We just took the big step of installing a wood stove. I know what you’re thinking. Wood smoke does contribute to air pollution, especially if you have an older stove or don’t burn wood properly. When we bought our house 16 years ago, it had an oil furnace. Thanks to yearly maintenance and regular air filter cleaning, our furnace is still going strong. But so is our oil consumption and our oil bill. We thought about converting to gas but since our house sits so far off the street, that would have cost thousands of dollars plus a new furnace.
I’ll admit, this was not entirely a practical decision. I’ve heated with wood a couple of times during my life and have always loved having a fire to sit by and get truly warm. It is amazing to think I can sit on the couch without wearing a heavy sweater and wrapping myself in a polar fleece blanket. You have to remember, I grew up in the South. I’ve never really taken to the cold, wet winters here.
When buying a wood stove, your first decision it what kind to buy. Of course, you will want one that is EPA certified — that will help reduce air pollution. We chose to get an Enviro stove. They are manufactured on Vancouver Island, making them significantly more “local” than most. These stoves are heavy and shipping one from Scandinavia would add even more to our carbon footprint.
The next issue is what to burn. Everyone agrees you should only burn seasoned firewood — that means no household garbage, driftwood, wet or moldy wood, paper with colored inks, painted or treated wood. We are still working out where to store our wood to keep it dry. These photos of stacked wood are from my brother, Jon, who is an old pro at getting his wood in for the winter on Orcas Island.
There are things you can do beyond burning seasoned wood to reduce emissions. The first step is having your stove properly installed so that it burns efficiently. Burn small, hot fires by keeping the damper all the way open for 20-30 minutes. A smoldering fire creates more smoke so instead of damping it down when you go to bed, let it burn out completely. Look at your chimney outside. If you are sending out a lot of smoke, you are burning incorrectly and are polluting the air. Sign up to receive an email when there are burn bans in effect at Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Lastly, stock up and be prepared for visitors during the next power outage. You may become very popular, if you aren’t already.