If you are considered having a new fireplace installed in your home, then you are taking a great step to eliminate your carbon footprint, especially if your home is currently heated with electricity. About 67 percent of the electricity generated in the United States today is produced by burning fossil fuels, and the burning of these fuels produces hazardous gasses that pollute the environment and the air everyone breathes.
On the contrary, heat produced by wood-burning fireplaces is considered environmentally neutral, because the same amount of carbon dioxide is released from wood whether it decays naturally outdoors or is burned in a wood-burning fireplace.
However, when you follow these additional tips, you can look forward to a wood-burning fireplace that is as eco-friendly as possible.
1. Burn Wood From a Local Supplier
While you can find wood to burn in your fireplace at big box-and-home improvement stores, this wood may have been shipped long distances on trucks before it arrived at your local store. Shipping trucks, like all gasoline-powered vehicles, pollute the air as they are driven. In a single year, the transportation industry is responsible for about half of all nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emitted into the air, and the industry emits many other air pollutants that are toxic for humans and the environment.
When you purchase wood from a local supplier, you can feel better knowing that your wood is not traveling a long distance and polluting the air as it travels.
2. Only Burn Seasoned Firewood
Many new fireplace owners make the mistake of burning unseasoned firewood in their new fireplaces. You want to burn only seasoned firewood, which has a moisture content of less than about 20 percent.
Not only does seasoned firewood burn cleaner and hotter than unseasoned firewood, but it releases less tar and creosote while it is burning. These two substances can build up on the inside of your chimney and pollute the air. To determine if the wood you are considering purchasing is seasoned or unseasoned, purchase a wood moisture meter to check its moisture content quickly and easily.
If you chop your own wood, be sure to cut it into small pieces, place it in a warm location, and allow it to dry out for about six months (or until its moisture content reaches about 20 percent) before burning it.
3. Burn Hardwoods Whenever Possible
As a general rule of thumb, wood that burns hotter in your fireplace combusts more completely while emitting fewer toxic vapors and leaving less residue behind. While softwoods can be burned in a fireplace when properly seasoned, burn hardwood whenever possible. Hardwoods burn hotter than softwoods, making them a more environmentally friendly fireplace fuel option.
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the best hardwoods to burn in your fireplace include American beech, applewood, red oak, yellow birch, and white ash. These are all hardwoods with a high heat value.
4. Have Your Chimney Cleaned Regularly
Even when burning the most eco-friendly wood, make sure to have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to remove creosote and other substances that build up on its interior as wood smoke flows through it. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, just a ½-inch layer of soot on the inside of a chimney can reduce air flow through it by 17 to 30 percent.
This reduction of chimney airflow can lead to many problems. It can lead to smoke backing up into your home when it cannot all travel through your chimney at once, and it can reduce your fire's supply of oxygen. This reduction in fire-oxygen supply reduces the energy efficiency of your fireplace, causing you to you have to burn more wood to produce the same amount of heat.
If you neglect having your chimney cleaned on a regular basis, the particles on the inside of your chimney can also catch fire. This occurs when the heat from your fireplace heats flammable deposits, such as coal soot and wood tar, in your chimney until they ignite. This fire can then spread to the rest of your home and cause a house fire.
As a general rule of thumb, have your chimney cleaned as soon as the layer of creosote in it reaches about 1/8 inch in thickness.
4. Never Burn These Items in Your Fireplace
Many new fireplace owners do not realize that burning items other than wood or other fireplace-specific fuels can endanger both the health of their families and the earth. First, never burn wood that is painted, stained, or treated in any other way. When the treatments burn, they can release toxic fumes.
Also, never burn cardboard of any type in your fireplace. While you may think that it is okay to burn because it is made from wood pulp like most paper materials, cardboard actually typically contains many man-made chemicals. These chemicals can release harmful fumes when burnt. In addition, since cardboard is lightweight and tends to drift up into the air when burning, if it were to float up into your chimney, it could cause a chimney fire.
Proper installation is also a key to keeping your wood-burning fireplace as eco-friendly as possible. Contact Hartman Heating, Air and Fireplaces for expert fireplace installation.