Wood smoke is a mixture of gases and particles, also called particle pollution, that isn’t healthy to breathe indoors or out – especially for children, older adults and people with heart disease, asthma and other lung diseases. Particle pollution can irritate your respiratory system, and is linked to health problems such as bronchitis and asthma attacks.
Replacing your wood stove with a model certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can make a big difference. About 75 percent of the 12 million wood stoves used in the U.S. were built before 1990. These stoves put out about 70 percent more wood smoke than the EPA-certified stoves on the market today. These older stoves are also about half as efficient as today’s models, meaning you have to burn a lot more wood in your old stove to get the same amount of heat.
Several financial incentives are available for purchasing cleaner, more efficient wood-burning appliances. The federal government and several states may offer tax credits for buying a more efficient biomass stove.
If you’re not able to replace your older stove this year, there are still ways that you can reduce pollution, according to the EPA. The manner in which you operate a wood stove is important to help reduce pollution and maximize energy efficiency.
Follow these tips from EPA for a cleaner, safer fire:
1. Age all firewood at least six months to help it dry out. Dried wood burns hotter, cuts fuel consumption and reduces smoke.
2. Burn the right firewood. Split, stack, cover the top and store your wood for quicker drying. Never burn trash or treated wood which can release toxic chemicals into the air.
3. Keep your chimney clean. A clean chimney provides good draft for your stove and reduces the risk of a chimney fire. Have a certified professional inspect your wood-burning appliance and chimney once a year.
4. Follow instructions. Operate your wood stove according to the manufacturer’s instructions and follow all maintenance procedures.
5. Upgrade to cleaner equipment. EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts burn cleaner and more efficiently, emitting less pollution than older models. Stoves with solid doors (with no glass panes) generally are older and should be replaced and disposed of properly.
6. Start it right. Use only clean newspaper or dry kindling to start a fire. Never use gasoline, kerosene, charcoal starter or a propane torch.
7. Check your local air quality forecast. Make sure your area has not issued a No Burn Day.
8. Clean ashes. Excess ashes can clog the air intake vents. Be sure to dispose of ashes in a metal container away from the house or any flammable material to reduce the risk of fire.
9. Be a good neighbor. Follow good wood-burning practices and always remember to comply with state and local codes.
10. If you see smoke, there may be a problem. A properly installed and used wood-burning appliance should be smoke-free inside and out. If you notice a lot of smoke coming from your chimney or stove, your wood may be too wet or you may need a more efficient appliance. Smoke from a chimney can mean wasted energy.