Being Good About Burning Wood
Thinking about heating with wood this winter? Some people have the luxury of choice while many rural and sub-urban dwellers rely on on wood stoves as a primary source of heat. There are greener options available on the market, but only if you choose the right wood burning units that cut down on emissions.
The wood stove revival got its start in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis (aka the Arab Oil Embargo). Faced with oil shortages and skyrocketing oil prices, enterprising homeowners rediscovered the economy of heating with a locally produced renewable resource. Throughout the cold parts of our country, antique wood stoves were rescued from barns and junk shops, and a new crop of wood stove manufacturers sprang up. Dinner conversations often included discussions about chainsaws and chimney sweeps.
A great deal has changed since those early days of wood burning. Back then, the “gold standard” of wood stove performance was a stove’s ability to burn all night on a full load of firewood. Little thought was given to the air pollution potential of wood stove use. But in 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to regulate wood stoves and other biofuel-burning appliances. The clean-burning technology incorporated into today’s EPA-certified wood and pellet stoves has dramatically cut harmful emissions while also improving heating efficiency. Here are some guidelines that will help you help you make a more environmentally sound purchase:
- Buy from an experienced dealer in your area. An established dealer will help you select a wood stove that suits the size of your heating area, the design of your house and your plans for using the stove. Make sure to ask your dealer about the federal income tax credit (up to a maximum of $1500) that applies to a wood or pellet stove purchase.
- Stick to established wood stove brands. If you have warranty issues or need replacement parts (gaskets, handles, firebrick), established manufacturers are your best bet. Reputable wood stove manufacturers include Jotul, Vermont Castings, Quadrafire, Morso and Lopi.
- Have your wood stove professionally installed. It’s important to comply with local building codes and to follow the manufacturer’s requirements for venting and clearances to combustible materials.
- Treat firewood like valuable fuel. Have a shelter or a system (a heavy-duty tarp) for keeping your fuel supply dry, and make sure to burn only well-seasoned wood.
- Keep your chimney clean. Hire a professional chimney sweep to clean and (if necessary) repair your chimney once a year.
Since many people rely on wood burning as their primary source of heat, it is important to consider EPA certified wood burning stoves to help keep the community air as clean as possible.
Tim Snyder is a journalist who writes about sustainability, energy efficiency, and home-building topics. Tim is a frequent contributor to Dr. Energy Saver, an energy efficiency company that provides customers with affordable home energy audits.
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