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Alt: A parent and child sitting near fireplace smoke.

How Does Fireplace Smoke Affect Air Quality? (And What Can You Do About It?)

Sitting by a cozy, crackling fire in the fireplace can be one of the best parts of winter. But did you know that the smoke from your fireplace could be negatively impacting your indoor and outdoor air quality? 

In this blog post, we’ll examine how fireplace smoke impacts air quality, who is most affected, and what you can do to enjoy your fire while reducing smoke pollution.

How Fireplace Smoke Impacts Indoor Air Quality

When you burn wood in your fireplace, smoke is released into the air. This smoke contains a mixture of gasses and fine particles that can be harmful. 

Key pollutants in fireplace smoke that impact air quality include:

  • Particulate matter (microscopic particles known as PM). PM comes in different sizes, with the smallest being the most dangerous as they can be inhaled deeply into lungs. The smallest particles are called PM 2.5.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gasses emitted from burning wood and are of concern as some are toxic or carcinogenic.
  • Carbon monoxide. A highly poisonous gas that is dangerous at high levels.
  • Nitrogen oxides. Gasses that contribute to smog formation and respiratory problems.

When you burn wood, these pollutants from the smoke can accumulate inside your home. Without proper ventilation, indoor PM and VOC levels have been measured at up to 20 times higher than outdoor levels after just a few hours of fireplace use.

High smoke exposure inside can irritate eyes, nose and throat in the short term. Long-term risks include heart and lung diseases if exposure occurs regularly. Vulnerable groups like children and elderly are most at risk. There is no known safe level of PM2.5 exposure, making fireplace smoke quite concerning for your family’s health.

A Coway purifier protecting a home from fireplace smoke air quality.

Impacts on Outdoor and Neighborhood Air Quality

Fireplace smoke released through your chimney also impacts your local outdoor air. A single fireplace burning 10 pounds of wood will generate about 16 pounds of smoke containing over 1.5 million particles.

While these particles eventually dissipate outdoors, neighborhoods with a high density of fireplaces emitting smoke can see substantial temporary increases in PM levels. Research in some areas recorded outdoor PM rising to unhealthy levels on cold nights when fireplace use peaks.

Who is Most Affected by Fireplace Smoke

It might come as no surprise that sensitive groups are most impacted by both indoor and outdoor exposure to fireplace smoke. These groups can include:

  • Children: Their lungs are still developing so smoke can impair growth.
  • Elderly: Increased risk of heart attacks and respiratory distress.
  • Individuals with pre-existing conditions like asthma: Smoke can trigger attacks.
  • Pregnant women: Smoke exposure can affect pregnant women and the potential development of the baby.

Even healthy adults can have symptoms from the high levels of smoke exposure inside a home during heavy use like stinging eyes or throat irritation. But impacts typically resolve after exposure stops. Underlying cardiovascular or respiratory conditions put you at higher risk for complications from fireplace smoke.

What You Can Do to Reduce Fireplace Smoke

Now that you know the potential impacts of fireplace smoke, here are some foolproof ways you can enjoy cozy fires while reducing air quality impacts:

  1. Properly ventilate your indoor fireplace. Always keep your chimney properly maintained. Open windows or use fans while burning fires. Consider installing an insert that seals the fireplace from room air when not in use.
  2. Use proper wood and fires. Dry, seasoned wood burns cleaner and more efficiently. Avoid burning trash. Don’t let fires smolder overnight. Use enough air so your fire burns hot instead of smoking.
  3. Check air quality alerts. Avoid using your fireplace on cold nights with temperature inversions when smoke will be trapped, increasing your neighborhood’s pollution.
  4. Consider alternatives like gas logs or electric fireplaces. While they don’t provide exactly the same atmosphere, they generate substantially less pollution.
  5. Be considerate of neighbors. Realize smoke coming from your chimney impacts others around you, especially in dense neighborhoods.
  6. Use an air purifier. Indoor air purifiers with high-efficiency filters can help capture fine particulates from fireplace smoke and improve your indoor air.

Let Coway Keep Your Cozy Spaces Safe

Smoke, even in small amounts, can irritate eyes and airways and exacerbate respiratory issues. Sources of problematic indoor smoke include cigarettes, cooking, wildfires, vehicles, and residential wood burning. Smoke particles tend to be very fine, less than 0.1 microns in size, requiring advanced filtration to capture.

