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How Do You Choose a Coal-Burning Fireplace Insert?

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Quick Answer

Choose a coal-burning fireplace insert based on the size of your existing fireplace, your heating needs and your budget. Fireplace inserts are available in small bare-bones variants that do little more than safely burn coal, all the way up to advanced machines with multiple fans, air registers and elaborate decoration.

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For a small fireplace that only heats a single room, a simple, unpowered coal-burning fireplace insert is the best option. These inserts are similar to traditional anthracite coal-burning stoves but are safer and easier to clean. Because these inserts have no electrical fans, they can only heat a small area. However, they are very affordable and have low operating costs.

Small inserts are available in both manual and automatic fuel-feed variants. Manual fuel-feed inserts require refueling by the user whenever the insert begins to run out of fuel. Automatic feed variants store reserve coal in a hopper and automatically add coal to the burn area as needed. Virtually all large and electrically powered inserts use automatic feed systems.

Powered coal-burning fireplace inserts circulate hot air using one or more electrically powered fans, providing many of the benefits of both coal-burning stoves and traditional furnaces. Some larger powered inserts feature multiple air registers for heating rooms in other parts of the home.

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