Burning wood for heat is often the largest source of air pollution during winter months. The biggest health threat from wood smoke is fine particulate matter. The tiny particles can get into your eyes and lungs, where they can cause health problems including burning eyes, runny nose and bronchitis. They can also aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, angina and congestive heart failure, and are linked to early deaths in persons with such diseases.
What You Can Do
EPA-certified woodstoves burn cleaner, saving you fuel and keeping the air cleaner. For example, a cleaner burning woodstove emits 2-7 grams of particulate matter in one hour. An older woodstove emits 30-50 grams in an hour. EPA recommends that you have your woodstove installed by a certified technician to ensure proper safety and performance.
Practical Tips for Building a Fire
Once your certified stove is properly installed, building an effective fire requires good firewood (using the right wood in the right amount) and good fire-building practices. The following practical steps will help you obtain the best efficiency from your woodstove:
- Season wood outdoors through the hot, dry summer for at least six months before burning it. Properly seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain and sounds hollow when smacked against another piece of wood.
- Store wood outdoors, stacked neatly off the ground with the top covered.
- Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood that has been split properly.
- Start fires with clean newspaper and dry kindling.
- Burn hot, bright fires.
- Let the fire burn down to coals, then rake the coals toward the air inlet (and woodstove door), creating a mound. Do not spread the coals flat.
- Reload your woodstove by adding at least three pieces of wood each time, on and behind the mound of hot coals. Avoid adding one log at a time.
- Use smaller fires in milder weather.
- Regularly remove ashes from the woodstove into a metal container with a cover and store outdoors.
For more information, go to EPA's woodstove home page.