By Melanie Forster, Miriam Duerr and Camille St. Onge, Air Quality Outreach and Communications
Colder weather is here and about half the homes in Washington heat with some sort of wood-burning device like a wood stove or fireplace. If you’re heating with wood, don't you like fires that produce more heat, use less wood, and are less smoky?
If you are not burning seasoned (that means aged and dry) firewood, a lot of your heat is literally going up in smoke.
Even if you've been burning for years you might not know that it takes more wet firewood than seasoned firewood to produce the same amount of heat. And, inefficient burning sends more smoke pollution into the air causing serious health effects for infants, small children and other sensitive groups like the elderly and asthmatics.
Get more heat out of less woodUsing dry seasoned wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat than burning wet wood. Some tips to consider for dry seasoned wood are:
- Stack your wood so it has air flow between the wood pieces and stays drier.
- Cover your wood to keep it dry, especially in rainy Western Washington.
- Try to buy wood that is 6 months old, or cut and store it 6 months ahead.
Burning efficient fires is another way to get more out of your wood and pollute less:
- Build small, hot fires.
- Don't add too much wood at one time.
- Step outside to check the chimney or flue. If you see smoke, your fire needs more air.
Efficient burning means cleaner airBurning with wood can be more economical and pollute less when done right. Most of us don’t think about the health effects of smoke in the air though. Just as we know that smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, so is breathing wood smoke.
The tiny particles in smoke go deep into our lungs and stay there. These particles are especially harmful for infants, children, and the elderly. The particles can cause asthma, respiratory illnesses' and heart disease. But, by burning dry firewood, you can reduce the amount of fine particles we breathe in.
When the air is cold and still, usually wintertime, smoke settles at ground level. This is when you and your family breathe in the fine particles that settle in your lungs. The air can stay this way for weeks during the winter and the stagnant air can cause air pollution problems.