Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tips for burning wood more cleanly

With the last couple of posts related to the benefits of wood burning and then the problems related to soot, the following posting seems in order.

 There are several tips in the publication Wood Stoves and Air Pollution; Clean burning wood stoves minimize health risks produced by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Studies to minimize the emission of soot from burning wood.

The biggest reason for a smoky fire is incomplete combustion.  This can be caused by an inefficient model stove, wood that isn't seasoned properly, burning of household waste, or a fire that isn't burning hot.  Following are some recommendations related to these common soot related issues.
  1. Purchase an advanced combustion stove.  These stoves have catalytic combustors that ignite smoke gasses and particles at a lower temperature than older models, resulting in a more thorough burn. 
  2. Store wood under cover to allow it to dry properly.  Then burn only wood that has air-dried for at least six to eight months, ideally hard woods, such as oak, maple, or ash.  
  3. Don't ever burn household trash, such as plastics, magazines, etc.  Trash emits toxic fumes and may also result in hazardous ash.
  4. Start fires in the stove with dry kindling and an open damper.  Gradually increase the size of the wood.  It is best not to open the wood stove door too often in order to reduce unwanted emissions indoors.
  5. Don't allow the fire to smolder. A smoldering fire is the worst emitter of soot and pollution.  This can also lead to creosote deposits in the chimney, which in turn could result in a chimney fire.
  6. Keep the stove well maintained by checking for leaks and cleaning the stack pipe and chimney.  

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