Indoor Air Quality and Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Indoor Air Quality and Wood-Burning Fireplaces

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 Area’s "Spare the Air Alerts" 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 you’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 don’t exit completely up the chimney, they’ll remain in your indoor air. Particulate matter is dangerous because they’re so tiny. They will easily lodge deep in the lung tissue where they can’t be coughed up and over time, can cause serious irritations. None of wood smoke’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 home’s air. But if the fire isn’t burning hot enough or you’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 home’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.