Archive for April, 2012

Chimney sweep likely prevents house fire in Kansas City

April 30th, 2012

Wood framing inside chimney

On January 19, 2010 local chimney sweep Gene Padgitt found something odd while getting ready to install a woodburning insert in a 1920′s Kansas City, Missouri home. Something that would likely have caused a house fire. The original builder of the home constructed an unlined chimney (a chimney without a clay tile flue liner) and put structural wood members inside the flue.

After Padgitt saw the wood inside the chimney he told the homeowner he had to open up the brick chimney in the attic area to remove the combustibles. There, he found double 2 x 4′s on one side and a header on the other side inside the chimney with brick built underneath and on top of the wood. Some of the wood had already been burned away by previous fires unknown to the homeowner, which probably smoldered but did not ignite due to lack of oxygen.

“We see crazy things like this more often than most people realize,” said Padgitt, who is also a State Certified Fire Investigator. “People don’t think about the inside of their chimney, and unless a professional chimney sweep inspects it, there is no way of knowing what the condition is. In this case, the house had been standing for 90 years without burning down, but the hazard was there and eventually would have been a serious problem.

Wood chemically changes when exposed to heat over a period of time, allowing it to ignite at a much lower temperature than normal without direct flame. The ignition point of wood is normally 500 degrees, but pyrolized wood can ignite at temperatures as low as 180 degrees. Internal flue gas temperatures of fireplaces can reach up to 400 degrees, but if a chimney fire occurs the temperature will be much higher. Some chimney fires in field testing by the Midwest Chimney Safety Council have caused temperature readings of 2,100 – 2,800 degrees. A masonry chimney will continue to heat up after a chimney fire is out, causing a secondary fire hazard. Often, fire departments are called back to a house several hours after leaving due to combustibles igniting after they extinguished the fire.

Note: Chris Brown warns that most chimney fires go unnoticed by homeowners and damages by fire are found later by a chimney inspector.

Padgitt says that most of the fire hazards he sees having to do with the structure is wood framing placed right next to the exterior of the chimney chase. Code requires 1” clearance for exterior chimneys, and 2” clearance for interior chimneys, but this is often ignored, even in newer homes. The location where it is the biggest problem is right above the opening of the fireplace in front of the smoke chamber, where the facial wall may hide internal combustible wood framing. Most of the house fires he sees start in this area.

Your Chimney Sweep recommends that a Level II internal camera inspection be performed for new homeowners by a  NCCSA  Certified Chimney Sweep.


The Chimney Sweeping Log: Does It Work?

April 27th, 2012

Nothing like a crackling fire for the winter season.

But before you fire up the fireplace, ask yourself, how clean is my chimney? Give it a sweep with the Chimney Sweeping Log! This product is supposed to prevent chimney fires by cleaning it as it burns.

But Does It Work? “From what we’ve read, it says it will work in masonry fireplaces. This is Butch Weber, his chimney business is named after him. He says the fire hazard come when your chimney builds up a residue called creosote.

The makers say this product is easy to use. All you do is light the log. Sounds easy enough.

This fire gives off a chemical that is supposed to dry out the creosote. Eventually, it will breakaway from the walls’ of your fireplace. “We need to let this burn for 90 minutes,” we said.

We revisited the log the next day. Butch says the log, if it worked, should show us some results. But we did not see any proof. What we saw was a log that did not burn all the way. “Here are the three previous marks we made. Here’s a good creosote spot. Obviously none of it has fallen like the product said it would,” says Butch.

So much for the easy way out to cleaning your chimney. “It still needs to be done the old fashioned way with the steel brushes and a vacuum. No miracle cure here yet,” said Butch.

Save your $16. Don’t let it go up in smoke like we did. The Chimney Sweeping Log doesn’t work!

Wedding Services

April 25th, 2012

Thinking of hiring a chimney sweep for your wedding service?

