Difference Between Fireplaces and Inserts


The modern-day hearth industry is full of different products, and traditional fireplaces and fireplace inserts are two of the most popular ones.

While the two products perform very similar functions, they have numerous differences as well.

If you are someone who is not sure regarding which product to purchase, read on to know what both of them are, their similarities, and also their differences.

Understanding Traditional Fireplaces

There can be two types of fireplaces, and both types serve the same purpose- burn wood in a space with the resulting smoke being vented out by a chimney. 

The first type is more traditional of the two, and this involves creating space through construction using stones, bricks, or tiles.

The second type is more modern and has been popular ever since the industrial revolution kickstarted the rapid growth of mass-producing industries, resulting in the conception of the hearth industry. 

As demand for factory-built fireplaces skyrocketed, this second type became popular among homeowners who preferred installing new fireplaces into their homes, which were already constructed without a fireplace.

There are a few differences between the first type of traditional fireplaces and the second, factory-built type:

  • While factory-built fireplaces need outside exhaustion, they don’t necessarily need chimneys to be installed.
  • Modern-day factory-built wood-burning fireplaces are much more energy-efficient than classic wood-burning fireplaces.
  • Factory-built electric fireplaces are available in the market as well and are a hit with people who own modern homes due to their ease of installation and vent-free functionality.
gas log fireplace

Understanding Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts have the look-and-feel of traditional fireplaces, but they are meant to be installed through insertion into pre-existing fireplaces.

From their viewing ports to their glass fronts, inserts are much more compact in terms of size compared to traditional fireplaces.

In today’s times, fireplace inserts have as much variety to offer as factory-built fireplaces. You can pick from modern electric variants, gas-burning options, and wood-burning options as well.

What’s the Differences?


If you are purely concerned with how your living room is going to look with a fireplace, then there’s no doubt about it, traditional factory-built fireplaces are the better option. 

As these fireplaces feature much grander and more classic designs than fireplace inserts, they are typically more popular with the older generations.

However, modern generations are much more comfortable with inserts, as they don’t use up as much space as traditional fireplaces do. 

The designs of fireplace inserts also guarantee greater safety than traditional variants, as traditional variants feature open-combustion, whereas closed combustion is standard for inserts.

Energy efficiency

We are living in times where more and more awareness regarding energy efficiency and leaving carbon footprints is doing the rounds. 

Purely from an energy-efficiency and environmental perspective, fireplace inserts are much better than traditional variants. 

While traditional fireplaces only offered  10 – 15% energy efficiency, inserts typically offer more than 65% energy efficiency.

The numbers suggest that fireplace inserts offer much better heating than traditional options but also result in a significant reduction in heating bills. 

So if you are someone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on the fuel, you should steer clear of traditional fireplaces and invest in an insert.

Heating abilities

Conventional fireplaces are considerably bigger than fireplace inserts, and the fact that they feature designs that facilitate open combustion helps them in heating a single space much more than inserts. 

However, the greater heating comes at a cost, as energy efficiency goes for a toss with homeowners incurring exorbitant heating expenses. 

Traditional wood fireplaces also lose a lot of heat through the chimney, which is an obvious downside.

Even though fireplace inserts in their traditional form offer lesser heating than traditional fireplaces, many new and innovative designs are bringing revolutionary changes. 

Several modern fireplace inserts feature multiple fans and varied thermostat controls, allowing heat to be pushed towards different areas of a home. 

So if you want an entire floor to be heated instead of just a single room or space, it’s much better to invest in an insert with thermostatic controls and fans.


Both traditional fireplaces and fireplace inserts can be considered long-term investments as they are expensive, but when you compare them, it’s easy to see why more people in today’s times are choosing inserts over conventional fireplaces. 

While fireplace inserts need an existing space for a fireplace to be constructed, the long-term expenses are far lesser compared to factory-built fireplaces.

When you take all the expenses involved into consideration, such as construction expenses, the cost of the specific product that you purchase, and also the costs associated with heating, there’s a clear winner; fireplace inserts. 

From an affordability standpoint, fireplace inserts take the cake.

Now that you know the key points of differences between conventional fireplaces and inserts, let’s move on to the next section, where we talk about all the things you need to consider before you buy one of either.

Advantages and disadvantages of a conventional fireplace

A traditional fireplace offers unparalleled aesthetic value, and if you want a fireplace that delivers decent heating and adds a classic look to your interiors, then, by all means, purchase a conventional fireplace.

Fire-safety is also adequately provided by traditional fireplaces, as long as they, along with their required flue systems, are constructed by adhering to international fire-safety standards.

However, if you prioritize functionality over fanciness, conventional fireplaces may not be too appealing to you.

The biggest downside to these fireplaces is that they need a lot of effort to be maintained, and for optimum performance, they need to be cleaned regularly as well.

Traditional wood fireplaces particularly need a lot of attention, and you should purchase such fireplaces only if you can maintain them properly.

Advantages and disadvantages of a fireplace insert

The greatest advantage of a fireplace insert is the fact that compared to a conventional fireplace, there is very little cleaning involved.

Its higher energy efficiency and heating abilities also make it a more cost-effective alternative.

If you already have a space for a fireplace constructed in your home, an insert can very easily and quickly be added to the space.

Numerous modern-day inserts also allow heat to be pushed to numerous areas of your home, thanks to blowers, fans, and thermostat controls.

On the disadvantage front, the only downside of a fireplace insert is that it does not offer the look and feel associated with conventional fireplaces.

Also, a pre-existing fireplace space is compulsory for an insert to be installed.

If your home does not have such a space already constructed, the costs associated with installing an insert may be significantly more than purchasing a traditional fireplace.


Ultimately, both conventional fireplaces and fireplace inserts have their pros and cons and which variant you purchase depends completely on your requirements, the present state of the space in which you want to have the fireplace or insert installed, and of course, how much money you can spare for the installation.

Last but not least, before you decide to purchase a fireplace or an insert, be sure to consult a reputed company for determining the type of fireplace that would best suit your needs.

At Patriot Chimney, we are always open to answering the questions that you may have regarding fireplace installations. As a licensed and certified company, we look forward to guiding you in the right way so that your fireplace installation goes smoothly and seamlessly.

Things you should consider before buying a fireplace or insert


Apart from wood, gas, and electric fireplaces, you can purchase bioethanol and pellet fireplaces as well. Both bioethanol and pellet fireplaces are considered more energy efficient than the others, and they are also more environment-friendly.

Amount of heating required

How much heat you require is another important consideration as different fuel sources offer different levels of heating. 

If you want a large space to be heated evenly, then gas and pellet fireplaces are the best options. But if you want your fireplace or insert to heat a small room, other fuel sources will work just fine. 

However, don’t make the mistake of buying a wood fireplace for a large space as wood loses more heat through the chimney than the amount it gives out to warm a space up.


If you want to purchase a traditional fireplace, you must ensure that the place where you want to have it installed has adequate ventilation. 

As traditional fireplaces feature open combustion, lack of ventilation may lead to you and your family members feeling unwell. 

However, ventilation isn’t an issue when it comes to inserts, as they are self-contained units that ensure that smoke isn’t let out into rooms.

Flue system

Some fireplaces need flue systems to be installed, and some don’t. For example, a wood fireplace will require a chimney to be installed, which can be a complex and costly affair. 

However, a gas fireplace needs a PVC piped flue system, which is far easier to install. Bioethanol and electric fireplaces do not need elaborate flue systems.

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