Chimneys are working overtime during the cold weather, but a dirty one can pollute the air and cause health problems.
“Most of the pollution of concern, mostly in the wintertime, is carbon monoxide. So when we do have the fireplaces, that does increase the carbon monoxide concentration,” says Miguel Parra of the City of El Paso’s environmental services department.
The department urges residents to keep their fireplaces and chimneys clean, and if you’re considering a new fireplace, Parra says, “what we’d like for citizens to do – if they could help us – is in purchasing environmentally safe fireplaces from EPA.”
Parra adds, “they make a more efficient burn and you have less smoke coming out of your chimney.”
And here’s a telltale sign your chimney isn’t working efficiently. “If you see smoke coming out of your chimney, that means you’re not getting a good burn from your fuel, from your wood,” says Parra.
Weather is also important in keeping the outside air clean. If it’s a cold day and the air is stagnant, experts recommend you don’t use your fireplace.
Parra says the cold, stable air (especially on a sunny day) will create an inversion, where cold air is situated over warmer air at the surface, trapping the pollutants and not allowing them to disperse so easily.
In addition, experts say it’s best to call a professional to make sure your chimney isn’t making air pollution worse.