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Wood Burning Fireplace: What Can Be Burnt and Not

Wood Burning Fireplace: What Can Be Burnt and Not

A variety of items in Illinois are burned in a wood burning fireplace, from proper/improper wood, coal, cardboard, paper and even plastic. Burning the right materials is essential to keeping a safe environment inside the home. The wrong burning materials may cause a terrible smell inside the home, and a contribution to the rising air pollution levels. How can we help reduce the amount of pollution and improve safety inside our home fireplaces?

Burning Plastic Causes Pollution

According to the World Health Organization, 33 out of the 50 most polluted cities in Europe are located in Poland. Upon visiting Poland, it’s apparent that there’s an issue with air pollution. After visiting the clean air of the mountainside in the south of the country, moving only 1-hour north into the most polluted cities, such as Krakow and Wroclaw, is a drastic change. Chimneys pump out thick green and black smoke from their tops, which give the impression of entering a storm. Polish citizens and authorities state that the pollution comes from the burning of plastic in wood burning fireplaces. As gas is not a common way to heat the home in Poland, homeowners’ resort to using these materials to burn. It results in a red, hazy smog that hides the sun for months. Currently, authorities attempt to fix the pollution problem by providing free coal and improvements to gas heating systems. Yet, the fix is slow, and political and financial issues in the country hinder the progress, causing residents to burn even more plastic than in previous years.

What can be burned in a fireplace?

When burning papers, plastics and Styrofoam in a wood burning fireplace, the combustion process releases chemicals that when breathed in, are toxic. If a thick, black smoke is coming from a chimney, it’s a sign that there are plastics being burnt. This residue can stain the home as well. Burning paper also releases toxins, and makes an immense amount of heat. Little scraps of hot paper are likely to float up through the chimney and land outside, potentially causing a fire. Burning coal releases carbon monoxide, a very dangerous and deadly chemical.

Hardwoods and softwoods can both be safely burned in a wood burning fireplace. Hardwoods include walnut, maple, and oak, where softwoods are pine, cedar, and spruce. The wood should have 25% water content or less to be safely burned. If the wood has a green color, it has a high moisture content and cannot safely be burnt. The wood should be cut & seasoned, around 1.5 – 2 years old, and not treated or sealed with any chemicals or paint. When burned, the wood should release a grey-ish transparent smoke from the chimney.

Last notes

Keeping your fireplace cleaned and safe for you and your home is very important. An unsafe fireplace may also harm those around, by causing air pollution and expelling toxins. If you have any further questions about what you can and cannot burn in the wood burning fireplace, the experts at Superior Chimney can help. Keep your fireplace safe by scheduling an inspection with us at Superior Chimney, and call 877-244-6349.

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