Responsible wood-burning means that while you’re enjoying the heat from a fire in your home, you are contributing a very small amount of emissions to the atmosphere. As recently as the 1980s, it was common for a wood-burning appliance to emit 42 grams of particulate matter per hour. Today’s EPA-certified wood burning stoves & fireplaces, on the other hand, emit a maximum of 7.5 grams per hour. Burning wood responsibly involves a bit more than buying the right kind of appliance, but it is an easy goal to reach.
Burn the Right Fuel
The type of firewood you burn has a lot to do with how efficient your fires are. There are many different types of trees that can be burned, each with their own unique attributes. When it comes to efficiency, the important thing to remember is the difference between seasoned wood & unseasoned wood.
No matter what type of wood you burn, it needs to be seasoned or properly dried. It typically takes about six to nine months for firewood to dry out when stacked properly. The wood should be off the ground, stacked neatly, and covered at the top, to keep rain off. Wood that is properly seasoned is darker in color than green logs, has cracks in the end grain, and has a hollow sound when tossed against another log.
The goal in drying out wood is to achieve a moisture content of less than 20%. Wood moisture meters are available that you can use to test your wood’s moisture content before you burn it.
If you opt for a pellet stove, you are choosing the lowest emissions appliance available. The low emissions are partly due to the design of the stove and partly due to the type of fuel it burns. Wood pellets are made with highly compressed recycled wood waste, such as sawdust. You are further helping the environment when you use a pellet stove because the fuel is material that would otherwise be discarded. Pellets must be stored in a dry place, such as a fully enclosed storeroom. If the pellets become moist, they will no longer function properly in a pellet stove.
Burn Efficient Fires
Another way to be responsible in your wood-burning practices is to burn efficient fires. Start fires with dry kindling and newspaper – never use a combustible liquid in your wood-burning appliance. An efficient fire is not a slow, smoldering fire – instead it is a hot fire that achieves complete combustion. Don’t burn a larger fire than what is needed for the space being warmed. Routinely remove ashes from the appliance, to maintain proper airflow that gives fires the needed oxygen for efficient combustion. (Be sure to use safe practices for ash removal, storage, and disposal, to prevent hazardous fires.)
Practice Proper Chimney Maintenance
A well-maintained chimney is another component necessary to achieve efficient wood-burning. If the chimney is obstructed by an excess buildup of creosote or by debris caused by lack of maintenance, fires will not have an adequate draft to burn efficiently. There are actually numerous potential problems that can arise with a neglected chimney. If you schedule an annual chimney cleaning and inspection and address needed repairs, the chimney will help to achieve responsible wood-burning.
Install an Efficient Wood-Burning Appliance
A fireplace insert can be installed in a masonry chimney, to convert it into an efficient appliance. Pellet stoves and wood-burning stoves can be vented through your chimney, as well. If you choose a modern EPA-approved appliance, your wood-burning practices have their best chance of being environmentally friendly.
Contact our chimney professionals today to schedule chimney maintenance or for helping choosing a beautiful wood-burning appliance.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110