Using a fireplace or wood stove does create a welcoming and warm atmosphere, but it could come at a price for your indoor air quality (IAQ). While wood is a renewable fuel, it’s not the cleanest available.
Gases from wood include dangerous carbon monoxide (CO), water vapor and benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Part of the smoke carries tiny particulates that are easily inhaled. Since they’re so small, it’s easy for them to lodge in the deepest parts of lungs where they’re difficult to impossible to exhale. This particulate matter (PM) is a known pollutant and the EPA recognizes it as a hazard to humans.
Not all fires in wood burning equipment pollute to the same degree. A hot fire produces much less smoke, and it’s the smoke where all the hazards to IAQ lurk. EPA-certified wood burning systems emit almost no smoke, since they have a secondary burner where most of the smoke byproducts are burned. The process is similar to condensing furnaces or boilers. These highly efficient appliances extract nearly all the heat that the fuel creates and their emissions are limited.
Improving Air Quality When Burning
You can have better indoor air quality when you enjoy your fireplace or use a wood stove. Be sure that you:
- Have it cleaned professionally once a year if you use it several times a week.
- Don’t burn scrap wood. It could contain a lot of chemicals used to treat and finish it.
- Use dry firewood.
- Hang glass doors on the fireplace to increase the heat of the fire. As the chimney gets hotter, less toxic gas goes up the chimney. The doors prevent some heat from your home escaping up the chimney, and prevent backdrafting of noxious gases. This backdrafting also pulls particulate matter into your home’s air, which hurts IAQ.
- Replace old stoves or fireplaces with EPA-certified equipment.
Wood burning fireplaces and stoves have the potential to harm the indoor air quality. If you’d like to learn more from the experts, contact Detmer and Sons, providing HVAC and air quality services for Dayton-area homeowners.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Dayton, Ohio about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).