Chimney sweeps are a traditional accompaniment to a wedding and are said to bring good luck, fertility and fortune to the bride and groom.The tradition of a chimney sweep bringing the bride and groom luck on their wedding day is one that goes back many years to the reign of King George II.

 The history of the Chimney Sweep

The story goes that as King George II was travelling in his carriage the horse attached to the carriage suddenly became wild and frenzied. The only person brave enough to take action and stop the horse from bolting with the carriage containing King George on it was a local chimney sweep who courageously stepped in and saved the day.

King George was so grateful to the chimney sweep for saving his life that he issued a Royal Decree that all chimney sweeps were to be regarded as bearers of good luck and that chimney sweeps were to be treated with the greatest of respect.

From that day forth the tradition of chimney sweeps being regarded as omens of good luck was established and this is why many couples make the choice to hire a chimney sweep to attend their wedding day.

 What does a chimney sweep do on the Wedding Day?

On you’re wedding day I will arrive in traditional Victorian Style chimney sweep costume, including the customary chimney sweeps brush, top hat, coat with tails and soot blackened face.

I will allow plenty of time for the bride and groom and also any guests who wish to have a photo opportunity with me.

In order to bestow the Chimney Sweeps good luck I will have a handshake for the groom and a good luck kiss for the bride.

With the power given by the Royal Decree of King George II I will then recite a message of good luck for the future to the bride and groom. I will then present the bride and groom with a personalized certificate and a special gift.

In order to ensure good luck make sure to hire a genuine chimney sweep.

Woman Extracts Raccoon From Chimney With Pole

April 23rd, 2012

This is the Second Raccoon Michelle Heyer has found in chimney

Michelle Heyer was surprised that police responded to her call about a raccoon in her chimney, but they did.

It was the second time a raccoon had been trapped in the chimney of her Bryden Road home, and the first was big enough to crawl out, she said.

But this one could not stretch its arms and legs across the length of the inside of the chimney, where she spotted him Saturday, April 7.

Beachwood Police officers referred her to the animal warden, but she was worried they would kill the animal. So she took matters into her own hands.

Heyer took a long pole and stuck it in her chimney from above, hoping he would crawl out. Then she had to leave for a week on business.

While she was gone, she said, she worried that she would come home to a dead animal.

But the raccoon made it out safely. And now, she said, she plans to get the chimney cover installed.

What is that Chirping Coming From My Chimney

April 19th, 2012

You may have noticed little bat-like creatures living in your chimney during the months when it is not in use.

 These birds are often confused as bats because of their jerky flight, but are actually completely harmless Chimney Swifts. These tiny little birds migrate from South America during the Spring and leave the northeast around early November, just as the cold weather starts to come through. While a migrating bird may not seem like a big deal, the problem comes in when they are no longer welcome guests. Chimney Swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This Federal Law prohibits the removal of any migrating bird without a federal permit. In addition to the prohibited removal, these migratory birds always return to the same nesting spots year after year, therefore, if you had a nest in your chimney last year, you can expect the flock to return this year. If you decide you do not want the birds to return to your home, preventative measures must be taken within the proper window of time. On the other hand, if you would like to provide a home for these birds, it is best to learn ways to help them find and enjoy your home.

You May Not Recognize The Sound in Your Chimney – Take A Listen!

What is a Chimney Swift?
The Chimney Swift is the most common migrating birds found in North America. While they are sometimes mistaken as bats, the Chimney Swift actually has many unique characteristics. For starters, unlike other birds, the Chimney Swift does not find comfort in the branches of a tree. In fact, these birds have trouble balancing on horizontal tree limbs or anything horizontal for that matter. Chimney Swifts are accustomed to the vertical and textured walls of a chimney or the insides of a hollowed out tree. Their legs and feet are designed for the lifestyle of holding onto the ridges of the walls. Another distinct attribute of the Chimney Swift are the wings. The wingspan of the otherwise 5 inch long bird is about 12 inches and the wing shape looks like narrow half crescents. The look of their wings gave this bird the nickname of the “flying cigar”.  In fact, they mostly live in the air and typically only land to sleep at night and raise their young. The nests they build jut out from the chimney walls and are held together by the bird’s glue-like saliva. To survive, the Chimney Swift catches up to one third of its weight everyday in insects during fight.  In the summer months, they migrate to the North and when the weather turns chilly, the birds head back down to South America to avoid the cold.

