There are lots of reasons a homeowner might wish to add an insert to their prefabricated fireplace. For one, fireplace inserts are known for their heightened efficiency, so more heat and less energy costs may be a goal for some. Adding an insert can also be an option when looking to switch up fuel types. Or maybe you just want a new style, and this seems like the best route.
Regardless of the reason, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind before moving forward. Count on the team at The Chimney Doctor to help you out every step up of the way. Our CSIA-certified sweeps can guarantee you stay safer and more comfortable while navigating all of your chimney and fireplace-related needs.
Test Standards & Clearances Often Get Altered
Every prefabricated fireplace has standards and clearances that must be met to ensure the safety of the homeowner. It’s safe to assume the addition of a fireplace insert can alter these clearances. In these cases, the appliance will overheat and any surrounding woodwork or flammable materials could ignite.
Many wonder if we could add the insert, then perform new tests to ensure everything is a-okay. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option either. There are currently no standards from the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) for testing this type of set-up.
And remember – just because a manufacturer says their insert is approved for it, doesn’t mean it has actually been tested! Oftentimes, when they say their inserts are approved for installation into factory-built systems, it only means that there is no UL test to say anything otherwise.
In order for this type of installation to work, the fireplace must be 1) properly installed by a CSIA-certified professional and 2) specifically approved for insert installation. In addition to this, the insert manufacturer must also approve their products being installed into that specific prefabricated unit. If an insert is unlisted, it should never be placed in a prefab fireplace.
In the end, most prefabricated or factory-built fireplaces won’t allow inserts to be installed into their systems. And many older models won’t even have language regarding inserts in their manuals.
Fireplaces & Inserts are Tested With Different Standards
Another important factor to keep in mind is just how these units are tested. The UL tests their prefabricated fireplaces and factory-built inserts separately, and each system must pass a wide range of tests to get approved. Now, which tests they undergo could depend on a number of things including manufacture date, fuel type, brand, model, intended use, heating capacity, and more. This means your fireplace and insert go through different testing processes, and just because a certain test was successful with the fireplace doesn’t mean it will be successful with the insert installed. In the end, assuming your insert will be fine just because your fireplace fairs okay isn’t going to be a viable option.
Essentially, because there is so much variety when testing both prefabricated fireplaces and factory-built inserts, it is hard to guarantee combining any two would produce good or safe results unless they were specifically tested together.
Here’s what we suggest – rather than install an insert, remove the prefabricated unit altogether, then install a high-efficiency fireplace or insert (that meets all necessary codes and requirements) instead. We can help with that!
A Lot of Factors Simply Don’t Add Up
In the end, when it comes to installing an insert into a prefabricated system, there are many things that simply don’t add up with and that insert manufacturers aren’t able to provide clear answers for. A few examples of some common issues are outlined below.
For example, approving the addition of a 300-500 pound insert into a prefabricated unit that should only hold up to 110 pounds of wood doesn’t make sense. The math simply doesn’t add up and over time that additional weight can start to crush the sheet metal supports beneath the fireplace and overheat combustibles beneath the system.
Along with this, some inserts that are “approved” for installation into a prefabricated fireplaces require high temp or HT tests be performed and passed. Many of the factory built fireplaces found in homes today were never tested to the HT standard, especially if they are older. For example, if the fireplace was manufactured before 1993, there wasn’t even an HT test at all. After 1993 the HT test was optional. As such any insert requiring a chimney system that was tested to the higher HT standard should not be installed or the system could overheat surrounding combustibles even if clearances were maintained.
In the end, it is important to remember that there are no standardized testing criteria when it comes to installing an insert into a factory-built fireplace. In fact, there is currently no way to even formulate a test to approve this process. There are just too many brands, variations, design types, and variables.
While other hearth dealers may install beautiful products into factory-built fireplaces, this is not a service we have chosen to offer. There are simply too many safety risks associated with combining two systems that don’t meet all of the requirements of the manufacturers involved, or for which testing data is not available. We feel that doing so would jeopardize the safety of our customers.
What We Can Offer Instead
Like we’ve mentioned, removing your entire prefabricated unit is always the better option if you’re looking to upgrade. When replacing a fireplace this often allow us to address other issues that may not be readily apparent: cold air down drafts, rotted wood in old chases, missing insulation, improper firestops and fire blocking, or old outdated finishing materials used around your fireplace.
In the end, if you want to work with professionals who care about your safety first and foremost in all they do – that’s where our team is qualified and excited to help! We install fireplaces, stoves, inserts, and factory-built fireplaces, so we know the ins and outs of it all. Whether you are interested in wood, gas, pellet, or even the newer electric options, we can help.
When it comes to building a fire inside of your home, staying as safe as possible should always be the number one priority. Don’t take any chances – rely on our experienced and educated crew to provide you with the high-quality level of care you deserve.
Call us at 970-234-3330 today to get started!