Clean burning wood - is this a pipedream?


No central heating, so I used to occasionally start a fire in my livingroom fireplace. The wood I burned was from my two plum trees, using some white paper scrap from my scrap printer paper to start things or other scrap paper without colored inks.
Wayne, are you there? Wayne Whitney who traffics this newsgroup told me that fireplaces release particulate matter which has been shown to shorten one's life.
Well, last year I stopped making fires, not wanting to suffer from the smoke. I had noticed a not nice smell after fires, but staying warm had me still doing it in he winter. I used to just make a small fire to get nice and toasty and after 10-15 minutes, I'd put no more wood on the small fire and let it burn out. I don't hang out in my living room, anyway and have other things to do.
So I was talking to an insurance agent the other day and the conversation turned to home insurance and the fact that I don't have central heating. That fact seems to be a showstopper when applying for standard home owner's policies (I currently have California Fair Plan policy, which is basically fire with few little addenda). I mention that I've stopped burning wood in the fireplace because I heard that the particulate matter released is detrimental to the inhabiants' health. He says "depends on what kind of wood you're burning."
So, how much truth is there in what he said, and how is plum tree wood in the spectrum?
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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Dan Musicant wrote:

Not quite an answer here:
http://www.woodheat.org/environment/smoke.htm
but, if most particulate is tar or pitch, pine is the worst and hardwoods the best.
Smoldering fire gives off most pollution but hot burning one burns the tars before they are emitted in the smoke.
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If you are worried about it in the air _inside_ the house, don't. If you can smell the fire inside, you have a serious chimney problem, something is interfering with a proper draft.
The "danger" of particulate matter in smoke is grossly over stressed. Yes, if you are not burning cleanly, there can be enough to cause asthma suffers some problems but that is about it. Listen to the 'nuts' enough and they will have you thinking that just breathing pure air is dangerous.
Harry K
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"Harry K" wrote Dan Musicant wrote:

That makes no sense. Central heating isnt a requirement for insurance. Space heaters are perfectly legal and many all electric homes have them.

Correct Harry. Dan, just avoid resinous ones like pine.
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ago. Did find a suitable company, however, AARP called back and asked me, "What do you use for heat", I replied that most of the time we use the pellet stove in the family room and have the back half of the house closed off. "Sorry, but we cannot insure you if you use a pellet stove or a fireplace for heat". When I mentioned that I do also have central heating, the rep said, "well it's too late now, you already told me you use a pellet stove". Go figure?
Ivan Vegvary
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cshenk wrote:

A guy I know built a log cabin long ago and paid cash. 20 years later he applied for a home equity loan and was denied because he only had a woodstove for heat. He ended up installing a central heating boiler and used old cast iron radiators for looks, then after being inspected his loan was approved.
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Yo! My trafficking is fairly irregular these days, it was chance that I noticed your post.

Right, but most of those are emitted outside, so you'd be shortening your neighbor's lives, not your own. Of course, if your fireplace has a drafting problem, you could get smoke and particulates inside.
The best option pollution wise is to get an EPA-certified wood burning insert in your fireplace. They have some form of afterburner or catalyst to burn wood more cleanly. Plus you could improve the efficiency of using the fireplace to heat the house, as you should be able to arrange to use outside air for combustion and just blow the heat into the house. Much more efficient than a conventional fireplace.
However, the expense of the insert and/or necessary chimney improvements or liners may be prohibitive.
Cheers, Wayne
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Wayne Whitney wrote:

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LouB wrote:

