September 22nd, 2009 marks the autumnal equinox – the official first day of autumn.  The morning was marked with a heavy blanket of fog over the city streets and a crisp thin veil of ice on the windows.

Fall is officially here, and not a moment too soon after an incredibly scorching summer. Shifting gears, any eco-savvy person knows that a whole new set of rules come into play once the season begins its cold long descent into winter.

While normally aware of Mother Nature inspired do’s and don’ts, I have to admit my guilty winter pleasure has to be the fireplace.  Fireplaces are a terrible eco-gremlin, not only using burning natural resources, but release smoke and fumes into your home and atmosphere. Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to make sure our fireplace use is as green as possible.

Understanding Your Fireplace:

Many people think that there are ways to use a conventional fireplace so that it’s as eco-friendly as possible.  Some of these so-called “green” choice include using woods such as birch, hickory, sugar maple, and red oak to produce more heat and less smoke.

But the truth is, switching out one type of wood for another is still use of a natural resource that otherwise could have been spared. The act of switching out one type of wood for another does nothing to reduce deforestation.

The use of a conventional fireplace still leads to harmful smoke, fumes and other indoor air pollutants – definitely something to consider if you have pets or children.  Traditional open fireplaces burn very inefficiently and produce hundreds of chemical compounds, including carbon monoxide, organic gases, particulates, and some of the same cancer-causing agents found in tobacco smoke.

Minor spillage of these pollutants occurs regularly, primarily when starting or stoking the fire. However, the larger concern is when the fire smolders late at night, producing high levels of CO and a weak draft that is dangerous and sometimes even fatal. 1

The Smart Fireplace:

Whether or not you have a fireplace, you can still create the same effect with faux fireplace that doubles as an energy-efficient heater.  A fireplace heater lets you fill your home with a mesmerizing, soft glow without the hassle of burning ash and buying wood.

Conventional fireplace are often limited to a large home that can accommodate the space and chimney necessary to install a traditional fireplace.  With an electric fireplace heater, it’s possible to have a fireplace no matter what size or type of home you’re in.

Electric fireplace heaters are perfect if you live in a small home or apartment and prefer the stylish addition of a fireplace.  Fireplace heaters make it possible for these types of spaces to still enjoy the warm glow of a fireplace.

The look of an electric fireplace heater is surprisingly realistic since it includes light bulbs to simulate the gentle smoldering of a fire down to the glowing embers.  With portable fireplace heaters, you can get the coveted architectural element of a fireplace, without the cost – plus its portability allows you to move it whenever you decide to rearrange your décor.

Green Fireplaces is brought to you by Shireen Qudosi.  For additional eco winter ideas, visit

1    Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss. John Wiley & Sons,    2006. ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, Hardcover: 320 pages

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2 Responses to FIREPLACE

  1. Janet says:

    I live in an apartment and on the 3rd story. I love the ambiance of a fireplace and purchased one of those heaters, my guests always thinks it is real!

  2. Jackie O says:

    An electric fireplace seems like the perfect solution for my situation – I have asthma but I hate the central heater because it doesn’t really keep my living room warm. The electric fireplace sounds like it’ll keep me warm!

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