If you’re joining the shift toward a green lifestyle, your home is the first place you start. You may start using cloth grocery sacks, install a few solar panels, and start your own garden. Many green-minded homeowners might wonder if it’s energy efficient and environmentally friendly to use a gas, pellet, or wood fireplace.
The truth is that utilizing a fireplace in your home can go either way. Here are some tips to keep your merry, warm hearth without significantly increasing your impact on your local environment.
Opt for Closed Fires
Open fires are often not permitted in modern building codes, but for historic homes that have the kitchen hearth still present and stained from over a century of fires, it can be hard to say goodbye. However, it’s best for your house and the planet if you convert your open fire to a more efficient closed one that uses pellets, firewood, or gas.
The open fire draws cool air into the home to feed the flames. You might feel warmer while in the room with the blaze, but other rooms in the house will become colder. If you have a forced air or boiler heating system in addition to the fireplace, the lowered temperature in other rooms will actually cause you to burn more fuel.
An open fire is therefore a lose-lose for green living. You’ll burn more fossil fuel or electricity heating other areas of your house and also burning wood in an inefficient way. The best solution is to install a closed fire that has high efficiency ratings.
So, should you choose gas, pellets, or traditional firewood?
Choose the Right Fuel for Your Area
Whether or not a fuel is right for you completely depends on your local economy and pollution.
Burning wood in an efficient wood stove provides plenty of heat for a home, but produces smoke. In a rural area with low pollution levels, the minimal smoke from single wood stove will not make much of an impact. It’s also an “electricity-free” option, which is great in emergencies and power-shortages.
Wood fuel is generally acknowledged to be carbon neutral; it doesn’t help the environment, but it doesn’t hurt it either. If you live an area that has few wood-stoves and plenty of moving, fresh air, choose a wood stove with the following guidelines in mind:
- It’s better to source your wood locally. If you buy wood from local providers, it stimulates your local economy.
- It’s always better to burn properly cured and dried wood. Green wood smokes and burns dirtier than dry wood.
- Use your wood stove in place of electric of gas heating whenever possible. This helps keep your choice to burn wood more carbon neutral.
- Use the ashes to enrich the soil in your garden. Ashes give back to the earth by off-setting soil acidity and increasing available potassium.
- Replace an old, non-EPA approved wood stove with a more efficient model. You’ll burn less wood, get more heat, and reduce emissions.
Even though wood stoves produce a little smoke, they are more environmentally friendly than you might initially believe. Wood burning stoves or fireplace inserts can still provide the ambiance of yesteryear with glass doors to show the flickering flames.
In a more congested area where pollution is already a problem, it’s better to invest in fuel that produces fewer emissions, simply for the sake of local air quality. Pellet stoves, while still burning organic material, have a high BTU output but lower emissions, making them a good middle-ground for those who prefer a “wood” fire.
Keep in mind that pellet stoves still require electricity, which does still release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, the energy consumption of a pellet stove is less than the consumption of an entire house heated by an electric furnace.
If your main goal in including a fireplace in your home is ambiance and an inviting atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with choosing a natural gas or propane insert. Unlike wood stoves that produce smoke, natural gas and propane both burn quite cleanly. They have one of the lowest levels of emissions of all fossil fuels, making them an ideal choice for polluted areas.
That being said, like all fossil fuels, natural gas is not a renewable resource. You will want to research where your local gas is sourced. You can choose to support fuel companies that try to reduce their footprint when extracting natural gas.
Select the Right Size
A fireplace insert or stove that is too small will eat fuel quickly as you try to heat your home. A stove that is too large will also waste fuel—you might burn more than is necessary for your home. It’s best to properly research your heating needs by speaking to a local fireplace specialist.
For more information on choosing a green-friendly stove or fireplace for your home, contact us at Alpine Fireplaces.