Monday, February 13, 2012

Feel the Burn (Greener fireplace logs?)

A suburban greenmom lights a fire...

We have a fireplace in our "new" house (i.e. the one we've lived in for the past 3 years). Until a couple of nights ago, we had never actually lit a fire in it.

My husband went out and bought one of those "fireplace logs" to use. I winced; I figured these would have to be horribly un-green and artificial and toxic chemical laden, probably a terrible thing to use.  But then I started doing some research. Turns out a lot of these things, even from mainstream brand "Duraflame," are made of recycled sawdust (the stuff that would otherwise be disposed of) and vegetable waxes, mostly. That they burn more cleanly and with lower emissions--including carbon monoxide--than even ordinary cut wood.  And that they are generally recommended as a better choice than firewood for a fire in one's home fireplace.

This surprised me a lot! So I started looking around for what brands there are out there; please let me know if any readers have actually tried any of these, or know of any others...

Duraflame: The most well-known brand, they seem to be trying pretty hard to greenify their product...hard to tell how much is authentic and how much is greenwashing, but it's a start...

Green Heat: This is the one we used, and it's made from waxed cardboard rather than sawdust. It did a pretty good job, although I have to admit its presence was more about ambience than about actual warmth.

Energy Logs: This Canadian brand seems more geared for actual heat output than "pretty" fireplace fires...they suggest mixing "normal" wood with one of their logs if you want the higher flames.

Earthlog: made out of recycled paper. I like the idea of the zero-waste recycling process...

GreenLog: This one is apparently made out of grass.  (Talk about a renewable resource!) What I like here is that it does not require that the rest of our system continue its current mode of overconsumption so it can get its raw materials...on the other hand, the raw materials are there, so it's kind of a good thing other brands are out there to deal with it, you know?  I would love to try one of these--they saythey burn up to 6 hours, which is twice as long as most of the others out there, and they also mention that they come out with a zero balance carbon footprint--whatever carbon dioxide is created in the burning of the logs is taken in by their next crop of grass as it grows.  Food for thought!

Anyone else have any experience with artificial fire logs? What do you think about them?


SharleneT said...

No matter how green the commercial log is, you can't use the ashes in your compost. There are chemicals in the wrapper and the binder that won't disappear in the soil and causes bad things to happen in the garden... Otherwise, enjoy. Oh! If friends offer you trees for firewood, only take hardwoods. Pines will coat your chimney with creosote and can be very combustible.

spiritussancto said...

anyone know if these logs are safe to cook over? i've been known to bring them camping if we don't have time to get regular wood but i'm always nervous as to what's being released in the smoke and ash

grandma said...

Did you happen to go outside and smell the "woodsmoke" emanating from your chimney. If you had you would have thought you were burning a giant candle in your fireplace (which in a sense you were!) Not that there is anything wrong with that but there is a real disconnect there.
More importantly, NEVER bust up the fake log while it is burning, especially by tossing in a regular log or a second commercial log. You suddenly, i doing so, expose a lot more surface area than is safe and the thing almost explodes!
I find it hard to believe that there is enough of anything in the paper ("chemicals!") to cave any impact on your compost. If there are any metals in the colorant of the paper, you will see some really gorgeous varicolored flames - a dead giveaway - but the inks are most likely derived from the same petroleum stuff that the wax is.
I would never try to cook over these (except in a pan) as your grilled whatever would probably taste more like burning wax than food. And they probably would soot up the pan a lot.
Having said all that, we do use these fake logs sometimes just for "atmosphere" when a real fire would get our place too hot.


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