As temperatures get colder, many homeowners are starting the first fires of the home heating season. The EPA’s Burn Wise program encourages communities to implement safe burning practices by emphasizing the importance of burning the right wood, the right way, and in the right wood-burning appliance. Working together with Doctor Flue and other partners, the goal is to reduce wood smoke pollution by encouraging homeowners to protect their homes, health, and the air we breathe.
The program strives to educate homeowners on the importance of three key ideas:
#1 Burn the Right Kind of Wood
Not all wood is the same. Burn dry, seasoned wood to reduce particle pollution. Split wood dries much faster. Softwoods, such as Douglas fir, need six months to dry. Hardwoods like oak need at least 12 months. Never burn garbage, plastic, treated lumber, or driftwood-- they emit toxic fumes and particles.
#2 Burn Wood the Right Way
Wet wood is a problem for your health and your pocketbook. It creates a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently, meaning the potential heat literally goes up in smoke. You can buy a basic moisture meter ($20-$40) at a hardware store or online to test the wetness of your wood before burning. Split the wood and test the newly split side of the wood for an accurate reading. Wood should only be used if the moisture content is 20 percent or less.
#3 Burn Wood in the Right Appliance
Like an old car that belches smoke out of the tailpipe, old wood stoves are bad polluters and burn less efficiently. Newer, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts (wood stoves designed to fit into a fireplace), reduce air pollutants by 70 percent compared to older models.
Protect Your Family from Wood-Burning Emissions
During the winter, residential wood smoke is a main contributor to fine particle pollution and is responsible for poor air quality days in many areas. Particle pollution can affect everyone, but children, teenagers, older adults, people with lung disease- including asthma and COPD- or people with heart disease are most vulnerable. Exposure to particle pollution can lead to a variety of health effects.
For example, numerous studies link particle levels to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits- and even to early death. Research indicates that obesity or diabetes may increase risk. New or expectant mothers may also want to take precautions to protect the health of their babies. Reduce your risk with these tips from Doctor Flue.
Keep Your Chimney Clean
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading factor contributing to fires from home heating (30%) was having a dirty chimney (i.e., creosote buildup). A clean chimney provides good draft for your wood-burning appliance and reduces the risk of a chimney fire. It is important that your wood-burning appliance is installed by a certified professional. Also, have your chimney inspected annually and make sure you are burning wood correctly.
Doctor Flue’s CSIA certified technicians are trained to evaluate your fireplace, woodstove, and chimney for potential issues and risks. Learn more about chimney cleaning is our Homeowner’s Guide to Chimney Cleaning.
Choose an Efficient Wood-Burning Appliance
If you choose to heat your home with a wood burning stove, then it is important to use a clean and efficient appliance. According to the American Lung Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted new standards for wood-burning devices in 2015, but manufacturers will have until 2020 to phase them in and make their equipment cleaner and more energy efficient. So, it’s important to take action now if you have an inefficient model!
Doctor Flue can help you evaluate your woodstove and make recommendations for a newer model if necessary. Request a quote or simply call and talk to our helpful staff. You may be eligible for the American Lung Association’s Woodstove Changeout Program, reducing or eliminating any cost to you for upgrading!
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