Wood-burning fireplace inserts
After two long power outages here in NJ, I’m looking at putting an insert in my existing fireplace as an alternative to being dependent on oil and the grid.
One manufacturer, Avalon, boasts inserts whose efficiency and emissions are very close to those of their free-standing stoves. Are inserts a good idea? Are they really comparable to stoves? Does their reliance on electric fans to circulate the hot air mean that they can’t actually be used in a power outage?
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Yes, a wood-burning insert can work, and yes, an insert can be about as efficient as a wood stove, and yes, an insert is much better than an open fireplace.
Concerning your question about operating the insert without electrical power: that question should be directed to the manufacturer. If your main reason for getting a wood stove is to be sure that it will provide heat during power outages, then it's important to get an answer. There are plenty of wood stoves that operate well without electricity, so if Avalon tells you that their inserts can't be used without power, then you can always choose another option.
Hearthstone makes a freestanding woodstove, the"Homestead", that can be installed as a "hearth mount insert" using optional shorter legs.
A convection blower is available as an option but I'm not sure it is required for the "hearth mount insert" install.