If you’re not familiar with fireplace inserts basically they are designed to be installed into an existing fireplace location and convert the operation of that fireplace to another fuel source. Other fuel sources include wood, gas, and propane. Of these the most popular used to be the wood burning insert but do to restrictions in some areas regarding wood burning appliances, gas inserts are rapidly increasing in popularity and are becoming the preferred choice of many consumers.
Fireplace inserts may cause problems if installed on a fireplace not designed or approved for that particular accessory. Often overlooked is the chimney, you must make sure that the chimney is equipped with an approved vent; this may require you to reline the chimney. Further modifications to your chimney may be required depending on what type you install i.e. wood, gas or another type of insert, please check with the manufacturer for details.
Instructions for installation and operation are usually included with the fireplace, as well as information as to whether inserts may be installed safely on that particular style of fireplace. To ensure the safe use of the fireplace try to retrieve as much information as possible about your fireplace, check for any paper work left behind, often times fireplace installers will leave the information inside the bottom of the fireplace. You can access this by opening the lower vent cover. If you still cannot find the make and model of fireplace try contacting the previous homeowner if they do not have the information ask for the name of the home builder, they should have a record of the fireplace manufacturer as well as the company who installed the unit.
If you decide to have an insert installed I strongly suggest that it be professionally installed by a certified technician to insure proper performance and safety. A qualified professional will be familiar with both the manufacturer and building code requirements. This includes among other things clearances between the unit and venting system and combustible materials, protection from combustible floors and assemble of the unit and venting system.
Fireplace inserts are a great way to update that old fireplace but remember an improper or poorly installed unit may not be visible at first but the consequences can be devastating. Installation is not for the average “do it yourselfer”; consider having a professional install the insert. One final note make sure to have it inspected once a year by a professional to ensure that it is in safe and proper operating condition.