How To Prevent Fireplace Smoke & What To Do If It Happens
There is nothing like spending a cozy evening wrapped up next to the glow and crackle of a fireplace. What no one wants, though, is a lot of smoke coming out of the fireplace. If your fireplace is smoking a lot, it can make for an unpleasant fireside experience. It could also jeopardize your family's health by emitting dangerous particles into the air. You can take steps to prevent fireplace smoke in the house, though, and still enjoy the glow and crackle of a wood-burning stove. Discover some quick tips and why an air filter for smoke might be exactly what you need to make those fireside nights safer.
Why is smoke from the fireplace coming into the house?
Fireplaces that are well-maintained and working correctly should produce more flames than smoke. Wood-burning fireplaces require regular maintenance to make sure all the parts, including the flame box, chimney, and fireplace smoke guard are working the way they should. Most issues that cause a fireplace to smoke a lot can be easily fixed. Some of the most common reasons for smoke coming from the fireplace into your home are:
Something is blocking the chimney.
- Chimneys can get clogged up, especially if they aren't cleaned for a few years. Smoke, soot, and ash can block the interior passage of the chimney. That space is an enticing shelter for pests, too. Creatures such as pigeons and even rats might try to make your chimney their home during the warmer months and end up clogging it. Have your chimney cleaned once a year by a professional chimney sweep to ensure the smoke has a clear path to exit the fireplace.
The flue isn't open.
- Fire needs oxygen, and the flue is how it gets it. The flue is the space in the chimney that allows air exchange and creates a path for the smoke to safely exit your home. To keep your home from getting drafty, fireplaces have a small door that blocks off the flue so you don't get cold air coming in when there isn't a fire lit. Most fireplaces have a knob or rob that you'll need to twist to open up the flue and get the air flowing. If it's close, the smoke has nowhere to go but inside your home.
It's too warm outside.
- It might seem like a treat to light a fire when it's not too cold outside, but you can end up with a smoky space instead. When the temperature is colder outside than it is inside, it creates a draft in the flue that draws smoke up and out of the chimney. If there isn't enough of a difference in the indoor and outdoor temperatures, smoke can linger in the flue and end up coming back into your house. To avoid this, don't light a fire in your fireplace unless it's at least 20 degrees cooler outside than it is inside your home.
Someone built the fire incorrectly.
- When you build your fire, make sure you put the wood towards the back of the fireplace so the flue can draw the smoke up the chimney. Use the top-down method to build your fire, too. This means putting large logs on the bottom, then smaller logs, then kindling, and finally the newspaper or firestarter. This creates a quick-burning fire that won't produce as much smoke as it gets started.
You are using the wrong wood.
- Make sure you are using wood that's had at least six months to dry out. New, wet wood will produce a lot more smoke than dry wood. Stick to hardwoods, too, like oak and mesquite. If you chop your own wood, make sure you rotate your pile so you know what wood is new and what wood has had enough time to dry.
What do you do if your fireplace smokes?
If your fireplace is creating a lot of smoke, extinguish it right away. You don't want to let a smoky fire continue to burn, because it could end up creating a health hazard in your home. Put the fire out and determine what's causing the problem before you relight it.
Once you've put the fire out, open a window to let the smoke out. If you can, turn on an air purifier to remove the smoke. Smoke from a wood-burning fireplace can be a hazard to your health if it's not controlled, so you want to start clearing the smoke out as quickly as you can.
Next, check the flue and make sure it's open. Look for a knob or handle that controls the flue inside the chimney. You'll know it's open when you can feel a draft of cold air coming from the outside. Then you will want to make sure you are using dry hardwood to build your fire. Check for any plastic, household trash, or other painted wood that might have accidentally gotten into the fireplace.
If everything looks good and you still can't determine what's causing so much smoke, book an appointment with a professional chimney sweep. There may be something blocking your chimney. Avoid using the fireplace until the chimney is clean.
Are wood-burning stoves bad for indoor air quality?
They can be, and that's a serious issue. The World Health Organization warns that household air pollution can be a contributing factor to serious illnesses like stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer.
Scientists in England found that wood-burning stoves can triple the amount of harmful indoor air pollution in a home. Wood-burners can increase the amount of harmful elements in the air like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. A wood-burning stove with a door is better than an open fireplace, though. The door on the stove will help contain some of the harmful particles and keep them out of the air. However, this works best if you avoid opening the door very often. If you can, only refuel the fire once or not at all. Opening the door to refuel three or four times a night can greatly increase the concentration of air pollutants in your home.
If you have an open fireplace instead, stick to dry wood and make sure you have the flue open before you light the fire. Avoid lighting fires unless it's at least 20 degrees colder outside. Consider skipping the fire when outdoor air pollution levels are high, too.
Do air purifiers help with fireplace smoke?
Air filters for smoke can be a great solution if you want or need to use a wood-burning fireplace while protecting the quality of your indoor air. There are many air purifiers and filters that are specifically designed to handle wood smoke. Look for air purifiers for smoke that filter out particulates and gases for the best results. You can find stand-alone air purifiers or HVAC air filters for smoke, so there are options to suit every home. These solutions are also great for filtering smoke pollution from the outside, too. This is useful if there is a fire near your home.
Will a HEPA filter catch smoke?
Absolutely! A HEPA filter is the best air filter for smoke. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that HEPA filters outperformed other air filters when it came to filtering out smoke from wood-burning stoves. The HEPA filters decreased the levels of certain harmful particles by up to 75%. That can reduce your risk for developing serious health issues related to inhaling polluted air.
If you want to enjoy your fireplace while protecting the quality of the air you breathe, an air purifier with a HEPA filter is your best option. Visit the Veva online store today to get free shipping on a huge selection of air filters for smoke.
Contributing Writer: Erica Moss