Why would you need a wood fireplace insert for your wood-burning fireplace?

Each fuel type has an optimal combustion temperature at which it is burned almost completely. If it is burned at a temperature lower than the optimum, not only are you wasting heat, fuel and efficiency, you’re also emitting possibly combustible exhaust gases. In the case of wood, the optimal combustion temperature is quite high and is rarely achieved in an open fireplace. Creosote (also known as ‘wood gas’) is emitted in the exhaust and is highly combustible. In fact, during World War 2, the Germans modified a lot of their cars to run on wood gas due to the severe shortages of oil they were experiencing and the consequent unavailability of petroleum gasoline for civilian use. This is both a major safety issue and an efficiency issue – if wood were burned completely, the energy in creosote would have been yielded for your use. A wood fireplace insert, which must be certified by the EPA to burn wood cleanly and thoroughly, will extract all the thermal energy it can from your fuel and make your fireplace more environmentally friendly in the process. It does this by creating a closed combustion system and achieving a much higher burn temperature than an open fireplace would, thereby getting closer to optimal burn.

Open fireplaces suck in air from the space they are in to fuel combustion. You may very well be warm near the fire, but the rest of the house is going to get colder as outside air is sucked in to replace the air used in your fireplace. A wood fireplace insert sidesteps this issue by having doors and drawing the oxygen it needs for combustion from elsewhere.

 

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