The term fireplace is used to refer to an opening in the wall of a building that is connected to a flue and to a chimney, while fireplace inserts are chambers built from non-combusting material and inserted into the fireplace to increase the efficiency of the burning and the heating process.
Besides the above differences is structure and role, there are several other features that distinguish fireplaces from inserts. First of all, a fireplace is a stand-alone unit that can be used for heating the room by adding wood or turning on the gas, but inserts cannot be used for heating when they are not installed into a fireplace. Another difference between the two is the option to close the burning chamber – while most fireplaces are open, allowing direct access to the fire and requiring everyone around to observe specific safety measures, fireplace inserts usually come with glass doors or a closing made from heat-resistant, transparent material to keep the flames safely inside. Closing the door of the gas fireplace insert enhances efficiency of the unit, allowing the owner to reduce the costs of heating the room by at least 30%.
In terms of the heating agent used, both inserts and fireplaces are available in types that burn wood as well as in types that burn gas.