A Chimney Sweep’s Top Tips for Ecofriendly (and Cheap!) Fires
Heating your home in the winter can feel like a devil’s bargain if you’re concerned about the environment. Relying on a central heating system fueled by natural gas or a coal-run power grid increases your carbon footprint and supports unsustainable mining practices. But using firewood instead can contribute to air pollution and deforestation. Fortunately, if you follow a few simple tips, you can use wood to heat your home without harming the environment.
Tip #1 – Collect Local Waste Wood or Recycled Wood
Deforestation is a serious problem in the U.S. and around the world. Using wood to fuel your fireplace or woodstove can contribute to the problem if you aren’t careful. The best way to prevent deforestation is to collect local waste wood.
Fallen branches, dead trees and other types of wood that have already fallen or been felled are considered waste wood. These types of wood are ideal since you do not have to cut down a living tree. If you are looking for ways to collect waste wood, ask friends, family and acquaintances in your area if they have any dead trees or large branches that need to be removed. Most people will appreciate the offer of a helping hand and be happy to give you the wood.
Wood bricks, which are made out of recycled wood, are also a good solution if you are having trouble finding waste wood. Pellet providers usually offer wood bricks as well.
Tip #2 – Only Burn Hard, Seasoned Firewood
Choosing the right type of firewood is important because it affects how much smoke the fire produces. Smoke can contain harmful particles, toxic gases, volatile organic compounds and even carcinogens. You can reduce the amount of harmful smoke your fire emits by burning hard, seasoned wood.
Logs that have dried out for at least six months since being cut are called seasoned wood. They burn hotter and more completely than unseasoned wood which means that many of the harmful particles and gases produced by the combustion process are burned up. Hardwoods like ash, beech, maple and oak also burn better than softwoods like spruce, fir and pine. Burning hard wood that is seasoned is more environmentally friendly since it decreases air pollution.
#3 – Invest in a Fireplace or Woodstove Upgrade
The efficiency of traditional fireplaces and old wood-burning stoves can be as low as 5% to 10%. Heating appliances with low efficiency like these do not meet the clean air standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They also produce less heat which means you will be more likely to use your furnace to heat up your home on cold days. Upgrading to a fireplace insert or wood-burning stove with a high efficiency rating that meets the EPA’s clean air standards is the best solution.
These heating solutions can effectively heat large areas so that you don’t have to rely on your furnace. They are also clean burning. Upgrading to a fireplace insert or new woodstove is a smart, ecofriendly choice that can save you money in the long run!
#4 – Don’t Use Dangerous Types of Kindling
Many types of household paper products and wood products are unsafe to burn. It might sound like a good idea to use scraps of particle board or old magazines as kindling but burning them can produce toxic gases. The majority of glues, dyes and other treatments used on paper products and wooden goods make them dangerous to burn in your fireplace, woodstove or bonfire. To avoid poisoning yourself and the environment, never burn particle board, plywood, chipboard, cardboard, plastic, glossy paper or colorfully dyed paper.
Black and white newsprint, non-dyed paper, chips of untreated wood and sticks are the safest types of kindling.
#5 – Budget for an Annual Chimney Cleaning & Inspection
Creosote is a flammable chemical compound that builds up on chimney walls. The more you use your fireplace or woodstove, the more it accumulates. Along with being a fire safety risk, it also reduces the efficiency of fires because it constricts airflow. Having the chimney, or exhaust pipe, cleaned at least once a year by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep is the best way to make sure your fireplace or stove continues to burn cleanly.
This is one home improvement project you should not DIY. Creosote is difficult to remove without professional equipment and chemicals. You might accidentally damage your chimney in the process if you try it yourself. A professional chimney sweep will also inspect the chimney for signs of damage or disrepair that pose a health or safety risk during the cleaning.
If you follow these five steps, you can have a clear conscious this winter by using firewood to stay warm.
Let us know in the comments if these tips have helped you! If you are thinking about upgrading your fireplace or woodstove, give us a call (860) 233-5770! We have a wide selection of fireplace inserts and stoves available in many different sizes and styles.