A fireplace insert is an excellent way to modernize a fireplace. Inserts offer better heat efficiency and a decorative element to a room. Since inserts are typically placed inside an existing fireplace box, do they use the damper?
Fireplace inserts that use fuel, like wood or gas, require a vent system or use a damper. A gas-burning insert will use the vent system, whereas a wood-burning insert will use a damper that typically comes with the insert. Electric fireplace inserts do not burn fuel and do not need venting or a damper.
How can you tell if your insert has a damper or not? Read on and let’s go over the different types of inserts and whether or not they have a damper attached.
Do Fireplace Inserts Have Dampers?
Some fireplace inserts require a damper to exhaust the smoke and gas produced by a fire. Woodstove inserts and wood-burning inserts require the use of a damper. A gas insert requires a venting system and an electric insert requires neither a vent nor a damper.
To determine if your insert has a damper, we will review the three different types of fireplace inserts on the market. But first, let’s quickly explain what a damper is.
A damper is typically a piece of metal inside the fireplace opening, just before the flue. A lever or chain is used to open and close the damper. The damper is open to direct the smoke up and out the chimney when a fire is going. When the fire is not going, the damper can be closed to block out cold air from coming down the chimney into your home.
Now, let’s get to the three types of inserts:
Wood Burning Inserts
This type of insert mimics a standard fireplace. As such, it needs the same elements that a standard fireplace would. A damper and a chimney liner are required for safe use. The wood-burning insert uses its own liner that is piped up through the existing chimney.
There are wood stove style inserts and wood burning style inserts. They are similar in fuel use (wood) but differ in how they look. A wood-burning insert may look like a standard fireplace does, whereas a wood stove insert functions like a regular wood stove, just without being a free-standing unit.
Gas inserts are common for the fact that they are easy to use. There is no mess associated with a gas-burning insert. These inserts do not need a damper to moderate air flow to the fire like a wood-burning insert. Instead, gas inserts use a venting system.
Gas inserts still produce exhaust and therefore need a vent in order to release the exhaust. The vent is directed outside. A double vent gas insert uses one vent for exhaust and the second vent for air intake.
Electric inserts are gaining in popularity in that they are easy to use, install, and have little to no maintenance. Electric inserts use the home’s electricity to run and implement a fan system to push hot air into the home. It produces no exhaust and requires no air intake in order to work.
|Insert Type||Exhaust Type||Damper Used?||Fuel Used||Electricity Used|
|Wood Fireplace||Chimney Liner||Yes||Wood||No|
|Gas Fireplace||Vent||No, It Uses A Vent||Gas||No, Unless The Unit Has A Blower|
How Do I Know If My Fireplace Has A Damper?
The damper in a fireplace is located just inside the fireplace opening and before the chimney flue. To find it, use a flashlight and look directly up into the fireplace. If you cannot see up inside the chimney, your damper is likely closed.
A traditional damper uses a lever or knob located near the top of the fireplace box that operates the damper. You will likely see a chain hooked inside the fireplace box for a damper up near the top of the chimney.
To open the traditional damper, sometimes called a throat damper, push the lever (or rod) up. You may feel a draft when it has been opened. This means that outside air is coming in through the open damper. A knob functions the same way; you turn the knob to open and close the damper.
A chain mechanism inside the fireplace opens and closes the damper located at the top of a chimney. Unhook the chain and let it lift up to release the damper.
How Can I Be Sure The Damper Is Open
Check the position of the damper opening mechanism. On a traditional fireplace, this would be a knob, lever, or chain. Do you feel a draft? Can you see through the chimney? If yes, this indicates the damper is open. On an insert, the damper is located on the insert – usually near the top.
The damper mechanism is typically located on the insert itself and you will not need to fiddle with the fireplace’s original damper mechanism. When an insert is installed, it is fitted to the fireplace box and has a new chimney liner installed to exhaust the smoke and gas.
As the damper on a wood-burning insert is on the unit itself, like a wood stove, a lever typically opens and closes the damper mechanism. Inserts are fully functioning units and sit inside the masonry of an existing fireplace, and so they do not need to use the original damper system.
Can I Adjust The Damper On My Fireplace Insert
The damper on your wood-burning insert can be adjusted with the fireplace in use. You do not want to close it completely while a fire is burning since that would cause all the exhaust to plume inside your room. However, the damper can be adjusted to manipulate the fire and improve its efficiency.
It is best to open the damper completely to start a fire. It needs the oxygen flow to begin properly. After your fire has developed, the damper can be adjusted to a slightly closed position to moderate the flame and decrease the amount of heat leaving through the chimney.