How Green are Firelogs?

Ah, the smell of coffee wafting through the evening air. Except this time that aroma doesn’t come from our French press but rather our fireplace. No, we haven’t thrown can of perfectly unacceptable canned, non-fair trade supermarket java into the fire, but rather a firelog partially made from coffee grounds. Sounds rather sustainable, huh?

Okay, we probably won’t often claim that burning anything is sustainable as the CO2 wafts into the atmosphere. However, some firelogs present a greener way to warm up a room while creating that sexy atmosphere that only fire can offer.

We checked out some firelogs to see what makes up these bad boys.

What’s in a name? The Java-Log contains recycled and spent coffee grounds and all-natural vegetable wax. Historically, fire log makers used wax derived from petroleum – paraffin wax.  Many firelog makers have gotten with the program and switched off the petroleum base.

We like the industrious thinking to use coffee grounds for create this log instead of using the grounds for compost (or yikes) the dreaded landfill. Better yet, the coffee Java-Log grounds are post-industrial (not post-consumer: e.g. coffee shops) that come from companies that manufacture coffee flavored beverages, ice creams, syrups, etc.

The Pine Mountain log comes from more traditional recycled sawdust and 100 percent natural vegetable wax which, although isn’t as creative as the Java-Log, still cuts the emissions release by up to 80 percent versus natural wood.  About a year-and-a-half ago Duraflame took the smart step to dump their petroleum base wax in favor of a bio-wax. They also use recycled sawdust for their firelogs.

Since we’re not scientists we checked out some of the results by Omni Environmental Services that studied many aspects of the various logs including the fact that dioxin/furan emissions (g/hr) from burning Duraflame firelogs in a fireplace are significantly less than burning Douglas fir cordwood. But what about versus other logs?

Their study of emission rates indicated that the Duraflame Easy Time and Xtra Time products produced about twice as much carbon monoxide as the Conros Northland and Pine Mountain products.  They noted that the Conros Northland (which we could not find in our local stores) product is about half the size of the Duraflame Easy Time and Xtra Time (1.4 kg vs. 2.3 kg), however it produced the same level of CO as the other Conros product, while Pine Mountain eqauled the same size as the Duraflame products.

The study noted that Biowax-fiber firelogs reduce Green House Gas emissions by more than 63 % and 82 % as compared to either natural gas or Liquid Propane Gas burned in dedicated vented gas fireplaces or vented gas firelogs installed in open-hearth fireplaces, respectively.  Biowax-fiber firelogs also emit 22% fewer green house gases than equivalent cordwood fires.

For esthetics, most people like to warm their tootsies in front of a fire. On the health side, these non-oil based firelogs in general released less emissions than burning pure wood, but the amount of metals such as aluminum, barium and copper varied from log to log which can’t be good.  There’s proabaly no winning to buring anything but if we want to sit with a glass of single malt by a fire, we will proabaly take our chances with one of these non petroleum based bad boys.

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