What is the big deal?
Unfortunately, in Connecticut, the Chimney Swift population has been declining at about 4 percent each year. In the past, these birds nested in hollowed out trees but with the loss of much of their natural habitat, the birds found other means of protection in stone chimneys. This move to a different type of habitat allowed them to have more options on where to nest. But these days, with more and more homes being built without chimneys and the existing ones installing chimney caps or metal flue liners, it is once again becoming difficult for Chimney Swifts to find a nesting place.

Chimney Swift migration season starts in late March and the birds return to the south before the first frost in early November. With this migration pattern and the laws against their removal, if your home is chosen as a nesting spot, the birds must be left alone till the time when they decide to fly away as the leaves start changing colors. But hosting Chimney Swifts is not terrible. The birds are most often left unnoticed until the time when their young are grown up enough to make chirping sounds when the parents bring home food for them. During this time, which happens about 2 weeks before the fall migration, the chirping sounds can be very persistent. But there is one major benefit to keeping Chimney Swifts around, the little birds eat about a third of their weight in insects every day. This includes troublesome mosquitoes, termites, beetles, and many other tiny pests. You can even consider the minor disturbances at the end of their stay as your only sacrifice for enjoying a bug free summer!

Chimney Swift Towers

Many bird lovers actually construct special towers designed to house the visiting Chimney Swifts as they migrate into the area looking for places to nest. You can find easy to build Chimney Swift Towers online and construct one near enough to your home that you can enjoy watching the birds, but far enough away that they will not create any problems. If your chimney is capped, they will look for the next best thing and find your tower. Some communities that are known as annual nesting grounds have constructed large towers for these migrating birds. The swifts favor larger chimneys, so abandoned factories with smokestacks are a favorite place for a summer home.

How can I become a Chimney Swift host?
If you are not against hosting a little family of birds on your own, there are a few ways to encourage their presence in your chimney. Here are a few tips for attracting and keeping the birds around your home.

• After your chimney has been used all winter long, have a chimney sweep come out and clean the creosote from the walls to ensure it is a good clean home for your feathery friends.

• To prepare your chimney for the Chimney Swifts, remove your chimney cap during the season they will be visiting and remember to replace the cap once again after the birds have left.

• While the birds are nesting, ensure the dampers are closed so that baby birds do not fall down the chimney shaft.

• If at any point a baby does fall down the chimney shaft, gently guide it to the walls of the chimney and allow it to climb back up to the nest.

• After the birds have flown away for the winter, have your chimney sweep inspect the chimney once more and remove the bird nest to ensure you have safe fires all winter long till the birds come back in the spring!

• Chimney Swifts are pleasant guests and will even keep your home insect free for the summer!

Chimney Caps Are Designed To Keep Uninvited Birds And Critters From Nesting In Your Chimney.

How do I get rid of them?
Letting a family of migratory birds may not be for everyone. But the good news is that it is very simple to bird proof your chimney. This is the purpose of the chimney cap. The only tricky part is to install the cap while the birds are living down south. When the chimney professional comes over to install the chimney cap, have them check for an active nest of birds and if one if found, reschedule the cap installation for after the Chimney Swifts have gone back to South America. It is illegal for a chimney sweep to remove the nest or eggs or a migratory bird. Once the chimney is bird free and cleaned, and a cap is installed, you are now safe from any nesting birds. Another bonus is that a chimney cap is good for many other reasons besides bird control. The chimney cap will also prevent falling leaves, rain water and other harmful creatures or things from falling into the chimney. Keeping the birds out is a simple fix and furthermore, a chimney cap is a good addition to any chimney anyway.

