Do Wood-Burning Stoves Cause Air Pollution? Facts You Should Know

Do wood-burning stoves cause air pollution

Last Updated on August 11, 2020 by Michael J. Branco

Do Wood-Burning Stoves Cause Air Pollution is a widely asked question by people. Are you thinking of buying a stove but don’t want to harm the environment? This guide will help you make an educated decision. 

When it comes to air quality, combusting solid fuels as wood and coal contribute most to the dangerous particulate-matter (PM) emissions.

Breathing in this particulate matter can lead to heart health issues, cause irritation in eyes and lungs, trigger allergic reactions and headaches, and aggravate breathing diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema, which can shorten one’s life. Do you know how many people use the wood-burning stove in the USA?

5 Ways To Increase Stove Efficiency and Minimize Air Pollution

Smoke is produced when the wood doesn’t burn completely. We can take some measures to increase the wood stove’s efficiency and minimize smoke and air pollution. The design of stove, quality of wood, operation, and maintenance all affect the burning ability of a wood stove. Here are five ways you can maximize your wood stove efficiency and save money on fuel cost. 

Choose an energy-efficient stove

Select a model known for being energy-efficient and be sure that it is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some energy-efficient options that you should look for include: 

  • Advanced Combustion Stoves: these come with a mechanism to burn the combustion gases when they are rising the chimney. 
  • Catalytic Stoves: these have a catalytic combustor which burns the smoke and particles at lower temperatures so that harmful matter is more wholly burnt.
  • Wood Pellet Stoves: These utilize compressed wood by-product pellets in small size and don’t need cordwood. The pellets go into the stove at a controlled rate via a hopper, which results in an optimum and clean burn.
wood burning stove

EPA certifies the stoves that meet its emission standards for particulate matter. Stoves certified by the EPA minimize smoke emissions by up to 90 percent. They facilitate secondary combustion due to which harmful chemicals and toxic things burn off before leaving the firebox. 

This is why it is best to get a wood stove with an EPA certification. If you have an old stove, consider getting a new one that is energy efficient and clean. If you use it properly, your new stove can last for up to forty years and cover its cost via fuel saving. The size of your stove should be appropriate to provide the right amount of heat for your room. 

Proper Installation

Proper installation of your wood stove is super important so that it is safe, efficient, tight in its place, and has an appropriate draft. This ensures proper air quality for the indoors and the efficiency of the stove. If you install it improperly, it can lead to a fire in the chimney or even house fire and more air pollution. Strictly abide by the instruction manual by the manufacturer and follow their recommended flue size, connection, clearance guidelines, etc. It is best to hire a certified installer for your wood stove. Before installation, get all the necessary permits and follow the building codes by your local authorities and let your insurance company know about installing a wood stove. 

wood burning stove installation

Select the correct fuel

It is best to use hardwood that is air-dried and seasoned for 6 to 8 months for wood stoves. Hardwoods include:

  • Maple
  • Beech
  • Oak
  • Elm
  • Ash

Wet wood or green wood that’s freshly cut won’t burn efficiently because its temperature is utilized in evaporating its water content instead of providing heat for the home. Freshly cut wood has high water content as much as 50%, whereas well-seasoned dry wood has 15 to 20% water content. Using dry wood gives you an even fire and prevents creosote production, which deposits to the insides of the chimney walls and is highly flammable.

Similarly, your wood should be split in proper size with a thickness of 4-6 inches at max, according to the size of your stove. This thickness ensures that more surface area of the wood is exposed to the flame, increasing the fire’s efficiency.

NEVER use wastage items from your home for fires, such as treated wood like furniture, newspaper, magazines, laminated papers, plastics, diapers, painted or glued items, packaging items, etc. to burn in your wood stove. It is not just illegal; it also results in the formation of toxic fumes, and the ash that stays as a residue can be dangerous. The only acceptable wood to burn is untreated, dry wood.

Use appropriate methods to light a fire

To burn the wood efficiently, the fire needs to be started properly, the oxygen supply has to be adequate, and the temperature should be maintained high enough so that the gasses emitted from the fire are burned. 

  • At first, start a small fire using dry kindling or paper, keeping the damper open. 
  • When the flames of the kindling start subsiding, put in multiple pieces of wood in small size, without smothering the fire.
  • Carefully control the fuel and air supply to maintain a good fire. 
  • Ensure your fire is big enough to keep the desired heat and burn for a long duration without the need to open the stove door and small enough to let the air reach it.

A good fire will have no visible smoke and will burn brightly. Too much smoke means that the gases are not burning inside the firebox and are emitted through the chimney. Do not let your fire smoke in any case. The most polluting fires are smoldering fires as their temperature is shallow and non-efficient. They create more smoke, leave the wood unburned, and waste your money. They also result in vast amounts of creosote deposits that can cause a fire in the chimney.

Proper maintenance of the wood stove and frequent checks for leakages are also crucial for efficient fires. If you have to open the stove door to add wood or check the fire, be slow in your movements so that the backdraft of smoke doesn’t fill the room, and the fire keeps burning. Stove leakages minimize stove efficiency, pollute the indoor air, and can cause a house fire. Check your stack pipe and chimney from time to time and clean it periodically. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to clean the stove and burn the fire.

Make your house energy efficient.                         

You can insulate your house, apply weather stripping, caulk the house, and make sure your doors and windows are tightly fit so that way, your house is a minimum number of drafts. This will help you burn less wood. These home improvements are worth it, not only for your pocket but also for the environment. 

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