Burn Wise

Keeping Warm and Cleaning our Air: Public Hearing in Boston on New Wood-Heater Standards

With a New England winter in full bloom, many of us burn wood to help heat our homes. People may not know, however, that burning wood – either in indoor or outdoor heaters – can be inefficient, as well as emit more pollution into the air than oil or natural gas heat sources.

Last month, EPA issued a proposal to update standards for wood-burning stoves and heaters used by people in homes and other residential buildings. We have proposed that, beginning next year (2015), new stoves and heaters will be a whopping 80 percent cleaner than units built and sold today.

This will mean better air quality, and better public health, in communities all across the country. It will improve winter air quality in many parts of New England, especially in rural areas where more people use wood as a fuel source to keep their homes warm. In some areas of New England, especially in valleys, fine particle pollution from wood smoke significantly reduces air quality in winter.

Wood smoke contains fine particles and toxic pollutants, which can reach levels that are harmful to peoples’ health – for your family and for your neighbors. Fine particle pollution is linked to serious health effects, including heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The Wet Wood Burner

By Wendy Dew

I always know when the cold weather is coming: folks in my neighborhood start cutting wood for the next season. We usually decide on a weekend that works for everyone, get out the log splitters and get to work. All of my neighbors burn wood to offset heating costs. Plus, a lovely fire is just part of Colorado mountain living! We burn wood all winter long and we burn it wisely. We stack our wood each season away from our houses and in different piles so we only use the driest wood for the current season.

However, we have one neighbor who only burns wood cut recently so the wood is “wet.” We always know when they’re burning because the whole valley fills with stinky smoke. When you live in Colorado, you spend as much time outside in the winter as you do the summer. But this year, I may stay inside to avoid the smoke.

It’s important to burn wood correctly to be safe and healthy, and also to save money. Burn Wise is an EPA partnership program that teaches people to burn the right wood, the right way, in the right appliance.
 

Practical Tips for Building a Fire

  • Season wood outdoors through the summer for at least 6 months before burning it, stacking it neatly off the ground with the top covered. Properly seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain, and sounds hollow when smacked against another piece of wood.
  •  Wood burns best when the moisture content is less than 20%. You can purchase a wood moisture meter to test your wood before you burn it.
  • Start fires with newspaper and dry kindling or consider having a professional install a natural gas or propane log lighter in your open fireplace.
  • Burn hot fires, using only dry, well-seasoned wood that has been split properly.
  • To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes from your wood-burning appliance using a metal container with a cover. Store the ashes outdoors.

Find out how you can burn wisely and avoid becoming the neighborhood “Wet Wood Burner.”

For more information: www.epa.gov/burnwise

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA Region 8.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Green Heart: Burn Wise for Your Heart

By Ann Brown

February—American Heart Month—is a time I renew my commitment to protect my heart.

I try to eat a healthier diet and exercise more. I check the local air quality before going outside to exercise since fine particle pollution in the air has been linked to heart disease. Fine particles harm the heart and blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and congestive heart failure, especially in people with heart disease.

I am aware of the environmental link between fine particle pollution and heart disease, but I didn’t realize until joining EPA’s Burn Wise program recently that smoke from wood stoves and wood-burning fireplaces is a significant source of fine particle pollution in many parts of the country. I was surprised to find out that there are about 12 million wood stoves and 29 million fireplaces in the U.S.

The good news is that people who burn wood can reduce fine particle pollution by following some simple steps. One way is to use a moisture meter, an inexpensive tool that you stick into wood to find out whether the wood is dry enough to burn efficiently. If the wood is wet, it creates more smoke and fine particle pollution in the air that can harm your health. Wet wood also costs you money and time since it will not produce as much heat. Find out more about how to use a moisture meter in the video Wet Wood is a Waste.

I’ve also recently learned that drying wood is easy, but requires a few steps. The best way to dry wood is to split it, stack it to allow air to circulate, and cover it or store it in a wood shed. This promotes drying and cleaner burning.  Find out more about how to properly split, stack, cover and store your wood in the video Split, Stack, Cover, Store.

These practices are a win-win for your pocketbook and your heart.  Visit EPA’s Burn Wise website to learn  more about ways to burn the right wood, the right way, in the right wood-burning appliance.

Learn more!

About the Author: Ann Brown is a communications specialist and is working in the Innovative Programs and Outreach Group in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Winter Tips: Make Your Home Warm and Green

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. As we create a welcoming environment to entertain family and friends during the holidays, let’s think of some tips that will warm up our home while saving us energy and money, too.

  • First, in order to maximize the efficiency of your heating system, you should clean the air filters regularly.
  • Secondly, seal air leaks throughout the home to stop drafts. By sealing and insulating properly your outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors, you will improve the energy efficiency and comfort in your home. You can actually save up to 20% on heating costs on your annual energy bill if you follow this tip.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to automate your heating and cooling system and avoid wasting energy unnecessarily when there is no one at home.
  • Use Energy Star appliances and electronics to save money and use energy more efficiently.
  • Are you installing decorative lights at home to get the family in the holiday spirit? Consider LED decorative light strings. Did you know that for every three Energy Star qualified decorative light strings purchased, you could save $30 over the lifetime of the lights?
  • And, don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room to save energy! I know that is something that I have to remind my youngest all too often.
  • Are you in the mood to sit around the chimney this evening? Remember to burn wisely! For example, choose the right firewood. Keep your chimney clean. And use the right type of wood-burning appliance. By following these simple tips, you can protect your health, reduce air pollution and save money.

So, do you have any special plans for the holidays? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Are You Ready for a Snowstorm?

By Lina Younes

Luckily meteorologists in the Washington, DC metro area are not forecasting a major snowstorm in the near future. Nonetheless, as survivors of Snowgeddon 2010, my family and I are beginning to discuss preparations for the next major North American blizzard. We’re not all on the same page, though. While my youngest is praying for another major snow storm so that she can stay home and go sledding, my husband and I are debating the pro’s and con’s of investing in a snow blower and/or generator.

During the first day of Snowgeddon 2010, we were without electricity for 15 hours.  Energy Star windows kept the house comfortable for nearly 12 hours. When it started to get cold, we lit a fire and had great family time around the fireplace. While a cozy fireplace is still an option, we have to make sure that we burn firewood wisely.  Smoke produces a combination of gases and fine particles from burning wood. If you don’t use your wood-burning appliance properly, you can expose your family to serious health effects,
especially if they suffer from heart or respiratory diseases.

Personally, I am very concerned about the use of generators around the home. These gasoline-powered appliances can produce deadly concentrations of carbon monoxide in indoor air. Even though I know we have to operate generators outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, the mere thought of the nearby exhaust scares me. Although we have a carbon monoxide detector, don’t want to have my family anywhere near that exhaust.

Now the other thing we’re also debating is the issue of the snow blower. It was not fun shoveling those tons of snow and we have the “battle scars” to prove it. Furthermore, gas-operated equipment like snowblowers and generators are also sources of air pollution, something we should all try to prevent. The only thing that is making me consider investing in this high ticket item is the probability that if we buy it, it won’t snow this year. We shall see. Are you preparing for snowgeddon 2011?

More about snow and ice

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.