As consumers look for ways to become more energy-efficient, fake fireplace logs have grown in popularity. Some offer lower emissions, greater heat output and result in fewer trees cut into firewood. The two types of fireplace logs are: those that are consumed by their flames and those that are not.
Consumable Fake Fireplace Logs
Consumable fake fireplace logs are generally made of recycled sawdust and other wood products, along with organic oils or waxes. However, some fake logs are made from recycled coffee grounds and even emit the same aroma associated with a cup of coffee. Production of fake fireplace logs began in the 1960s, and over the years, concerns developed about their environmental impact. Today, both the sawdust and recycled coffee ground fake fireplace logs actually have lower emissions than regular firewood. In addition, the fake logs save millions of trees each year that might otherwise have been used for firewood. At least one brand claims that its product actually heats better than traditional firewood.
Sawdust was an original ingredient in the first fake fire logs; using it was an attempt to recycle and eliminate waste of wood products. Sawdust was originally mixed with petroleum wax, but it's now combined with natural plant material waste or other organic waste produced by farming. One brand emits 80 percent less emissions than regular firewood. Additional wood fibers may be added to aid the burning process. These fake logs come in several sizes, each directly related to burn time. For example, one brand offers a 6-pound log that burns for four hours and a 4.5-pound log that burns for three hours.
Recycled coffee grounds are gathered from coffee houses and manufacturing facilities to reuse in fake fireplace logs in place of sawdust. One brand of coffee ground log recycles 12 million pounds of coffee grounds each year and emits up to 78 percent less carbon monoxide than regular firewood. In addition to purchasing logs made from recycled coffee grounds, some DIY enthusiasts make their own, compressing old coffee grounds with melted wax and molasses or syrup used as a binding agent. Logs are made in a loaf pan and compressed and allowed to dry before use. A 5-pound commercial coffee log burns for two to three hours and produces three times the heat of wood.
Wax and Oil
Instead of petroleum, today's fireplace logs utilize biomass materials, agricultural plant waste and organic farming waste. So oils and waxes from vegetables, soy beans, pine and palm tress, all sustainable agents, have replaced petroleum for a greener solution.
Nutshells and Seeds
Some fake fireplace logs include ground nutshells and seeds to create a crackle effect in the fire. Be sure to check for such ingredients if someone in your home has a particular allergy to nuts or seeds.
Some fake log users make their own by recycling cardboard. Since the cardboard is pressed into log form when wet, some DIYers add a touch of pine cleaner to the water to help kill insects and prevent mold and mildew. DIY results will vary based on compression and log size, but one estimate is that 1,000 homemade cardboard logs is the equivalent of 1.5 cords of wood.
Recycling newspaper into fake logs can be dangerous if the newspaper is simple rolled into a log. Rolled-up papers create a lot of ash and can even damage your flue. A different way to use newspapers as fake fireplace logs is to wet them to create a pulp and compress the pulp into logs or bricks to burn. Results vary based on compression and log size.
Non-Consumable Fake Fireplace Logs
The fake fireplace logs used in gas and electric fireplaces are made of different materials than those that are burned in a traditional fireplace. Instead of wood products, they are made from concrete or ceramic materials and other synthetic materials that resist burning. Molds are used to press the fire-resistant materials to create items that resemble real logs. Since these fake logs do not really burn away, little cleanup is involved. As an added bonus, they heat until you turn them off; whereas, the consumable fake fireplace logs burn away.
Fake Gas and Electric Logs
Fake logs used in electric fireplace inserts feature a realistic orange and yellow flame: LED lights inserted in them resemble the pulsating flames of a real fire. The fake logs used in gas fireplaces play a double function -- they provide the look of a traditional log and help evenly distribute the gas flame piped into the fireplace. Fake gas logs come in both vented and vent-free varieties. Vented versions, made for natural gas and propane, have realistic-looking orange and yellow flames. Vent-free versions, however, generally have a bluish flame.