Whether you’re using a woodstove, pellet stove or fireplace to heat your home this winter, seeing smoke from your chimney means your fire isn’t burning as efficiently or cleanly as it should. Wood smoke contains fine particles – also called fine particle pollution or PM2.5 – which can pose a health risk to occupants, especially older adults and children.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends building a cleaner fire with these tips:
– Start a small fire with a dry kindling, then add a few pieces of wood. Be sure there’s space between the pieces, and give the fire plenty of air until it roars. A smoldering fire, ‘dirty’ glass doors on a wood stove or smoke from the chimney are all signs that your fire needs more air or the wood is too moist.
– Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Wet, or green, logs create excessive smoke and waste fuel. How can you tell if wood has been seasoned? Listen for a hollow sound when you strike two logs together.
– Wood burns best when the moisture content is less than 20 percent. You can purchase a wood moisture meter to test the moisture content of your wood before you burnt it. These meters are as little as $20 at most home improvement retailers.
– Never burn household garbage, cardboard, painted or treated wood or any wood that contains glue, such as plywood or particle board. These items release toxic chemicals when burned.
– Check your air quality forecast on airnow.gov before you burn. Some areas limit woodstove and fireplace use under certain air quality conditions.