Warm Up with an Eco-Smart Winter!


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.


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

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 d├ęcor.

Eco-Smart Winter is brought to you by Guest Blogger, Shireen Qudosi. For additional eco winter ideas, please visit http://www.heater-home.com/

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

Images 1: iStockphoto.om
Image 2: http://blogs.worldbank.org
Image 3: http://www.Luxist.com


  1. I wanted to leave this comment I received on Facebook from a great guy (my cousin) who blogs at Ben Goes Outdoors

    Please check it out as it is a great site!

    Benjamin Roode-"I enjoy fireplaces, and this article brings up some interesting facts. However, saying that using wood for a fireplaces uses up an important natural resource is like saying you should curb eating vegetables because they grew from plants. There are many ways of using downed or otherwise discard-able wood to fuel your fire. I think those should have been mentioned before suggesting an electric fireplace, which just puts more strain on coal or oil-fired power plants."

  2. I love electric fireplace heaters! I have asthma so it's not possible for us to use our real fireplace. And these fireplace heaters are definitely the next best thing.

    I think that outdoor patio fireplaces are also really cool. I mean, how often can you take your fireplace outside?!

  3. Love them too. We have a real fireplace and I rarely burn anything in them because of the smoke. My daughter has asthma and she always ends uo coughing. Those firelogs are the worst.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I never gave real fireplace fires that much thought before. Well, except for that one time when I forgot to open the flue and the whole house filled with smoke while entertaining and then after I finally got the flue open, the fireplace got too warm (maybe too much wood) and everyone smelled like something besides wood was charring or burning. But yeah, it makes sense that the smoke and CO might be harmful and aggravate especially people with already compromised breathing or asthma. If you must burn wood inside you should definitely ensure you have a proper draft, otherwise if you have to have a fire use an outdoor fire pit. But then again I'm not so sure there aren't any harmful emissions from our burning natural gas in stoves, ranges, water heaters and of course oil lamps and candles. And then all the emissions and fumes from cleaners, chemicals, sprays, furniture, building materials, etc. It is no wonder so many children today have developed asthma and other disorders. For me Chemicals & Smoke is a big NO.

    Recent blog:=- Copper Fire Pit - Copper Fire Bowl

  5. I've had an eco-smart fire unit going on three years now, and I love it! We live in an old home with a traditional masonry fireplace. The chimney was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and though we repaired the exterior of the chimney, we never trusted that the firebox was safe to burn wood. The chimney also was a path for warm air inside to escape in the winter and for cold air to come down the flue. The solution was to have an experienced Chimney Sweep thoroughly clean the flue and install a chimney cap/damper that tightly seals the flue (it can be opened if we ever want to burn wood, but that's not going to happen with our eco-smart solution.) We considered bringing natural gas to the fireplace, and getting a 'closed-combustion' gas fireplace unit installed.(Closed-combustion appliances prevent Carbon monoxide from back-drafting into your living space). The cost of running the gas line and the new fireplace insert was going to be around $6K. We opted for the Eco-smart solution at less than half that cost, and absolutely LOVE it.We do have the portable unit, and just set it in the firebox. I've seen the Eco-smart built in, and that looks really slick,too. Burning denatured alcohol is clean, doesn't off gas any toxins, and though it doesn't produce massive amounts of heat, our fireplace does provide the warm ambiance of having a fire burning in the winter.
    Do consider this as an eco-friendly way to have a fire in your existing fireplace or if building new - design it into your home.

  6. Great information! Thanks for sharing.


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