At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is a Wood Burning Insert?

Kate Monteith
Kate Monteith

A wood burning insert may be used to refurbish an existing fireplace, or to finish a fireplace in a new construction. Wood burning fireplace inserts are self-contained and relatively easy to install, with all the components needed to provide the warmth of a real wood fireplace in one energy-efficient package. The front of the wood burning insert is generally encased in glass, and an adjustable fan blows a stream of heated air into the room through vents.

The crackle and aroma of a nice, warm log fire is very enjoyable for many people. And, while non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal or gas do burn cleaner than wood, they cannot truly duplicate a wood fire. Unlike coal or gas, wood is a renewable resource. However, open wood fireplaces provide inefficient heating, allowing most of the heat to escape right up the chimney. A wood burning insert is made to be extremely energy-efficient, and to provide a cleaner burn than a wood furnace or typical fireplace.

One example of a wood burning insert is called a pellet stove, which burns eco-friendly wooden pellets.
One example of a wood burning insert is called a pellet stove, which burns eco-friendly wooden pellets.

Heating efficiency is measured in British thermal units (BTUs), with around 25 to 30 BTUs recommended for each square foot of space (approximately .304 square meters). A wood burning stove insert will achieve about 75% efficiency compared to around 25% for an open fireplace. It is clear that wood fireplace inserts far outpace open fireplaces in energy savings, providing an inexpensive, alternative heating source. By installing a wood burning insert, consumers can enjoy the natural heating properties of a wood fireplace while minimizing environmental damage.

One type of wood burning insert is known as a pellet stove. A wood pellet stove provides clean and even home heating, with compact little pellets for fuel. The pellets are made of wood waste byproducts and other biomass materials, such as wheat hulls, making wood pellet stoves an especially environmentally friendly heating source.

A wood burning insert or wood stove can be a practical addition to a household in several ways. An electrical outage presents less of a problem with an efficient wood fire available, especially on a cold night. Consumers need only to ignite a few dry logs and some timber, and light and heat will be available for hours. Both wood stoves and pellet stoves come in a variety of designs, from elegant built-in fireplaces to old-fashioned stovepipes. The wood fireplace insert comes in standard sizes, or can be a custom fit. Some wood burning inserts even come with a cook top, giving consumers a way to enjoy a hot meal without the use of a kitchen stove.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

Drentel - You don't have to give up the crackle or the pleasure of watching the flame with a wood burning fireplace insert. If you get one with the clear front window then you can see the fire. And it is safer since the fire is contained.

Also, I read that with a regular fireplace when the temperature outside drops below freezing, you are actually losing more heat through the chimney than the fire is creating. Open fireplaces look great, but when you need heat they are not the best way to go.


Drentel - The great thing about the inserts is you can get a wood burning insert blower and the heat created can actually heat an entire room rather than you having to sit directly in front of the fire to feel the warmth.


I love an open fireplace. There's nothing like the flame, the crackling and the warmth. However, after reading this article, I'm seriously considering going online and researching wood burning firebox inserts.

I had no idea open fireplaces were so inefficient. If an insert is actually 50 percent more efficient then I think they are definitely worth investigating.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • One example of a wood burning insert is called a pellet stove, which burns eco-friendly wooden pellets.
      By: Coprid
      One example of a wood burning insert is called a pellet stove, which burns eco-friendly wooden pellets.