Use Wood Wisely

By Steven Donohue, Region 3

I was born and bred in Pennsylvania. My teen years were spent chopping several cords of wood a year to feed a wood stove in an attempt to heat our drafty old house and reduce our heating bill.  
 
Today, I use about a half cord of wood a year in our fireplace to brighten cold nights and wet, dreary days. Our energy efficient house and careful burning reduce emissions and save time, money, and my back!

Before burning wood (or any other fuel for heating), it just makes sense to seal up any air leaks and add the recommended amount of insulation to keep the heat you generate inside your house.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That old saying, by Philadelphia favorite Ben Franklin, applies as much today as when Ben said it in 1735. 

It’s also important to burn your wood efficiently. Anyone who’s ever tried to heat a house with a traditional fireplace knows they suck almost as much heat up the chimney as they provide.  Our 1970s wood stove was better than a fireplace, but still nowhere near as good as the EPA certified unit I have now.  Our fireplace insert is likely fifty percent more efficient, allowing us to burn a third less wood for the same heat.  And, a few years from now, we’ll have even more efficient units: EPA just proposed new rules to reduce the amount of particulate smoke (unburned fuel) down to the weight of about half a penny per hour.

When using our fireplace, I also make sure I burn only seasoned, dry wood.  Wet wood not only gives off less heat, but it makes more smoke and forms creosote that can cause chimney fires. Having planted my share of trees over the years, I know how long they take to grow, so I try to use the wood they provide us wisely.  Once again, a penny saved is a penny earned. To learn how to tell whether your firewood is ready to burn, and get other information on burning wood efficiently, please visit the  BurnWise website.

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 20 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he focuses on greening EPA and other government facilities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.