What Are the Dangers of Fireplace Inserts?


It's hard to resist the charm of a fireplace. A crisp autumn afternoon or a chilly winter evening calls the family to gather near the cheery flames. More and more, homeowners use fireplace inserts to make sure that their alternative source of heat is safe and efficient. With the advance of modern technology we are able to use inserts to modernize an older traditional fireplace or even change it into a wood burning stove.

Not a Do-It-Yourself Project

  • Once you have weighed the options and chosen a fireplace insert, your next step is to be certain that the insert is professionally installed. The advice on The Chimney Sweep website could not be more clear: "Do-lt-Yourselfers. Stove installation and chimney service work are 'NOT' home handyman chores. They call for professional know-how, special training, technical expertise and familiarity with the local building codes." A house where wood smoke is poorly vented presents serious health risks.

Dangers of a Fireplace Insert

  • The Children's Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC), as cited on the website Earthtalk, warns that children who live in houses where wood stoves or fireplaces are in frequent use experience "higher rates of lung inflammation, breathing difficulties, pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases."

    Another severe danger of poorly ventilated homes where wood stoves and fireplaces are in use is that from carbon monoxide (CO). The health risk from exposure to CO is serious for people who suffer from cardiovascular diseases, such as angina. Breathing difficulty associated with emphysema and asthma will be exacerbated by carbon monoxide. Remember, too, that infants and children, the elderly and women who are pregnant are also at increased risk from CO in the home.

Stay Warm and Healthy

  • Yes, you can have your cheerful fire and remain healthy. By using the proper fireplace insert you can convert an old or unsafe masonry fireplace to a pellet burning stove. The insert burns pellets, or rods, of compressed sawdust, eliminating much of the smoke a traditional wood burning fireplace produces. Because the insert uses an igniter, an augur to dispense the pellets and a blower to fan the fire, harmful toxins have no way into your living room. And, there's a bonus: By using the pellets you are helping solve another environmental problem--landfill clutter.

An Elegant Solution to No Fireplace

  • If you don't want to take any risk associated with toxins in your home and would rather not pollute the outdoor environment, you have access to the loveliest solution of all, and the least expensive. Fill your firebox with lighted candles, unscented or scented according to the mood of season. Safe behind the fire screen, they will illuminate the room and create an exotic ambiance.

Expert Advice

  • If you choose to use a fireplace insert be sure to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. GovGab, the U.S. government blog, recommends that you check batteries twice a year.

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  • Photo Credit "Project 2: Create Fire" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: armigeress (Kathleen Franklin) under the Creative Commons Attribution license. "8th Night of Chanukkah in Meah Shaarim" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: andydr (Andrew Ratto) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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