Ultimately, it may be nice to host family of Chimney Swifts, but if you are not comfortable with the little birds inhabiting your chimney, it takes only a minor addition to your chimney to solve the problem forever. Call Affordable Chimney Sweep Today (704)526-6348

Why the Top Hat and Tails?

April 16th, 2012

The History Behind the Hat

Top-hatDo you know why the traditional sweep is adorned in a fine beaver top hat? The answer might surprise you. How about why chimney sweeps make good wedding guests? No?

Widely considered one of the oldest professions in the world, the chimney sweep has been a necessity since the urbanization of modern cities precluded by the Industrial Revolution. As urban areas became more densely populated and spaces began filling in with homes, chimneys multiplied like wildfire. The increase in population and chimney use lead to a boom in chimney sweeps. This sudden ubiquity of chimney sweeps and their sustained presence has led to quite a few urban legends attaching themselves to the profession.

The Tails and Top Hat

One of the more iconic features of the chimney sweep is the traditional top hat and tails, still worn by many sweeps in the field today. Although there are no concrete sources of evidence on the origination of the top and tails look, popular wisdom says they originated from the hands of funeral directors in the 17th and 18th centuries onwards.

At the time, chimney sizes had been newly regulated to a very narrow set of dimensions following the Great Fire in London in 1666. This led to the practice of sweeps ‘employing’ boys to climb the narrow chimneys and sweep them; in fact, legend has it that the phrase ‘to light a fire underneath you’ comes from the practice of sweeps lighting small fires underneath reluctant boys to ensure the only way they were getting out was through the top of the chimney.

This, of course, was a deplorable practice and was very dangerous and unhealthy for the young boys. Sweeps apprentices were at risk for cancers, fatal falls, and permanent bodily injury from inhalation of soot. Worse still, they were routinely robbed by their ‘masters’ and left with little more than the soot sacks they carried for warmth. Funeral directors are said to have taken pity on the young boys and have given them the top hats and coattails of the deceased.

The top hat and coats were said to have given sweeps a measure of pride in their work, and soon caught on as the de facto uniform of chimney sweeps, which has stuck right into the present day.

Now, being well-dressed doesn’t necessarily make you a shoo-in for any wedding invitation – so why is it that inviting chimney sweeps is a popular wedding tradition? More in this story latter!

“A House Built Of Firewood”

April 13th, 2012

Builder hoping cordwood home design catches on


White Earth, Minn. — A northern Minnesota school teacher will soon move into an unusual new home built of firewood logs in an effort to create affordable, energy efficient homes on the White Earth Reservation using an old construction technique.

For Bill Paulson, this unusual home nestled in the woods near Naytahwaush is a memory of the past, and offers hope for the future. Paulson’s dad built a cordwood home in the 1940s, when there wasn’t money for traditional construction materials.

Now, Bill Paulson is on a mission to teach people how to build the cheap, sturdy and energy-efficient cordwood homes.

“This project is about using resources that are available to us and hopefully building low-income housing people can afford,” Paulson said. “And also get them involved in building their own house.”

A framework of heavy timbers supports the roof. Inside the timber framework, 16-inch long chunks of firewood are stacked to build the walls. This house is built with cedar, but tamarack, pine and poplar work well and are readily available in northern Minnesota. Mortar holds the logs in place and foam insulation fills any voids in the middle.

To save money, some builders use sawdust as insulation. The walls of a cordwood home have nearly twice the insulation value of a traditional home.

The ends of the logs are visible inside and outside, giving the house a distinctive look.

Larger view
Bill Paulson

The cordwood construction technique also makes it easy to be creative. Glass bottles embedded in the walls bring beams of colored light into the living space. The wood chunks can be arranged in purposeful designs.

“Here’s a bear paw we have on the interior wall,” Paulson said, pointing out one of his designs.

Paulson used chunks of wood in the wall near the front door to make a large bear paw that reflects the owner’s American Indian heritage.

