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Indoor Air Quality and Wood-Burning Fireplaces

A fire in a fireplace

While using a fireplace or wood stove inside a home provides exceptional warmth and creates an inviting atmosphere, it might be harming the indoor air quality (IAQ), just like it does to outdoor air periodically. You may hear local warnings about using wood burning fireplaces or wood stoves on certain days.

The Bay Areaandrsquo;s "Spare the Air Alertsandquot; help improve outdoor air quality by reducing the particulates in the air caused by wood smoke. The same thing can happen inside your home if youandrsquo;re not careful when using wood burning stoves and fireplaces.

When wood burns, it creates tiny particulates, gases and water vapor. If these combustion byproducts donandrsquo;t exit completely up the chimney, theyandrsquo;ll remain in your indoor air. Particulate matter is dangerous because theyandrsquo;re so tiny. They will easily lodge deep in the lung tissue where they canandrsquo;t be coughed up and over time, can cause serious irritations. None of wood smokeandrsquo;s other byproducts are safe to breathe.

If your fireplace or wood stove is clean and functioning as it should, few of these gases and fine particulates will be in your homeandrsquo;s air. But if the fire isnandrsquo;t burning hot enough or youandrsquo;ve just started it, not all of the smoke goes up the chimney. Some will drift into your interior space. A strong wind will also backdraft smoke back into your home and harm indoor air quality.

How to Maintain Air Quality

Having your wood burning equipment professionally cleaned prevents some of the problems, as will proper use. Burning dry wood and using enough kindling when starting a fire will heat the firebox and chimney faster to strengthen the draft up the chimney. Replacing aging fireplaces or stoves with EPA-certified equipment also reduces the risk of bad air.

Good indoor air quality promotes good health and making sure that your homeandrsquo;s equipment, wood-burning or not, is running safely and efficiently keeps air quality high. For more information about this and other HVAC topics, contact Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar at (408) 868-5500 or visit our website. We provide HVAC services for Santa Clara County, South Bay Peninsula and Silicon Valley homeowners.

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