Fireplaces have been a common sight in living spaces around the globe. But how often do we consider their potentially harmful effects?
The environmental impact of wood fireplaces
According to Health Canada, wood smoke contains several pollutants such as carbon-monoxide, particle matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and some potentially cancer-causing substances. The comparison is dramatic: wood creates 4 gr/hr of particulate pollution compared to a gas furnace which only creates 0.02 gr/hr. In addition, exposure to wood smoke could cause eyes, nose and throat irritation and respiratory problems.
Wood smoke emissions also contribute to smog and acid rain. For example, approximately half the winter smog on the island of Montreal is attributed to the city’s 85,000 wood-burning fireplaces and stoves.
Gas fireplaces as a viable alternative
Despite the campfire appeal of a wood-burning fireplace, many Canadians are seeking better environmental alternatives when choosing a new fireplace for their home. Gas fireplaces produce only a tiny fraction of the pollutants emitted by a wood-burning ones, thereby dramatically reducing corresponding health risks. In addition, several other factors make gas fireplaces even more appealing:
- Because a gas fireplace doesn’t operate on electricity, gas burns at a reduced cost compared to a standard home heater or the cost of wood logs.
- There are less hassles involved with carrying and collecting logs, and cleaning up ash, or eliminating lingering odours.
- An on-off switch on gas fireplaces minimizes fire hazards and because direct-vent gas fireplaces are sealed combustion units, leaving little chance for toxic combustion gases to spill into the home.
- Temperature adjustment is more flexible and more convenient.
Continuing a Positive Trend
We are all aware of the dialogue concerning the current state of the environment. Many of us are becoming more mindful of our actions, and how we can minimize our carbon footprint, in order to make our contribution to saving our earth for this and future generations. In 2007, 47% of Canadian households used natural gas as their main heating fuel, while 6% used wood or wood pellets and 1% used propane. Let’s continue this trend by choosing gas fireplaces to warm and enliven our homes.