“Veronica Weaver is going to be the owner and she’s a member of the Bear Clan, so having a bear paw on the wall individualizes the house toward her,” Paulson said.

A few finishing touches are all that’s left before Veronica Weaver can move into her new home. She drives out to see it nearly every day.

Larger view
Thick Walls

“It’s an interesting project and every home I think would be unique,” Weaver said. “I had people in my house [and] they did some special things that probably you won’t see in any other house. It’s unique, they’re energy-efficient and they last a very long time.”

Building a cordwood home is labor intensive, but stacking the cordwood walls isn’t skilled labor. If a homeowner provides labor, the cost can be cut in half. About a dozen people hired to help build the demonstration house now have the skills to build their own home or help others.

Bill Paulson said the new home is generating a lot of excitement in the area.

“We’ve had two people call up and ask if this one is for sale and I’ve had a lot of people say how do I get on that list,” he said. “There’s a lot of community interest. If I could build them I could get rid of five today.”

Finding out if that demand is real will be the ultimate test of this project said Arlan Kangas. Kangas is President of Detroit Lakes-based Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation. The non-profit organization put up the money to build this demonstration home.

Veronica Weaver will buy the house using a loan from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Kangas said they’re using what they learned on this project to create an affordable, efficient model home design.

Larger view
Under Construction

If they’re successful he hopes to build five cordwood homes at White Earth next summer.

“We think there is demand for home ownership that is affordable, that fits in with the environment, that’s green in nature,” Kangas said. “If we can demonstrate to others that this is an affordable technique, we would like to see the cordwood style of construction expand throughout Minnesota.”

Kangas said the goal is to build cordwood homes about 1,000 square feet for $90,000. He said a comparably-sized, traditional wood frame home would cost about $115,000.

But perhaps more importantly, he said if people are trained to build the homes themselves, the cost of a cordwood home could be as low as $45,000.

A steady stream of curious visitors watched Veronica Weaver’s cordwood home being built this fall and many people have asked about training in the construction technique.

If all that interest translates to action, this unusual looking home could be a common sight in the north woods.

The history of tree-hugging, and the future of name-calling

April 12th, 2012


going greengoing green

Anyone who ever sympathized with Eric Cartman‘s declaration, “I hate hippies! … I want to kick ‘em in the nuts” probably finds the word “tree-hugger” useful — and plenty of other people dig the word, too.

Maybe you’d rather be a vile SUV-cuddler?

At this point, it’s hard to imagine the vocabulary of environmentalism or insults without “tree-hugger” and “tree-hugging.” And these ol’ chestnuts continue to spawn variations: tree-huggitude, tree-huggery, tree-huggage, tree-huggy, tree-huggish, non-tree-hugging, and treehugtastic were all google-able by this intrepid reporter.going green

The terms often punctuate news stories too. Last month, in The Financial Times, Paul Miles claimed that “caustic columnists” consider independent yogurt-makers such as himself to be “tree-hugging loonies.” In August, New Hampshire’s state environmental commissioner, Michael Nolin, caught heat for standing by while a fellow administrator dismissively referred to “tree-huggers” — guess Nolin forgot his job was to be the state’s tree-hugger-in-chief. Then there was the British Wind Energy Association’s “touch a turbine” campaign this spring to encourage folks to learn about, touch, and — you guessed it — hug wind turbines. The campaign was described in the London Sunday Times as “21st-century tree-hugging.”

What are the roots of this popular pejorative? Many sources claim“tree-hugger” was born as part of the 1970s-era Chipko movement in India, which involved peaceful resistance and literal tree-hugging. Unfortunately, this logical explanation is as full of crap as the popular etymology of “crap,” a word that was not spawned by the tastefully named plumber Thomas Crapper. According to the Oxford English Dictionary — the bible of the English language, but with fewer severe weather events — “tree-hugger” has been out there since at least 1965. The first example discusses a battle in Appleton, Wis., between “the tree huggers and the city.” The OED goes on to show the depreciative, positive, and even literal meanings of the term, including an example about a Barnum and Bailey circus monkey.

