A fireplace fire brings with it the feeling of a cozy winter evening at home. Although this method of heating is considered environmentally friendly, the resulting smoke contains many dangerous substances that affect the air quality in the neighborhood. What are these substances and how can you heat your home to reduce air pollution? The experts at Airly.org have analyzed this.
While a home wood-burning fireplace evokes a much less “smoggy” connotation than coal, it can actually also be a serious source of air pollution. Compounds such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide are just the most important.
Fireplace like a pack of cigarettes
In its structure, the substances emitted from the fireplace are similar to cigarette smoke. Studies indicate that burning one kilogram of wood can produce as much dust as burning a few hundred cigarettes. It is worth adding here that we are talking about pure wood. In the case of chipboard, varnished or impregnated wood, the damage done to clean air is much greater.
In order to show how air pollution caused directly by ‘recreational’ wood burning in fireplaces can look like, we have analysed data from Airly sensors.
For the analysis, we chose a sensor located in a new, single-family housing estate near Cracow, Poland (where coal heating is excluded), which is also a long way from older buildings (about 1 kilometer away) – and thus a potential source of low emissions.
For a comparison, we left the readings from this sensor with the readings from another sensor, located in the very center of Cracow. The sensors were about 20 km apart.
It is worth mentioning here that the center of Krakow, since the introduction of the coal burning ban, is characterized by air of relatively good quality – compared to the towns surrounding Krakow.
Comparing the two sensors showed that the average values and patterns of PM10 readings were very similar in both locations.
However, interestingly, in spite of high similarity of PM10 readings on both sensors, short peaks of pollution were observed at the single-family housing estate during weekends (especially in the evening hours). The maximum value of one of the peaks was 140 mg/m3 of PM10 – so it is almost three times higher than the established daily standard for this polutant. Interestingly, at the time of the above peaks, there was no increased air pollution in the city, which indicates their local source – in the case of the discussed housing estate – wood burning in fireplaces.
Let’s burn with our brains
So is burning in a fireplace at home fundamentally bad and taking care of clean air we should completely give up this form of entertainment? If only in the area of our residence is not introduced a ban on burning solid fuels, we can certainly use the home fireplace more consciously, using well-dried wood. The best wood for this is that have been dried for at least 12 months. To check the dryness of wood, you can use a special moisture meter available in stores. When burning in the fireplace, categorically avoid pieces of wood that have been painted or chemically treated, such as old furniture or pallets.
Do not forget also about regular cleaning of the stove and eliminating harmful substances from it. Working better, it will need less fuel in the form of wood to warm the room.
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