Is Burning Wood Harmful to My Chimney or the Environment?
As the general population has become increasingly conscious of the need to protect the environment, the safety of wood-burning has come into question. The issue is very much two-sided, and the strong pro side of wood-burning is largely thanks to the advancement of technology which has resulted in some wood-burning appliances that are virtually smokeless. Nevertheless, wood-burning can have some harmful effects in the chimney and in the environment, especially when steps aren’t taken to ensure best practices.
Chimneys and Wood-Burning
Chimneys serve very important functions related to enjoying a warm fire in your home. The chimney carries toxic combustion fumes out of your home, when it operates properly, and it helps to protect your home from dangerous home fires. The wood you burn can affect the safety of your chimney because choosing green or unseasoned wood increases the amount of creosote buildup in the chimney lining or flue. Creosote is highly flammable, and some amount of creosote is deposited in the chimney lining with every fire that’s burned. More creosote can mean more danger, since a hot ember can potentially ignite the creosote and cause a hazardous and sometimes deadly chimney fire.
It is important, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), to have your chimney inspected annually, partly to ensure that it is free of significant amounts of creosote. It is not uncommon for neglected chimneys to be obstructed due to layers of creosote. Chimney sweeps can clean your chimney and ensure a proper draft while minimizing the threat of a chimney fire. Keep your chimney as clean as possible by only burning seasoned or dried wood in your fireplace or wood stove.
Wood that has been painted or chemically treated for construction reasons is not suitable or safe for burning. Hazardous toxic chemicals such as arsenic are released into the air by burning treated wood, including landscaping ties or the treated lumber used to build a deck.
When trees are first cut, they are brimming with moisture. It takes between six months and a year for wood to dry out well enough to make suitable firewood. The length of time required depends upon the type of wood and the conditions in which the logs are stored. When there is too much water in logs, they don’t burn cleanly. Wood that has a high percentage of moisture releases literally gallons of acidic moisture in your chimney, and the acidic deposits mix with the creosote to create a more dangerous chimney.
It’s best to burn wood with moisture content of around 12%, but moisture content isn’t the only factor to consider.
There are basically two types of wood: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood is about twice as dense as softwood. This is an important consideration for your chimney because when it’s necessary to burn more wood in order to create more heat, the result is a greater amount of creosote buildup. Hardwood burns more efficiently, when a greater amount of warmth from fires is needed.
Keep in mind that even when you make all the best choices regarding wood-burning, an annual chimney inspection is still important, to ensure the safe operation of your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004
Office 770-691-6707 / Toll Free 877-697-9337