Cleaner Wood Burning

We take pride in our quality of life in Washington State. And we all want to protect and preserve the environment. This information describes ways each wood heat user can help reduce air pollution. Even veteran wood heat users can find ways to have a cleaner burn. Less smoke means cleaner air for you, your family, your neighbors and the environment. And the less smoke you produce, the more heat and value you get from your wood. Simple changes to the way you burn in your stove or fireplace can help reduce smoke, reduce needed fuel and save you money. Learn how to minimize smoke, increase the heat you get from your wood and limit your impact on your neighbor by watching the video below.

Clean Home Heating Videos

 How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

If you are considering a wood stove or fireplace insert for your home, or upgrading your old wood stove to something that heats cleaner and more efficiently, take a few minutes to determine which device and fuel choice best fits your needs.

 A Quick Guide on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Seasoned Firewood Only - Under 20% Moisture Content

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50%. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44% more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20% moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20% moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put in your fire.

Illegal Burning

Manufactured logs (pressed sawdust or sawdust/wax) are legal, but be careful to follow the product instructions and to follow the recommendations in the owner's manual. Coal with less than one percent sulfur is legal in a coal-only stove.

State law prohibits burning the following in a solid fuel burning device:

  • garbage (including diapers);
  • plastic or rubber products;
  • treated wood (including particle or strand board);
  • asphalt-based or waste petroleum products;
  • paints and chemicals;
  • animal carcasses;
  • anything else which normally emits dense smoke or obnoxious odors.

Paper is legal only for starting the fire.

Smoke Emissions

State law limits the density of smoke to under 20% opacity from the stack or chimney, to ensure people use clean burning techniques. Opacity means how much can been seen beyond/through the smoke. 100% opacity means you can't see anything. If you use dry enough fuel, the right equipment, and give your fire the right amount of air, there should be no visible smoke from your chimney or stove-pipe, only heat waves.

A hot, clean-burning fire
A smoldering, dampered-down fire

With proper maintenance and burning techniques smoke emissions should remain under 10% opacity.

There are two exceptions to the opacity rule:

  • Starting the fire. You have up to 20 minutes every four hours.
  • Stoking the fire. You have up to six consecutive minutes in any one hour period
Fires Require Oxygen

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don't add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer's instructions.
  • Don't "bank" the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don't damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You'll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don't burn in moderate temperatures. You'll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don't burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor's yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.