Only one related insult is even semi-established: the slur “panda-hugger,” which refers to supporters of China, not cuddlers of adorable bears. But a new frontier for hugging was opened on the Feb. 7, 2006,Colbert Report, when Stephen Colbert’s attack-poodle character chewed on the leg of former CIA director James Woolsey. As Woolsey explained why drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a bad idea, Colbert interrupted with a question that was probably raised for the first time in all of human discourse: “You’re not a caribou-hugger, are you?” Making hug-related allegations is a habit for Colbert, who has slammed other evildoers with the labels “Bill-of-Rights-hugger,” “Constitution-hugger,” and “lung-hugger.”

As has been noted by everyone and that circus monkey’s uncle, Colbert is a pitch-perfect spoof of the right. The movement’s first-rate (first-grade?) name-calling tactics are summed up admirably by the title of linguist Geoffrey Nunberg’s recent book Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.

Nunberg claims that conservatives have done more than just tap into conceptual frames. He says they’ve appropriated the language of politics on a very basic level, including structures like the “Volvo-driving, sushi-eating” compounds. Though the book is a careful, focused analysis of Republican and Democrat language use, one message comes through that’s a lot less sophisticated than the style and author: name-calling works, and tree-huggers of all sorts ought to do more of it.


Chimney Repair | Masonry Chimney Damage

April 11th, 2012

Masonry Chimney Damage &  Repair

Regular maintenance on your masonry chimney will keep it looking great for years. In reality, though, regular maintenance falls through the cracks while you juggle work, life and family. Sometimes, even the most proactive homeowners will be surprised by damage left by previous owners. So while in a perfect world, repointing would be the only masonry service the average masonry chimney would need, in reality you might find unfamiliar problems with your masonry.

Masonry Chimney Damage

Broken (or spalled) bricks are one of the most noticeable types of damage. This is most commonly seen when the front of the brick has either broken or fallen from the masonry.

We’ve mentioned before that the largest cause of damage to brick and masonry is freeze and thaw cycles. Bricks are built to withstand water by finishing them with a hard non-porous outer shell. Spalled bricks break this shell and expose the porous interior of the brick, allowing water damage to destroy your masonry at an accelerated rate.

Spalled bricks are primarily caused when mortar with an incorrect compression rate is used. Mortar is made to absorb the expansion of brick during freeze and thaw cycles. If the mortar is stronger than the brick, however, this role reverses. As brick isn’t meant to be squeezed by expanding materials, it can quickly deteriorate.

All bricks are not created equal. Brick makers understand that interior bricks don’t need to weather the same abuse as exterior bricks, and thus make different types of bricks. When buying bricks, the difference between these is obvious. It becomes a problem, however, when bricks are salvaged. Inexperienced masons and do-it-yourselfers have a difficult time determining which bricks were meant for interior and exterior use.

Some brick makers even make different bricks for different climates. The Deep South is free from freeze and thaw cycles, so some brick makers decided to change the type of brick they shipped there. Since these bricks didn’t need to withstand the same type of abuse as bricks used in the North, they added sawdust to the brick mix. When the bricks were fired, the sawdust burnt away, creating a lighter, more porous brick. This saved on transportation and made it easier for masons. While this caused little problems for the South, unfortunately these bricks were soon being sold further north, where they easily crumble under the extreme temperatures.

An unexpected source of damage is sandblasters and high pressure sprayers. While these might make cleaning a hands free experience, they do so at the expense of your masonry. As mentioned earlier, brick is made such that the edges are hardened to prevent absorption of water. Sandblasting and even high pressure sprayers can reduce this hardened edge and allow water into your bricks, drastically reducing their lifespan.

Masonry Chimney Repair

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to fix spalled bricks. Removal of the spalled bricks and replacement with strong new bricks is necessary. If the spalling is caused by poorly calculated mortar, repointing with correct mortar may help to prevent the problem from spreading.

