What Characteristics Make a Fireplace EPA-Certified?
Burning wood isn’t without its risks. It can create fine particle dust that can leave the fireplace and blow out into the world. A fireplace doesn’t significantly affect the environment when it’s the only one creating these fine particles. But the risks build with more wood-burning fireplaces.
Because of the potential risk to the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in to regulate fireplaces. The fine particulate matter from wood-burning can and will harm the environment, which is why there are certain characteristics that make a fireplace EPA-certified.
You must understand why new fireplaces are the way that they are. You must ensure your fireplace conforms to EPA standards.
Why Does the EPA Regulate Fireplaces?
As mentioned, wood-burning fireplaces create soot and other particulate matter. Your fireplace’s flue funnels them out of the home, preventing that matter from spreading throughout your house and exposing you and your family to hazardous materials.
The soot and other particles leave and drift off into the environment. Unfortunately, they also pose a threat to the ecosystem. In large enough volumes, particulate matter can cover a local environment, potentially killing plant and animal life. Fine particulate matter can also create a hazy effect, reducing visibility.
And reduced visibility significantly affects motorists while driving. It acts as a thick blanket of fog, and headlights can’t penetrate the dense particles, increasing the potential for collisions.
The EPA has made it a priority in recent years to decrease the potential for environmental effects by reducing the number of particles wood-burning fireplaces produce. It makes sense when you consider the many consequences these can have on the surrounding area.
The Health Effects of Particulate Matter
When considering the particulate matter, many people often underestimate the level of risk that comes with inhaling soot and other fine dust particles. Following EPA standards is essential, and it sometimes takes knowing the risks to fully appreciate how important those regulations are for everyone. The most common symptom of inhaling particulates are respiratory illnesses and diseases.
Irritated airways, hacking coughs, and breathing issues are all telltale signs that someone is suffering from some form of respiratory sickness. When there are significant amounts of soot in the air, people are vulnerable to these types of illnesses, severely reducing their overall health and potentially leading to death in extreme instances.
Aside from general respiratory issues, there are a few other symptoms people can fall prey to. There are less-common problems than breathing issues that are still altogether serious health concerns. Irregular heartbeats and heart attacks can be symptoms of inhaling particulate matter. These heart attacks may not always prove fatal, but they severely affect the body and leave it vulnerable to follow-up illnesses.
What Are the EPA’s Fireplace Standards?
The quantities of particles that a wood-burning fireplace can produce change over time. Originally, the EPA allowed fireplaces to emit about 7.5 grams per hour. This later shifted to 4.5 grams per hour and finally updated to 2.5 grams per hour. Because of recent regulations, you’ll be able to easily find wood fireplace inserts for sale that adhere to EPA standards.
However, there are certain fireplaces that you need to be aware of still. You must understand how to avoid producing unsafe levels of particulate matter with them. A method to reduce these emissions is to purchase fireplaces that have catalytic converters. It’s more common to see these catalytic converters on cars, as they serve much the same function on motor vehicles. The purpose of these converters is to reduce emissions and make for cleaner air quality.
There is some tradeoff with the converter installed. The flame may not burn quite as hot. However, it does offer much-needed environmental relief. With the converter, wood-burning stoves also produce fire far more consistently and efficiently, sacrificing some heat for greater long-term sustainability.
Stay on Top of Fireplace Maintenance
Just like a car occasionally needs to go through emissions tests, you also need to ensure that your wood-burning fireplace retains its reliability and safety. As a general rule of thumb, a catalytic converter on a fireplace lasts roughly six years.
If you continue to use it past that timespan, you risk some type of malfunction. Without realizing it, you could be spewing soot and other particles into the air, damaging the environment, and potentially putting others at risk if they inhale the soot.
Because of the risk of long-term failure, it’s essential to stay on top of regular maintenance and ensure everything works as intended. You must monitor your installation and immediately contact repair professionals to get your fireplace back in order. Failing to do so can result in hefty fines and legal consequences from the EPA, whether it’s intentional or not.
Are All Fireplaces Subject to These Guidelines?
When it comes to wood-burning fireplaces and stoves that need to heat a room, these guidelines apply. But there are some instances when a fireplace is for decorative use. In other words, it’s not the primary source of heat for an area.
These types of fireplaces have far more lenient regulations, as they do not produce a significant amount of particulate matter. If the fireplace only remains on for several minutes or an hour, the EPA generally doesn’t have any strict rules. The same goes for a fireplace that sees only sporadic use.
Make Sure Your Fireplace Follows EPA Guidelines
When installing your fireplace or wood-burning stove, you must always be aware of what characteristics make a fireplace EPA-certified. This knowledge will not only protect you and others from inhaling potentially poisonous substances but will help the environment as well.
Just about all commercially available fireplaces come equipped with measures to limit their emissions. However, it’s always necessary to double-check that they still adhere to EPA standards. With the level of allowable particles changing so rapidly, you could inadvertently purchase an older model that no longer follows those strict guidelines.
You must always be aware of what you buy and the emissions that the fireplace you get creates. If you produce an excessive amount of soot and other fine particles, you’ll be responsible for the repercussions. Invest in clean, efficient fireplaces and always remain on top of their upkeep and maintenance.