What is an Electric Fireplace Insert?

Amy Hunter
Amy Hunter

An electric fireplace insert is an electrical stove that slides into an existing fireplace. These inserts are made to resemble a traditional fireplace. When the insert is lit, realistic-looking flames leap from logs.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

For people that live in an older home, an electric fireplace insert allows them to use an existing fireplace that may not be suitable for burning wood. If the chimney is damaged, it would not be safe to build a traditional wood fire in the fireplace. A fireplace insert requires no ventilation, so it is perfectly safe to use in this type of situation.

Another great feature of electric fireplace inserts is that they can be lit without turning the heat on. This means that you can enjoy the atmosphere of a fire, complete with flickering flames, without the heat. This makes an electric fireplace insert a wonderful decorative accent.

An electric fireplace insert is very practical as well. The typical insert will produce between 4,000 and 5,000 BTUs of heat. This is enough for it to be the only source of heat in a room that is around 400 square feet. For this reason, electric fireplace inserts are a nice choice in rooms that are not attached to a home’s existing ductwork, such as a sunroom.

Of course, the fireplace insert does not have to be the only source of heat in a room. If the fireplace is in an area of the home where your family congregates, you can light the fireplace and turn down the thermostat a few degrees. This will keep the temperature lower in the rest of the house, lowering your utility bill. At the same time it allows you to remain comfortable in the area of the home where you spend the most time.

There are inserts available for every size fireplace. Older homes that have coal burning fireplaces are often smaller than the wood burning fireplaces that we see today. There are fireplace inserts available for both types.

A fireplace insert is easy to install. They slide quickly into place. Most run off of a traditional 110 volt, three plug electrical outlet. Fireplace inserts can remain in place indefinitely, but they don’t have to. If your fireplace is in good condition, you can easily slide the fireplace insert out and have a traditional wood fire whenever you like.

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Discussion Comments


@Feryll - You might also want to consider a gas fire insert. I think the flames are more like those of a wood burning fire than the electric insert flames. They are also more efficient than wood burning fireplaces.


@Feryll - Most people think wood burning fireplaces are a good way to save on heating costs, but in most cases this is not true. For one thing, if you have to pay for wood then you will soon learn it is not cheap. The better quality and more seasoned wood you get the more you will pay. Unseasoned wood is more likely to smoke and cause the problem you described.

Also, wood fires and open chimneys are not very efficient. You are losing more heat than you are gaining. That big opening where the smoke leaves the fireplace also lets in cold air and sucks out most of the warm air. An electric flame fireplace insert is going to give you more heat.

If you absolutely want to burn wood, you should get a wood burning insert. This will be more efficient than the open fireplace.


I love fireplaces. I grew up in an old house that originally had fireplaces in all the rooms except the kitchen, and the bathrooms of course. When my girlfriend and I were looking at houses to buy, one of the reasons we chose the one we eventually purchased was because it has two fireplaces.

Unfortunately, the fireplace in the bedroom didn't turn out as well as we had hoped. I started a fire in it during the winter and the fire smoked up the rooms really badly. I know putting in an electric fireplace insert will not be the same as a real wood-burning fireplace, but I'm hoping it will be close enough so we can get some enjoyment out of the fireplace.

I am bothered that we will be paying for electricity rather than burning the wood, but that can't be helped.

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