Experts are warning against the use of certain kinds of firewood for fireplaces and wood stoves. Softwood such as pine, spruce, and fir can produce more smoke, creosote, and sparks, while treated wood contains chemicals that can release toxic fumes and harm stoves and flues. Green wood, meanwhile, produces more pollution that can cause respiratory problems and environmental harm. Experts recommend hardwood or seasoned wood for safer and efficient burning. It is also important to store firewood properly, off the ground, in a covered area with good air circulation, and away from combustible materials.
Experts Warn Against Using Certain Kinds of Firewood
As the winter season approaches, it’s time to stock up on firewood for warm and cozy evenings. However, experts warn that not all types of firewood are suitable for use in your fireplace or wood stove. Some types of wood can compromise your health, damage your equipment, and even harm the environment. In this article, we will discuss the types of firewood you should avoid and why.
Types of Firewood to Avoid
Softwood refers to trees from the conifer family, such as pine, spruce, and fir. These types of wood are abundant and can be cheaper than hardwood, but they are also less dense and burn faster, producing more smoke and creosote. Creosote is a highly flammable and sticky substance that can build up on the walls of your chimney or stove and cause chimney fires. In addition, softwood contains more resin or sap, which can pop and spark, posing a risk of fire and chimney damage.
2. Treated Wood
Treated wood is any wood that has been chemically treated with preservatives or additives for outdoor use, such as decking, utility poles, or railroad ties. These chemicals include chromated copper arsenate (CCA), creosote, pentachlorophenol (PCP), and copper azole, which can release toxic fumes when burned. Inhaling these fumes can cause respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, and skin irritation. Moreover, treated wood can damage your stove, flue, or emissions control system, as the chemicals can corrode or clog them.
3. Green Wood
Green wood is fresh or unseasoned wood that has not been dried or aged for at least six months or more. Green wood contains more moisture and sap than seasoned wood, which can cause it to produce excessive smoke, create more creosote, and lower the heat output. Burning green wood can also cause more pollution and harm the environment, as it releases more particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
Why Avoid These Types of Firewood
Using softwood, treated wood, or green wood can have several negative effects on your health, equipment, and environment. Here are some reasons why you should avoid them:
1. Health risks
Softwood, treated wood, and green wood can emit harmful chemicals, such as creosote, VOCs, and toxic fumes, when burned. Inhaling these substances can cause respiratory problems, irritation, allergies, and even cancer. Moreover, they can worsen existing health conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or heart disease.
2. Equipment damage
Burning softwood or treated wood can cause more creosote buildup in your chimney or stove, which can lead to chimney fires or stove damage. In addition, creosote can corrode metal and reduce the efficiency of your stove. Burning green wood can also damage your stove or flue, as the moisture can cause rust, cracking, or creosote buildup.
3. Environmental impact
Using softwood or green wood can contribute to air pollution, as they release more smoke, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide than hardwood or seasoned wood. Air pollution can affect the health of humans and wildlife, cause acid rain, and contribute to climate change. Burning treated wood can also release toxins into the soil, water, or air and harm the ecosystem.
What Types of Firewood to Use Instead?
To avoid health, equipment, and environmental problems, experts recommend using hardwood or well-seasoned wood for your fireplace, stove, or campfire. Hardwood includes trees from the deciduous family, such as oak, maple, hickory, and cherry. Hardwood is denser, more durable, and burns longer and hotter than softwood, producing less smoke, creosote, and pollution. Seasoned wood refers to wood that has been dried or aged for at least six months or more, ideally in a covered area with good air circulation. Seasoning wood lowers the moisture content, making it easier to light, burn more efficiently, and produce less smoke and pollution.
1. Can I use softwood or treated wood for kindling or starting fires?
It is not recommended to use softwood or treated wood for kindling or starting fires, as they can produce more smoke, creosote, and pollution, and increase the risk of chimney fires or stove damage. Instead, use dry and clean kindling, newspaper, or fire starters made from natural materials, such as wax or sawdust.
2. How can I tell if my firewood is seasoned?
You can tell if your firewood is seasoned by checking the color, weight, and sound. Seasoned wood is darker in color, lighter in weight, and makes a hollow sound when two pieces are banged together. Unseasoned wood is lighter in color, heavier in weight, and makes a dull thudding sound.
3. How can I store my firewood properly?
You can store your firewood properly by keeping it off the ground, in a covered area with good air circulation, and away from the house or other combustible materials. Stack the wood loosely, so that air can flow between the pieces and help them dry faster. Cover the top of the stack with a tarp or roof that extends beyond the edges, but leave the sides open for ventilation. Make sure the wood is not too close to your stove or fireplace, as this can cause a fire hazard.
Using firewood for heating or recreational purposes can be enjoyable and cost-effective, but it’s essential to use the right type of wood to avoid health, equipment, and environmental risks. Softwood, treated wood, and green wood are not recommended for burning, as they can emit harmful substances, damage your stove or chimney, and harm the ecosystem. Instead, use hardwood or well-seasoned wood, and store it properly to ensure safe and efficient burning.