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About Different Types of Fireplaces and Accessories

Q- How do I make my current fireplace more efficient?

A- Traditional masonry fireplaces are not efficient. They draw air up the chimney whether you are burning wood or gas logs. The only way to make them more efficient is to stop or slow the air draft going up the chimney. A wood burning insert, gas direct vent insert, or a vent-free log are the best 3 options.

Question:- What is an insert?

Answer:- An insert is a fireplace box that is made small enough to fit into your existing masonry fireplace. The gas versions have aluminum liners to bring in combustion air from outside and an exhaust liner. They add heat without any loss from the room. Typically they have a fan system to force air around the box and kick heat out into the room. A surround or backplate is used to cover what is left of your fireplace opening. Wood inserts have a single stainless steel exhaust liner running up the chimney. Wood inserts have a small air inlet hole which takes just enough air from the room to keep the fire going when the door is shut. It burns the wood at a slow rate (7-12 hours on a load of wood). They also have fan systems to kick out the heat. This puts intense heat out with very little draft. The drawbacks are: your viewing area of the fire is reduced, if you have nice glass doors they have to come off, and they are fairly expensive.

Gas Burning Insert
Price range $2200.00 - $4500.00 plus installation. You will need a gas line, electricity, and liners pulled down the chimney.

Wood Burning Insert
Price range $1200.00 - $3500.00 plus installation. You will need liner pulled down the chimney and possible electricity to run a blower system.

Vent-free logs
Price range $399.99 - $800.00 plus installation. You will need a gas line.

Question: What about this third option? I've heard vent free logs have a lot of drawbacks?

  • These logs can operate with the damper completely open. These logs are 99.9% efficient and have oxygen depletion systems engineered into them. We recommend opening the damper 1/4 inch in a traditional fireplace. By leaving the damper vent open a little, you will never smell the odor that is sometimes complained about, and still, maintain a very high efficiency.
  • Vent-free gas logs (also called vent-less, non-vented) are tested to run with the damper completely closed or with the damper completely open. These logs are 99.9% efficient and have oxygen depletion systems engineered.
  • Vent-free gas logs (also called vent-less, non-vented) are tested to run with the damper completely closed or into them. We recommend opening the damper 1/4 inch in a traditional fireplace. By leaving the damper vent open a little, you will never smell the odor that is sometimes complained about and still maintain a very high efficiency. You will not have to modify your chimney, glass door, or fireplace opening size and look.

The drawbacks: the fire is not as realistic looking as vented gas logs, you may have to install a fireplace hood to push the heat away from a close fireplace mantel.

The fireplace is shown with a fireplace hood. These really deflect the heat $59.99 to $189.99 plus installation.

Question: Will glass fireplace doors improve my efficiency?

Answer: Glass doors are recommended to be open when the fire is burning at a high rate. Glass doors are tempered glass, not ceramic, so they can only be shut when the fire is dying down.

Other things you can do for efficiency

Grate blowers and firebacks help you attain more heat while the fire is going. Typically the room you are in gets warmer, but from a heating and cooling standpoint, the draft is still taking most of the air up the chimney. Lyemance dampers and glass doors help with your overall home's efficiency when the fire is not going.

Top mounted Lyemance dampers stop cold and hot air from getting into the chimney. They are easy to operate. Price range $149.99 - $299.99.
Cozy grate heaters can push as much as 40,000 BTU of heat into the room from the fire. They are available for vented gas logs and wood. Price range $429.99 - $589.99
Firebacks reflect and radiant heat from the fire into the room.

Question:- What if I do not want to modify my fireplace with inserts, or go with the vent-free gas logs?

Answer: Your best option is to go with a vented gas log. We carry vented logs from RH Peterson, American Hearth, Golden Blount, and Rasmussen. It gives you the beauty of a wood look, without all of the work. It puts back some heat into your room while it is running. This does require to have a masonry chimney.

Price ranges for complete kits depending on sizes start at $399.99 and up. Price will depend on the look, size and how you want to control it.

Question: My fireplace does not draw well, and I get smoke or fumes coming back in. What can I do to remedy this?

Answer: First, make sure the chimney is clean and the damper is opening completely. Second, the draw is controlled by 2 factors: the size of the chimney flue or stack should be 1/10 the square inches of the opening face of the fireplace, and the chimney has to be tall enough (2/10 rule) to get air flowing over the top which creates an upward draft.

Some houses have been added onto, and the chimney does not meet the height requirement. Sometimes you have to increase the height of the chimney. If you have a large opening and a small chimney size, you can reduce the size of your fireplace opening by using a smoke guard or fireplace door that covers some of the openings.

Adjustable Smoke guard by HYC


Questions: I am putting on an addition or would like to add a fireplace to the room. What is the best option?

Answer: Basically it strongly depends on what your goals are based on heat and looks. Your architectural design may limit your options.

Choices are as follows:

Electric: Not very realistic looking, but can go almost anywhere. It is expensive to run the heater element of the unit. The flame part is created by a light bulb.

Gas Direct Vent: Easiest efficient, and are heater rated. The fire is behind a sealed glass.

Vent-free fireplaces: Very flexible on location, put out tremendous heat. Works best as a supplemental heat source in older less tight houses, and in larger areas that have plenty of cubic feet of air space. Typically only low powered 10,000 BTU units can be used in bedrooms.

B-vent or Natural Vent Gas Fireplace: has to vent up through roof, least efficient or the gas types. They typically have weak looking flames.

Wood Burning Prefab: has to vent up through roof, least efficient. They can not be put in bedrooms. They can burn gas or wood.


Question- Why is there such a price range in fireplace doors?

Answer- Glass doors have 3 categories.

  • Stock is the least expensive where the sizes and colors are fixed. These door manufactures can mass produce the product keeping the price down.
  • Special Order is the next price category. The sizes are fixed, but the color, screen options, and glass color can be specified. They have to put these doors together one at a time with stock components.
  • Custom doors give flexible, size, frame options, screen options, and glass color. Arch fireplace, corner, and inside fit fall in this category. These are pretty expensive because you can specify any option, and the factory spends weeks custom making all the parts from scratch. Most glass doors are made with tempered glass, but the frame materials type, a gauge vary widely.
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