As temperatures continue to drop across Connecticut, many homeowners are turning to wood for their space heating needs. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is encouraging residents to protect their health and that of their family, friends and neighbors by using “best burn” practices. Burning the right type of wood in a proper manner limits exposure to wood smoke, which is a hazardous air pollutant.
Wood smoke is a complex mixture of gases and particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn and can have severe health impacts. Wood smoke is also a main contributor of fine particle pollution and contributes significantly to poor air quality days in many areas across the state.
Exposure to fine particle pollution from wood smoke can lead to a variety of health effects particularly affecting those with lung disease, asthma, COPD, and heart disease. Children, teenagers, older adults, and new or expectant mothers may want to take precautions and limit their exposure to protect their health and the health of their children. Particle pollution can trigger asthma attacks, impair lung development in children, increase symptoms of COPD and cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. For people with heart disease, particle pollution is linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and stroke.
Based on the health impacts associated with inhaling unhealthy levels of wood smoke, DEEP recommends the following “best burn” tips to reduce wood smoke pollution:
Not all wood is the same. To reduce particle pollution, only burn dry, seasoned wood. Softwoods such as Douglas fir need at least 6 months to dry and hardwoods such as oak need at least 12 months. Never burn: garbage, plastic, tires, or treated lumber because they emit other toxic pollutants in additional to particle pollution.
Don’t burn wet wood. Burning wet wood creates a lot of smoke and the wood burns inefficiently, meaning the heat literally goes up in smoke. Buy an inexpensive moisture meter at a hardware store to test the moisture content of your wood, and only burn wood if the moisture content is 20% or less.
Newer is cleaner. Old wood stoves are bad polluters and less efficient than newer ones. Newer, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts (wood stoves designed to fit into a fireplace), reduce air pollutants by 70% compared to older models. Additionally, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts are up to 50% more energy efficient, use one-third less wood for the same heat, and help reduce the risk of fires by reducing creosote build-up in chimneys.
For more information visit DEEP’s Wood Burning in Connecticut webpage.