Zero Clearance Fireplaces

Affordable and Highly Energy Efficient Fireplaces

By Mark J. Donovan

Zero clearance fireplaces are prefabricated manufactured fireplaces that are designed for homes that could not otherwise support a masonry chimney, both from a space and cost perspective. Zero clearance fireplaces can burn either wood or gas, making them ideal for almost any location or region.

Zero clearance fireplaces consist of a framed in fireplace box that is connected to a stainless steel double wall insulated chimney piping system. Because the chimney is so well insulated a zero clearance fireplace can be encased in a 2×4 wooden framed structure and be installed almost anywhere in a home.

Frequently veneer brick or stone is attached to the wooden structure inside the home to give the appearance of a brick or stone fireplace.

Another advantage of zero clearance fireplaces is that they do not require a hearth, though for aesthetic reasons you may want to include one in the design of your fireplace.

Besides being much less expensive in terms of material and labor installation costs, Zero clearance fireplaces typically are much more energy efficient than traditional masonry fireplaces. Zero clearance fireplaces can be up to 70% efficient due to the fact that they operate hotter and thus can more fully burn the combustible fuel and pollutant byproducts.

A traditional masonry fireplace, on the other hand, typically does not get hot enough to fully burn the fuel’s pollutant byproducts, and is thus less energy efficient and releases more pollutants into the atmosphere. Zero clearance fireplaces are also lower maintenance, particularly if they are burning gas.

Key Considerations when Selecting a Zero Clearance Fireplace

When choosing a zero clearance fireplace there are a couple of key aspects that should first be considered.

One important aspect is the size of the firebox opening. It is important to select a zero clearance firebox opening that is sufficient to properly heat the room that the fireplace is located in. If the firebox is too small the fireplace will not adequately heat the room, and if it is too large you will experience unnecessarily high energy bills.

Another major consideration is the level of heating efficiency desired. Zero clearance fireplaces are available with and without heat exchangers and blowers. Depending on the intended use of the fireplace you may or may not want to consider the added cost of purchasing a zero clearance fireplace with built in heat exchangers and blowers.

Finally, though zero clearance fireplaces require less space they still do require a chimney, albeit a smaller steel chimney. This said, the location of the fireplace within the home is an important aspect to consider, particularly from the chimney installation standpoint. Also, it is wise to not have the fireplace located in a busy area of the room. Typically the fireplace should be located on an outside wall or in the corner of a room.

zero clearance fireplace

If, on the other hand, the fireplace is desired to be located in the center of a room, more thought needs to be given to the installation of the chimney, particularly the cost. Upper level living space may need to be eliminated and holes cut in the upper level floors and roof which will add to the overall installation cost of the fireplace.

For information on how to maximize a wood stove’s heating efficiency, see’s Installation of Hood over Wood Stove eBook

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