Standard HVAC systems and air filters are not sufficient for eliminating smoke and odor. Specialized air purifiers with HEPA filters are needed to capture the microscopic particles while activated carbon filters absorb the gasses and odor. Units should be properly sized for the space, with the capability to supply around 2 air changes per hour.

Coway air purifiers feature innovative filtration including HEPA filters that remove particles down to 0.01 microns. Their systems also contain activated carbon filters to eliminate smoke and VOCs. Airmega models have pollution sensors that provide real-time air quality indicators. With features optimized for smoke removal and round-the-clock monitoring, Coway air purifiers provide clean, safe indoor air.

The Bottom Line on Fireplace Smoke

Burning cozy fires is enjoyable during the winter but also contributes substantially to indoor and outdoor air pollution when done improperly or excessively. By understanding the impact of fireplace smoke and following a few simple considerate steps, you can reduce your air quality impacts this winter season. Your family, neighbors and the environment will thank you!

Visit Cowaymega today to find the model that best suits your space this winter.



Environmental Protection Agency - Residential Wood Combustion— PM2.5 Emission 

Atmosphere - Indoor Air Pollution from Residential Stoves: Examining the Flooding of Particulate Matter into Homes during Real-World Use


1Coway air purifiers have been proven to trap dust, pollen, dander, viruses and bacteria in the air based on KCL (Korea Conformity Laboratories) testing.They have been tested in a 30㎥ size chamber according to the Korea Air Cleaning Association standard (SPS-KACA 002-132:2022 Modified) to measure the 0.01㎛ size of particle removal rate. It was tested on maximum airflow speed in normal room temperature and humidity conditions. The performance may vary in the actual living environment of customers.
→ Tested with Airmega Aim, 100, 150, 160, AP-1216L, AP-1512HH, AP-1512HHS, 200M, Icon, IconS, 230, 240, 250, 250 Art, 250S, 300, 300S, 400, 400S, ProX

299.97% of viruses, bacteria, fungi and pollen were verified to be removed from the air for Coway air purifiers which have Green True HEPA™ filter applied based on the Japan Food Research Laboratories(JFRL) testing according to JEM 1467 standard.
→ Tested with Coway Airmega AP-1512HH, AP-1512HHS, 250, 250 Art, 250S, 300, 300S, 400, 400S
→ All tested by JFRL and received above result within below time.

All tested by JFRL and received above result within below time.

- Virus: Tested with Escherichia coli phage ΦX174 NBRC 103405, 60 minutes
- Bacteria: Tested with Staphylococcus epidermidis NBRC 12993, 60 minutes
- Fungi/Mold: Tested with Penicillium citrinum NBRC 6352, 60 minutes
- Pollen: Tested with Cedar Pollen extract, 60 minutes

3Aerosol test conducted in a Biosafety level 3 laboratory with two Coway air purifier models, Coway Airmega 250 and 400 for removal of SARS-CoV-2 Aerosol by US based MRI Global, a not-for-profit laboratory and partner of US Department of Defense. The test was conducted in a 13.1ft3 chamber. Virus was aerosolized for 15 minutes and the product was turned on high for 2 minutes. Result showed each product effectively removed over 99.98% of the SARS-CoV-2 in 2 minutes. This is a result from a laboratory experiment condition and result may vary in different conditions. This result does not imply it kills SARS-CoV-2 or prevents the transmission of Covid-19. Coway Airmega 250S and 400S are identical to the tested models and has equal performance with an additional mobile connectivity function.

4The concentration of ammonia, acetaldehyde and acetic acid were proven to be removed within 30 minutes by FCG Research Institute, Inc. Human Life Science Lab. It is not a demonstration result in the actual use space. Not all odors and gases may be supported. → Tested with Coway Airmega 150, 160, AP-1512HH, AP-1512HHS, 400, 400S

5The coverage area of the air purifier is based on an area where the air cleaner can make two air changes per hour (ACPH). An air change per hour translates to how many times an air purifier can clean an area, assuming the height of a ceiling to be 8 ft, in one hour. Therefore ** means two air changes per hour means that the cleaner can clean the area once every 30 minutes and * means air changes per hour means that the air purifier can clean the area once every 60 minutes.

10Terms and conditions apply. Discounts, including promotions, coupons, bundle discount and subscription discount, cannot be stacked on top of other coupons. During promotional periods, discount codes will not be able to be applied to orders. Promo codes may apply to products only—filters, accessories, and new products within 3 months of the release date are not included.