Free-standing stoves and inserts

Aside from open – and closed-vent systems (see the preceding section), stove types feature another distinction: They can be either free-standing or inserts. Free-standing stoves simply sit in a corner of your room, without walls or bricks surrounding them. An insert fits into an existing open fireplace slot (a very good way to go from poor efficiency to good efficiency while still using the expensive decorative elements of your existing fireplace).

Free-standing stoves are inherently more efficient than inserts because, all else being equal, more of the generated heat makes it into the living space. Depending on the space they are mounted into, some inserts are completely surrounded by brick and mortar and do a very poor job of getting heat into the living space. Most of it goes up the chimney. (Even at that, an insert is still much more efficient than an open fireplace.) On the other hand, free­standing stoves take up more of your home’s square footage, may be an eyesore, and are more likely to cause burns. In the summer, they’re just plain superfluous sitting there looking black and bulky.