Where there’s fire, there’s smoke

…and sometimes poor air quality.

Cold temperatures often lead to nights snuggled up in piles of blankets with a good book by the fireplace. But the wood-burning fire that’s keeping you cozy might be harmful to our air. How you build your fire and what you burn can have a significant impact on air quality and health. Wood smoke contains ozone-forming gases and fine particles — also called PM2.5 — which can harm the lungs, blood vessels and heart. Reduce the amount of smoke your fire produces to help improve our air quality. Keep the following tips in mind to build a cleaner fire that produces less smoke:

What to burn:

  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Wet or green logs create excessive smoke and waste fuel. Listen for a hollow sound when you strike two logs together as an indication of proper seasoning.
  • Hardwoods burn hotter. Soft woods like pine and cedar catch easily and make good kindling, but hardwoods burn longer, hotter and with less smoke once the fire is burning.
  • Never burn household garbage, cardboard, painted or treated wood, or any wood that contains glue, such as plywood or particle board. These items release toxic chemicals when burned, and if you’re using a wood stove they can damage it.

How to build:

  • Start a small fire with dry kindling, and then add a few pieces of wood. Be sure there is space between the pieces of wood and give the fire plenty of air until it’s roaring.
  • Try building a “top-down” fire to maximize heating performance and reduce smoke. It also reduces the amount of work needed to keep the fire going.

Be safe!

  • Wood-burning stoves or appliances should operate without producing smoke. If you see or smell smoke, there is a problem with your appliance. Check EPA’s Burn Wise program for more tips to keep you safe and while you stay warm.
  • And always make sure you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home!
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One Response to “Where there’s fire, there’s smoke”

  1. Blake 2015/03/30 at 2:12 pm #

    Spring is here, but this message about wood burning is much appreciated. I hope to see it every season. We live in western Raytown, and our house is plagued buy a couple neighbors who burn green wood up-wind from us. It burns our noses, and creeps into the house even with all the windows and doors shut. I wish people who burn wood could smell what its like down wind! It’s not fair that they are immune to their own off-gassing. It would be imposable to breath if one of us had asthma or another lung problem. But that doesn’t mean that other neighbors aren’t suffering medically. It’s just awful.
    Thanks MARC. Keep up the great works!

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