We’ve come a long way from striking stones together or rubbing a bow against a stick to light a fire. Indigenous cultures often lit fires outdoors, or sometimes had a separate ‘cooking hut’ to avoid setting fire to their straw sleeping mats and entertainment spaces. Then, as our kitchen technology advanced, we got rid of fire altogether, replacing it with heated electric coils and filaments. Gas burners are still popular, so live flames haven’t completely lost their space. And barbeques are still largely done over open flames.
Still, for home heating, wood and logs over bricks hearths were gradually eased out of the picture … until they weren’t. As every area of life goes retro, hearths are coming back into fashion. We’ve missed the comfort of cosy parlour fires, though we’re not keen on the process of lighting the fire, cleaning the ash, or sweeping the chimney. Enter ‘inserts’.
Insert Vs In-Built
Many people use in-built and insert interchange-ably, but that’s not an accurate way to look at it. An in-built fireplace can be an insert, but an insert isn’t necessarily in-built. Here’s the difference. An in-built has to be professionally installed. It becomes a part of the wall, permanently adhering to the structure of the house.
In-builts are usually mounted flush against the wall, though they might be designed with a slight extrusion. They can also be positioned with double-sided or triple-sided fascia, in a central pillar or wall divider. Some even have different styling on each side, so they look like multiple fireplaces within the same unit. They are inserted into holes carved out of the wall an ensconced in place.
Conversely, inserts are positioned in a pre-existing hearth. However, theyare designed to maximise efficiency. In a traditional fireplace, the hearth is a large opening and the chimney is several feet wide. They were built that way to contain smoke and large flames, but it also meant much of the heat got lost in the brick instead of warming the house.
Heat Out And Heat In
Similarly, because the fire needed oxygen to keep burning, and because it warmed the air around the fire, this hot air became lighter and floated up the chimney, being replaced by cold air from the house. In that sense, the fireplace didn’t warm the rest of the house, or even the rest of the room. You had to be sitting right next to it if you wanted to feel the heat.
Fireplace inserts solve this problem in four ways. One, they use cowls or pipes to narrow the chimney opening so that less heat floats up and away, and more is retained within the home. Two, they use a firebox to contain the heat from the fire, keeping it within a restricted space. Three, they use air circulation systems like fans and louvres to redirect the heated air back into the room instead of out the chimney. And four, they use a glass door to prevent heat loss through the front-facing portion of the fire.
Furnace inserts sometimes have panels that seal the firebox in place, covering up the excess space in the fireplace. This enhances heat distribution. The fireboxes have heat banks and insulator bricks that raise temperatures inside the fireplace, ensuring that the fuel burns more completely so that there are fewer emissions and barely any smoke. Meanwhile, the glass door offers a view of the gorgeous flames.
Multiple Fuel Options
Lopi insert fireplaces are some of the most popular models, but inserts aren’t always wood-burners. Sometimes, they are fuelled using gas, electricity, or ethanol. In these three cases, the fireplaces are often enhanced using artificial logs, driftwood, coal embers, ceramic coals, or crushed glass to simulate real fuel. These faux media are surrounded by flames that look and sound realistic, crackling, dancing and sometimes changing colour. It all adds to the visual appeal of the fireplace.
Many of these inserts have extra features like thermostats, remote control, and separate functions for heat and light, so that you can sometimes enjoy the aesthetic appeal of the furnace without actually turning on the heat. Inserts enhance the effectiveness of your conventional hearth by 5% to 10% while cutting down your fuel consumption, being kinder on the environment, and adding immense points to your home décor.