Our Company Blog

Inserts Vs Open Fireplaces

Whether you’re trying to choose a new heating appliance or are debating updating an existing one, choosing the right fireplace for your family can be difficult. With so many different styles available – as well as more choices in fuel sources than ever before – now is the perfect time to find a new fireplace for your family.

The following is a direct comparison between two of the most common fireplace choices: inserts and open hearth fireplaces. With pros and cons to both appliances, this comparison can help you make a decision when it comes to choosing a fireplace.Inserts vs Open Fireplaces - Seattle WA- Pristine Sweeps


  • Inserts: Wood burning inserts are designed to help radiate heat back into the room as well as burn more efficiently. Modern EPA certified wood burning inserts are between 60 and 80% efficient. The efficiency rating for inserts of other fuel sources such as pellets or gas are even higher.


  • Open fireplaces: While few things can beat the look and feel of an open hearth fire, few heating appliances are as inefficient. Most open fireplaces operate at about 10% efficiency, meaning that 90% of the heat and energy are going up the chimney. However, efficiency can be improved with the use of grates, doors, fans, or heat exchangers.


Ease of use

  • Inserts: Inserts can be installed on their own or into an existing hearth. The ease of use depends on the fuel source; gas inserts can get going at the push of a button, but a wood burning insert will need to have wood stacked and stoked just like an open fireplace.


  • Open fireplaces: Building a fire has come a long way since man first discovered fire. Now, variations in things such as wood choice, stacking style, and kindling type can all impact and change the resulting fire.


Environmental Impact

  • Inserts: EPA certified inserts have been specially designed and tested to not only be more efficient, but also be less polluting. This minimizes the amount of particulate emissions that are created and can help improve air quality.


  • Open fireplaces: Open fireplaces have the largest carbon footprint of any heating appliances because of the amount of particulate emissions they create. However, steps can be taken to reduce the environmental impact of open fireplaces such as using fire logs and only burning well-seasoned hardwoods.


Burn Bans

  • Inserts: Fireplace inserts may be used during Stage One burn bans; however, they cannot be used during Stage Two burn bans.


  • Open fireplaces: During Stage One burn bans


It is unlawful to operate open fireplaces. Fireplaces may only be used during burn bans if they are a home’s only adequate source of heat.

Whether you choose an open fireplace or an insert, a new heating appliance can add comfort and warmth to your home. When it comes time to choose your next heating appliance, don’t trust an employee at a big box store with your heating needs. Instead, call Pristine Sweeps and let one of our fireplace experts help you find the fireplace or insert that is right for your family!

House Pressure Issues

Fireplaces are supposed to add warmth and comfort to our homes. However, if you are experiencing pressure issues your fireplace could be directly affected. If it seems like your fireplace is not producing any heat, is using too much wood, or is letting cold air in you are most likely experiencing problems with house pressure.


Airtight homes

Open hearth masonry fireplaces are not known for being efficient; what they lack in efficiency is more than made up for in warmth and ambiance. However, more and more modern homeowners find themselves experiencing burn issues with their open hearth fireplaces. This is, in part, due to a home’s air pressure.

Modern homes are designed and built to be air tight, keeping the conditioned air inside and the hot or cold air outside. While this lack of airflow saves you money on your monthly gas and electric bills, it can have a major negative impact on your fireplace system.

Fires need oxygen in order to burn their best; in an airtight home, a lack of fresh oxygen can cause fires to burn sluggishly. Likewise, tight homes may also have issues with drafting. A lack of outside air can create a weak draft, making it difficult for smoke to be pushed up and out of the chimney. This can lead to smoky fires that affect your home’s overall air quality.

The stack effect

House pressure issues can also be caused by the stack effect. The stack effect is based on a principle that everyone knows – cold air sinks and hot air rises. However, this can wreak havoc when you are trying to heat your home or use your fireplace in the winter.

As the warm air in your home rises up – and out – through upper attics and windows, cold outside air is drawn in through holes or cracks near the bottom of your home. For homeowners with a fireplace, the stack affect can cause cold air to be drawn down the chimney and into your home. In addition to causing your heater to work harder to compensate for the influx of cold air, this can also create fireplace burning problems. The cold air being drawn down the chimney can disrupt the draft of the fireplace, pushing smoke, soot, and ash back into your home.

Fixing pressure issues with makeup air

While an airtight home or the stack effect can create drafting issues in your home, utilizing exterior air intakes, or makeup air, may help resolve the problem. Makeup air can be as simple as cracking windows or doors around the fireplace; for homes with more serious pressure issues may need to install a permanent supply of outdoor air. By installing an exterior air intake, the pressure inside your home can naturally equalize, leading to a reduction in fireplace draft issues.

House pressure issues can have a major negative impact on your ability to enjoy your fireplace system during the winter. This year, rather than dealing with problematic pressure problems, contact the experts at Pristine Sweeps. Our staff can help identify and fix the cause of your pressure issues, allowing you to get back to worry-free enjoyment of your fireplace.