A cozy, crackling fire in the fireplace may sound like the perfect addition to your home on a cold winter night, but burning wood can negatively affect your home’s indoor air quality. That’s right! That lovely smell of burning wood is actually as harmful to your health as tobacco smoke.

The Effects of Wood Smoke on Human Health

Wood smoke contains fine and ultrafine particles as well as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene and dioxin. The greatest potential danger from wood smoke is the fine particulate matter (10 microns or less). When these particles are inhaled, they can work their ways into the lower respiratory system. In the short term they will cause difficulty in breathing and aggravate existing breathing conditions. Long term exposure to these particles can cause irrevocable lung damage. Even short exposures to wood smoke can cause serious health effects such as coughing, headaches, eye and respiratory irritations among healthy people. It can cause asthma attacks among children and heart attacks among older people.

Wood Smoke Affects Both Tightly Sealed and Drafty Homes

Homes with wood-burning fireplaces have elevated levels of indoor air pollutants regardless of whether their system is drafty or airtight. Even tightly sealed homes cannot stop the fine and ultra fine particles from circulation back into the home or into neighbors’ homes after the smoke goes up and out the chimney. Tightly sealed homes may also have increased indoor pollution buildup, due to water vapor from wood burning that contributes to mold and mildew.

Proper Precautions for Building a Cleaner Burning Fire

  • Use dry kindling to start a fire before adding a few pieces of wood. Space your logs to allow enough air to get the fire going.
  • Ensure a hotter, cleaner burning fire by only using dry, seasoned wood, particularly hard woods (maple, ash, oak, beech). Avoid burning wet or green logs that create extra smoke.
  • Check the moisture content of your wood (wood moisture meters are available at home-improvement stores). It should be less than 20%.
  • Never burn garbage, cardboard, or any wood that is painted, treated, or contains glue (plywood or particle board).

Perform Routine Cleaning and Inspection

A routine annual fireplace and venting system cleaning and inspection is crucial to protecting your home’s air quality. You may discover dirty, blocked, or cracked flues and venting; improperly installed or incorrectly maintained components; or circulation and ventilation issues.

Call Cochran Cooling & Heating

Dedicated to helping you breathe the cleanest air possible, Cochran Cooling & Heating can work with you to improve your home’s indoor quality. Together we can be sure that your indoor space consists of the highest quality air, resulting in optimum health and comfort for everyone.