EPA Tips

Below we’ve complied some tips you might find useful from our friends at the EPA.

Wood Smoke

Smoke forms when wood or other organic matter burns. Wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). It may smell good, but the smoke creates fine particles, which can lead to major health problems, such as asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and even heart failure. Wood smoke is a higher danger for children, teenagers, older adults, people with lung disease, or people with heart diseases. Along with these health risks, wood smoke can reduce visibility.

Best Wood Burning Practices

Properly installed, correctly used wood-burning appliances should be smoke-free. The best way to reduce smoke is by correctly building a fire, using safe wood-burning practices, and not burning certain materials. Make sure to properly season wood for 6 months and store it covered, and off the ground before using it. You can also start fires with newspaper, dry kindling, or all-natural fire starters. Do not burn trash, wet or molded wood, plastic or rubber. Always remember to stay safe when dealing with fire. Keep flammable items away from the fire area, keep the doors of your wood-burning appliance closed unless stoking the fire, and keep a fire extinguisher close by.

Backyard Recreational Fires

As patio fire pits and outdoor fireplaces grow in popularity, so does backyard burning. Enjoy your outdoor fire responsibly by following proper practices, such as burning seasoned wood, covering stacked firewood, and minding local air quality alerts. There are cleaner burning alternatives such as natural gas or propane. Switching to these can reduce harmful air pollutants. Remember to be safe and keep in mind these tips when backyard barbecue season rolls around. Always check with your local municipality for any special permit requirements.

Types of Wood-Burning Appliances

People use several types of wood-burning appliances to heat their homes. Fireplaces, wood stoves, hydronic heaters, furnaces, masonry heaters, pellet stoves, and gas logs are all common examples. Fireplaces offer nice ambiance and inserts and retrofits can be installed to existing hardware to change or upgrade the fireplace. Wood stoves can be used for the primary source of in-home heat and are usually made of cast-iron or steel. Gas stoves are a more energy-efficient option that burns natural gas or propane. Masonry heaters consist of a maze of heat channels that slowly release heat into the home throughout the day. Pellet stoves are similar in appearance to wood stoves but use ground, dried wood and waste pellets to burn. There are tons of options out there for those in search of an in-home heat source.

Choosing Wood-Burning Appliances

When choosing a wood-burning appliance there are many things to consider. There are a variety of appliance options to choose from such as wood stoves, fireplace inserts, pellet stoves, hydronic heaters, forced-air furnaces, and masonry heaters. Make sure the one you choose is EPA-certified. This simply means your appliance must meet the regulatory emission requirements established by EPA. Non-wood-burning options are available such as gas stoves and decorative gas logs. They are more energy-efficient than traditional wood-burning options.

Wood-Burning Installation and Maintenance

The way your wood-burning system is installed and taken care of can make a big difference in terms of safety and air emissions. Always make sure experienced professionals are doing the installing. One of the best ways to find certified professionals is through the Chimney Safety Institute of America or CSIA. The National Fireplace Institute (NFI) is also involved in this process, by testing hearth systems planners and technicians to ensure they are NFI Professional Certified, and you and your home have worry-free heating.

Frequent Questions about Wood-Burning Appliances

When looking for a wood-burning appliance, questions can come up. Some common questions are:

  • Are gas stoves cleaner than wood stoves or pellet stoves? Gas (whether you use natural gas or propane) emits less soot and other air pollution.
  • What is the best stove for me – type, size, cost? It all depends on your preferences. If you choose to burn wood, there are many EPA-certified options. If wood-chopping isn’t for you, pellet or gas stoves may be the answer. There are many choices that are sure to fit your budget and wishes.
  • How are EPA-certified stoves different, and why are they better? Certified means that a wood-burning appliance meets EPA clean air standards. Some EPA-certified appliances include wood and pellet stoves, fireplace inserts, hydronic heaters, and forced air furnaces.

Whatever your question, it can be answered by proper research and contacting the right people to get the job done.