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December 23, 2009


Proper Use of Wood Stoves Not Only Saves Money But Can Be Environmentally Responsible

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today reminded residents to exercise great care when using wood stoves in their homes. With the winter heating season now fully upon us, many New Yorkers have begun using wood- fired stoves to take the chill off of their homes.

“While many still heat their homes with natural gas or oil, there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of wood stoves,” said Commissioner Grannis. “Using a wood stove can be an economical and environmentally responsible choice; however, it does require more oversight and responsibility than other heating options.”

Here are some details and tips homeowners should know about wood stoves and burning wood:

  • New York State law requires that no air pollution source, including wood stoves, have opacity of greater than 20 percent. Generally, if you can see a clearly defined smoke plume, there is a problem with the combustion process. A properly installed wood stove should be smoke free.

  • A smoky fire is the result of incomplete combustion. The most common causes are wet wood, burning fuel other than wood, not enough air flow into the stove, an improperly maintained stove or chimney, or an old inefficient wood stove. Smoky fires damage the local air quality, waste fuel, and cause creosote deposits in chimneys that can lead to chimney fires.

  • Wood should have been seasoned outdoors through the summer for at least 6 months before burning it. Properly seasoned wood 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 percent. Home owners need to make sure that wood stored outdoors is stacked neatly off the ground with the top covered. Don’t burn wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood.

  • Never burn household garbage or construction debris. Any material other than clean wood may produce harmful chemicals when burned that can damage the wood stove and the local air quality. It is also a violation of New York State law.

  • Start fires with newspaper and dry kindling. Do not use gasoline or charcoal starter fluid.

  • To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes.

  • A fire built with dry clean wood and sufficient air flow will be hot, clean, safe, and efficient.

  • A recent New York State regulation prohibits the movement of firewood more than 50 miles from its source unless it has been heat treated to prevent the spread of invasive species and diseases (including the Asian long-horned beetle, Emerald ash borer and Asian gypsy moth).

  • As of 1988, the EPA requires that all new wood stoves meet minimum particulate emission standards. Wood stoves manufactured before 1988 are generally inefficient and dirty. In 2009 and 2010, there is a $1,500 tax credit available to purchasers of any biomass fuel stove that has a thermal efficiency of at least 75%.

For more information on burning wood, see the EPA Burn Wise Program at www.epa.gov/burnwise/ or the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) at http://www.hpba.org/.

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