A crackling fire might be a symbol of domestic warmth and bliss but the pollutants can be so bad for your lungs, some states forbid building open masonry fireplaces in new homes and home remodels.
Northern California homeowners like me, with existing brick fireplaces, can’t use them any old time we want any longer. The Bay Area Quality Management District has established a Spare the Air Program, making it illegal to burn wood on winter days when air pollution exceeds national standards.
Instead of fighting the tide, perhaps it’s time we learn to live without fires or investigate affordable green alternatives that provide ambience without a carcinogen danger. Here are a few hot ones:
I’ve written before about the EcosmartÃ¢”ž¢ Fire from Australia. It is fueled by denatured ethanol (a renewable energy source) so it burns cleanly and requires no installation of a utility connection for fuel supply. Housed in a metal stainless steel chamber, they can be wall mounted or free standing for two-way pleasure (below), and the Zeta design at the top of page. They are distributed wordwide, starting at around $1600.
Gel fireplaces, such as the wall-mounted metal designs by Southern Enterprices Inc. ($200), burn grain-alcohol gel (about two to three hours per can). They emit no fumes or smoke, only small amounts of carbon dioxide. These, too, come in many designs, including indoor-outdoor personal fireplaces, like the Pagoda by Jensen. All of them are available at Cailbex.
I’m not a fan of woodstoves (most of them are so ugly), but the EPA certified that pellet burning models do pollute less. The Englander designs such as this one (below) runs $1589 at Home Depot and boasts new technology, such as stainless steel tubes and a ceramic fireboard to produce a clean, hot burn that lasts for hours.