impact of indoor fireplace and home air quality

What to Do About Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Indoor Air Quality?

Are wood-burning fireplaces bad for indoor air quality? They certainly don’t help. Homes that utilize wood-burning heat sources have about 26 percent higher levels of fine particles in their air. How dangerous are these fine particles? That depends on the health of everyone in the household.

Humans have lived in small homes that rely solely on wood-burning fireplaces and ovens for heat for thousands of years. When properly vented with a chimney or exhaust system, fires are largely safe.

However, even healthy people can experience headaches, coughing and eye irritation if they’re exposed to too much smoke from wood-burning fireplaces. Asthma attacks can be brought on by exposure to wood smoke, and there’s also a greater risk of smoke-related heart issues for the elderly.

Those risks don’t necessarily mean your family can’t enjoy a warm wood-burning stove or fireplace during the winter. There are both in-system HVAC solutions and other portable air purification devices that can make fireplaces safer for the indoor air of your home.

Portable Air Purifiers

There are literally dozens of portable air purifiers of varying size that you can put near your fireplace to filter out a lot of the fine particles put out by a wood-burning fireplace. These range in size from standing units that look kind of like a portable fan to small cylindric purifiers that can sit on a coffee table. Many of these purifiers have HEPA filters and carbon filters that catch even the smallest airborne irritants.

Some people who aren’t bothered by the pollutants themselves get these filters strictly to prevent the wood smoke smell from permeating through their home. Many of these filters are ideal for about a 350 to 500 square foot area.

HVAC Air Purification Solutions

There are several indoor air quality solutions for your HVAC system that will drastically reduce the particulate matter in your home, including the 1 micron or smaller particles that make up wood smoke. The lower-end filters, which are categorized based on MERV ratings, aren’t great at catching these small particles. Filters with a MERV 14 rating reliably catch 75 to 84 percent of 1 micron to 0.3 micron-sized particles. MERV 17 through MERV 20 filters catch about 99.9 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Homeowners can purchase higher-end MERV filters or even HEPA filters designed to fit their unit, but there is a potential drawback to some of these filtration options.

Filters work like a colander, sieve or strainer for your indoor air – densely packed filters trap pollutants and only let the clean air pass through. It’s also not unlike a straw – the smaller the straw hole’s circumference the more suction is required. Less liquid can be sucked through a small straw than a big straw.

Your HVAC system’s air handler will have to work harder to pull air through the higher end filters. It will have to run longer to move an adequate amount of air with a denser filter. There are solutions that may alleviate some of this additional strain on your system. Some air conditioners and furnaces are specifically designed and calibrated for high-MERV or HEPA filtration.

If you’re concerned your system may not be able to handle a denser filter, feel free to give Vito Services a call. We’d be happy to give you a filter recommendation based on your existing furnace, air conditioner or heat pump.

UVC lights in ductwork don’t add a lot of additional strain to an HVAC unit, but they are more effective for killing or deactivating bacteria, viruses and mold spores than eliminating smoke particles. If someone in your house has allergies or is immunocompromised, having an extra layer of protection from internal UVC air purifiers can be a great addition to your HVAC system.

You may also want to ask your Vito Services air conditioner and furnace technician about our polarized media air cleaner filters. These filters are designed to fit an existing unit’s air filter but have a magnetic-like effect that captures airborne particles at a 97 percent efficiency rate.

Find Out About Your Air Purification Options

Providing furnace, boiler, air conditioner and heat pump maintenance, repair and installation services isn’t just about keeping your family comfortable year-round. At Vito Services, the health of our customers is hugely important to our team. That’s why we offer several effective air filtration and purification products and installation services.

Your HVAC system can play a vital role in maintaining the highest indoor air quality possible. Trust this important function to the experts at Vito Services. Call us at 800-438-8486 to schedule an indoor air quality appointment.

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