If you suspect your masonry might be made with bricks that can’t stand up to your weather, or if you have sandblasted or pressure sprayed your masonry, we can apply a waterproof sealant to help the longevity of the bricks.

And of course, if you notice any spalled bricks, cracks, crumbling mortar, or signs of deterioration on your masonry chimney, it’s time to contact a masonry expert right away. Ignoring masonry problems is dangerous and costly.

If you have questions about repairing chimneys email me at

Wood Heat for the Home

April 10th, 2012

Wood Heat for the Home & the Environment


When you heat your home – whether you burn wood, rely on natural gas, or use electricity derived from the most common sources like coal and other fossil fuels – there will likely be some environmental tradeoffs for keeping you warm. This article is intended as an overview of those tradeoffs, with particular emphasis on wood fuel. When you burn wood, there are many actions you can take to reduce environmental impacts. The first step, and the purpose of this article, is understanding those impacts.

Greenhouse Gas Emission

Greenhouse gasses such as water vapor, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone absorb and emit radiation and are the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The increase in greenhouse gasses by human activities is the primary cause of global warming. When wood is burned, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Burning wood produces the same exact amount of CO2 as if the wood rots and biodegrades naturally. The difference is the speed of the process. If harvested and burned optimally and no greenhouse gasses are emitted in production and transportation, wood fuel would be considered carbon neutral. For comparison, natural gas produces comparable Co2 when burned (which it would not produce if not burned) and significant amounts of methane. If you heat your house on electricity generated from oil or coal, the greenhouse gas emission is even worse than natural gas.

Other Emissions

Polluted SkyAir pollution results whenever fuel is burned, and wood is no exception. Whenever something is burned – be it wood, gas, or any fuel – particulate matter is released into the air. Particulate matter results in the soot you see after something is burned, and these fine particles – known as particulate pollution when they become airborne – cause many respiratory issues and health problems. Thus, it’s important to limit your exposure to smoke.

Another group of air pollutants that are the byproduct of home heating are polluting gasses. One such gas is carbon monoxide, which forms from incomplete combustion. Other pollutants of concern that result from improperly burned wood are nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Some of these pollutants can be carcinogenic. The risk from cancer-causing agents becomes much greater if additional undesirable chemicals – often found when trash, heavily inked paper, or pesticide-saturated plant matter is burned – are burned as well.

Deforestation and Renewable Resources

LumberWood, in contrast to fossil fuels, is a renewable resource. However, not all wood is replenished. The wood you burn in your fireplace may or may not be derived from deforested wood – wood from forests that are cut down without the trees being replaced. Other sources of firewood include in sustainable logging, sustainable plantations, agroforestry, and waste wood such as deadfall, debris, and recycled pellets. Fortunately, deforested wood is not typically used for firewood in North Carolina and surrounding areas, for it is certainly the least eco-friendly sourced wood. Deforestation and the soil erosion that often accompanies it results in habitat destruction for countless species of plants and animals. Deforestation also contributes to global warming since trees absorb greenhouse gasses such as CO2.

It is easy to see the importance of practicing sustainability when using wood for fuel. Wood fuel, when procured responsibly, is indeed a renewable resource.

Some Takeaways

  1. Wood sourced responsibly and burned near its source will have a lower carbon footprint and less ecological impacts.
  2. The more smoke you see, the more pollution there will be.
  3. The more efficient you burn, the less fuel (wood) you will use, and the less pollution there will be.
  4. The actions you can take to burn smarter can be grouped into several categories:
    • Using the right fuel. Not all wood makes good firewood.
    • Running a smart operation. How you light and maintain a fire can really matter.
    • Ensuring your burning appliances – chimneys, fireplace, fireplace insert, or woodstove – are as efficient as possible through upgrades and maintenance.
    • Ensuring your home is energy efficient to reduce heat loss so you need to consume less fuel for heat.

When you burn wood in your fireplace or wood stove, you really have a lot of control on how it impacts the environment. I will post more pages like this one in the near future.

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