireplace to work. They are easy to use and provide sufficient warmth to keep you cozy and comfortable on the coldest days.
If you need a powerful-heating unit, the Breckwell SP24I high-capacity pellet burning insert will produce 50,000 BTU of heat to warm a large home.
If you instead need a genuine wood burning fireplace insert for a modest sized living room, the Ashley Hearth AW1820E is a great option. It can accommodate logs up to 18 inches and provide continuous heat for up to 6 hours.
Finally, if you want a realistic electric fireplace insert that mimics the look and warmth of a real wood fireplace, check out the extremely popular and top-rated Duraflame Electric Log Set Heater. Using quartz infrared heating technology, it produces around 4,600 BTU of heat which is enough to warm a 1,000 square-foot open plan living area.