There's nothing quite as satisfying as cozying up to a crackling fire after hauling in a bundle of firewood, perhaps gathered by yourself, from the cold outdoors. It's something that someone like me who lives in an apartment sans fireplace craves when the temps start to drop. It's also considered by some to be a cost- and resource-effective (although not exactly efficient) alternative to blasting the furnace on high given that wood is a renewable resource and the cost of fuel isn't exactly a bargain these days.
However, the air pollution — not to mention the sooty mess — generated by burning cordwood in a fireplace is less than satisfying. According to the EPA, residential wood smoke contains many of the same chemical compounds as cigarette smoke like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, various carcinogenic VOCs, and perhaps worst of all, particulate matter — composed of tar, gases, soot, and ashes — which can take their toll on your health and on the environment. A runny nose, burning eyes, and bronchitis kind of takes the romance out of burning a fire, huh?
If you must burn a traditional fire with cordwood, there are EPA-recommended steps you can take to make it more efficient and less harmful to you and the planet. But here's another idea: forgo wood completely and use cleaner burning fireplace logs made out a variety of substances like recycled cardboard, sawdust, and even coffee grounds. Although I fully understand that buying a box of manufactured firelogs at a supermarket or home goods store doesn't have the same rustic, DIY appeal as gathering wood for a fire, they're less likely to keep you and Mother Nature up hacking and wheezing all night. They're a good thing. Check these four fireplace log options out.
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