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Burn Wise

Choosing the Right Fireplace or Fireplace Retrofit Device


Types of fireplaces

There are two major types of wood-burning fireplaces:

  • Traditional masonry fireplaces that are typically built of brick or stone and are constructed on site by a mason
  • Low mass fireplaces that are engineered and pre-fabricated in a manufacturing facility prior to installation

Low mass fireplaces are a lower-cost option widely used in new home construction in the United States. Most fireplaces, whether masonry or low mass, are not used as a primary source of heat- they function primarily for ambiance and secondary heating. In fact, most traditional open fireplaces lose over 90 percent of the fire's heat out the chimney, and much of the heated air in the room goes with it.

Fireplaces should not be confused with fireplace inserts, which are wood stoves converted to fit in existing fireplace openings.

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Fireplace retrofits

EPA includes fireplace retrofit devices as part of the Voluntary Fireplace Partnership Program. Fireplace retrofits are installed into an existing wood-burning fireplace, and if installed properly, can reduce air pollution by approximately 70%. These devices burn cleaner than traditional fireplaces, but emit more smoke pollution than an EPA- certified wood stove.
 

EPA-qualified fireplaces and fireplace retrofit devices

EPA's Voluntary Fireplace Partnership Program for manufacturers of wood-burning fireplaces and fireplace retrofit devices encourages the manufacture and sale of cleaner units. EPA does not promote the sale of wood-burning fireplaces over other devices; however EPA does encourage those who buy a fireplace to buy the cleanest model.

New, EPA-qualified units often carry a hang tag on the front of the fireplace or retrofit to demonstrate that these models have met EPA qualifications to be considered cleaner burning. A permanent EPA label should be readily visible and present legible required information for the lifetime of the appliance.
 
The hang tag indicates fireplaces are approximately 70% cleaner than older fireplace models. For fireplace retrofit devices, the hang tag indicates the unit can reduce pollution by approximately 70% if properly installed.
 

Qualified vs. certified

Fireplaces and fireplace retrofit devices that are "qualified" under EPA's Voluntary Fireplace Program are not "certified" per EPA's Wood Heater New Source Performance Standard. Contact your state or local air quality agency for clarification on the type of wood-burning appliances, if any, that may legally be installed in your area.