I bought my EPA certified insert with most of the stainless chimney liner used for $300. Replaced the "afterburner" tubes in the top for $40 or something like that. There are ways.
It heats well, and rarely has visible smoke after the initial few minutes.
And I get way more heat from it, and less heat loss up the chimney then a fireplace could ever provide.
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True about the efficiency. Of course _anything_ is more effectient than a fireplace. They are the most efficient wasters of wood known to man...well, an open pit would be worse I suppose.
Harry K
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On Sun, 25 Oct 2009 08:15:38 -0700 (PDT), Harry K
:> LouB wrote: :> > Wayne Whitney wrote:
:> >>> Wayne, are you there? Wayne Whitney who traffics this newsgroup:> :> >> Yo! My trafficking is fairly irregular these days, it was chance :> >> that I noticed your post.:> :> >>> told me that fireplaces release particulate matter which has been :> >>> shown to shorten one life.:> :> >> Right, but most of those are emitted outside, so you'd be shortening :> >> your neighbor's lives, not your own. Of course, if your fireplace :> >> has a drafting problem, you could get smoke and particulates inside.:> :> >> The best option pollution wise is to get an EPA-certified wood :> >> burning insert in your fireplace. They have some form of :> >> afterburner or catalyst to burn wood more cleanly. Plus you could :> >> improve the efficiency of using the fireplace to heat the house, as :> >> you should be able to arrange to use outside air for combustion and :> >> just blow the heat into the house. Much more efficient than a :> >> conventional fireplace.:> :> >> However, the expense of the insert and/or necessary chimney :> >> improvements or liners may be prohibitive.:> :> >> Cheers, Wayne :> > Thia Old House just had a show with that. Inserts are expensive!:> :> I bought my EPA certified insert with most of the stainless chimney liner used :> for $300. Replaced the "afterburner" tubes in the top for $40 or something like :> that. There are ways.:> :> It heats well, and rarely has visible smoke after the initial few minutes.:> :> And I get way more heat from it, and less heat loss up the chimney then a :> fireplace could ever provide.- Hide quoted text -:> :> - Show quoted text -: :True about the efficiency. Of course _anything_ is more effectient :than a fireplace. They are the most efficient wasters of wood known :to man...well, an open pit would be worse I suppose. : :Harry K
I should have snagged my sister's wood burning stove when she gave that away and went to strictly gas furnace heating in her house. Not sure I could have set it up, maybe could have vented it up the chimney. My fireplace is downstairs, of course, in a two story house.
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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Dan Musicant wrote:

Legally in the US, at least in many places, any woodstove or insert that is installed has to be an EPA certified unit. Older ones are no longer legal for installation or re-instalation. You need to make sure that any unit you get meets that requirement, or you could have legal or insurance problems. Permits may be required for instalation.
Thus, it may be illegal to remove an insert for chimney cleaning and later re-install it, and you won't be able to hire a ligit chimney cleaner to do this.
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:Dan Musicant wrote: :> On Sun, 25 Oct 2009 08:15:38 -0700 (PDT), Harry K
:>>> LouB wrote: :>>>> Wayne Whitney wrote:
:>>>>>> Wayne, are you there? Wayne Whitney who traffics this newsgroup:>>> :>>>>> Yo! My trafficking is fairly irregular these days, it was chance :>>>>> that I noticed your post.:>>> :>>>>>> told me that fireplaces release particulate matter which has been :>>>>>> shown to shorten one life.:>>> :>>>>> Right, but most of those are emitted outside, so you'd be :>>>>> shortening your neighbor's lives, not your own. Of course, if :>>>>> your fireplace has a drafting problem, you could get smoke and :>>>>> particulates inside.:>>> :>>>>> The best option pollution wise is to get an EPA-certified wood :>>>>> burning insert in your fireplace. They have some form of :>>>>> afterburner or catalyst to burn wood more cleanly. Plus you could :>>>>> improve the efficiency of using the fireplace to heat the house, :>>>>> as you should be able to arrange to use outside air for :>>>>> combustion and just blow the heat into the house. Much more :>>>>> efficient than a conventional fireplace.:>>> :>>>>> However, the expense of the insert and/or necessary chimney :>>>>> improvements or liners may be prohibitive.:>>> :>>>>> Cheers, Wayne :>>>> Thia Old House just had a show with that. Inserts are expensive!:>>> :>>> I bought my EPA certified insert with most of the stainless chimney :>>> liner used for $300. Replaced the "afterburner" tubes in the top :>>> for $40 or something like that. There are ways.:>>> :>>> It heats well, and rarely has visible smoke after the initial few :>>> minutes.:>>> :>>> And I get way more heat from it, and less heat loss up the chimney :>>> then a fireplace could ever provide.- Hide quoted text -:>>> :>>> - Show quoted text -:>> :>> True about the efficiency. Of course _anything_ is more effectient :>> than a fireplace. They are the most efficient wasters of wood known :>> to man...well, an open pit would be worse I suppose.:>> :>> Harry K:> :> I should have snagged my sister's wood burning stove when she gave :> that away and went to strictly gas furnace heating in her house. Not :> sure I could have set it up, maybe could have vented it up the :> chimney. My fireplace is downstairs, of course, in a two story house.: :Legally in the US, at least in many places, any woodstove or insert that is :installed has to be an EPA certified unit. Older ones are no longer legal for :installation or re-instalation. You need to make sure that any unit you get :meets that requirement, or you could have legal or insurance problems. Permits :may be required for instalation. : :Thus, it may be illegal to remove an insert for chimney cleaning and later :re-install it, and you won't be able to hire a ligit chimney cleaner to do this. : I guess I'll just wear a lot of clothes this winter, drink hot broth, take a hot shower... I figure my chimney's clogged.
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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"Dan Musicant" wrote

Relax Dan, just have it cleaned regular like normal folks do. Your car emits more bad stuff in a week than your fireplace does in a year.
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