Envionmental Psychology

Shape Your Environment for Happiness!


Environmental Issue: Wood Burning Fireplaces

Environmental Psychology considers two issues with wood burning fireplaces.

  1. You want to enjoy your home environment for emotional support.
  2. On the other hand, you want to save the environment.

If you plan to move to a new home or to build a home, you may draw a line through a fireplace as a necessity. Although people love the warmth, comforting crackling sounds, aromas, and moving light a wood burning fire provides, fireplaces can emit polluted air into your home and into your neighborhood.

Most home shoppers request a fireplace. Home buyers desire a hearth, which symbolizes home. Families gather around the fireplace during holiday celebrations and quiet conversations. Book lovers enjoy curling up next to a fire on a cool afternoon. Many new homes feature fireplaces in the main bedroom. After all, what’s more romantic than a fire?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wood-burning fireplaces emit nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, organic gases, and particulate matter. These pollutants can cause serious health problems for children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory problems. Like cigarette smoke, some of these elements contain cancer-causing properties.

Some urban cities have considered banning wood-burning fireplaces altogether to stem the flow of pollutants in the smog-filled air. Some California cities and counties have enacted local ordinances to limit the growing wood smoke problem. Mammoth Lakes, Squaw Valley, Cloverdale, Fresno, and many cities and counties in the Bay Area permit installation of only U.S.EPA certified wood-fired appliances in all new construction. Since 1991, the Bay Area AQMD has issued advisories for a voluntary no-burn program on poor air quality nights, "Spare the Air Tonight."

But wait! Solutions exist so you can enjoy your fire. To keep pollutants from entering your room air, you can install a certified clean-burning fireplace insert and a glass screen. Buy a carbon monoxide monitor and an oxygen-depletion sensor to ensure safe air. The new fireplace systems keep pollutants from leaving your chimney.

Other considerations for you to ponder include the source of heating for your home. What happens when natural gas demand outpaces production? Prices skyrocket. And if your heat comes from a coal-burning electrical plant, doesn't the burning coal produce toxins that pollute the air?

If you're building a new home, consider installing a Pellet Stove, the most efficient and least polluting of the new stove designs. Pellet Stoves provide less than 1 gram per hour of particulate emissions. Most of these stoves  require electricity and burn compressed wood waste formed into pellets.

Be kind to yourself and to the environment with your home heating. When you light up your fire, consider these environmental issues.

Copyright © Jeanette J. Fisher.  All rights reserved.

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