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Maintaining The Air Quality In Your Home When You Use A Wood Stove

We spend, on average, roughly 90% of our time indoors, where concentrations of pollutants can be up to five times higher than they are outdoors. For those of us burning wood indoors, this can be particularly concerning, but the good news is that by using a wood stove rather than an open fireplace, you’re already breathing in far fewer pollutants, and many of the steps you take to keep your stove eco-friendly will also help minimize the level of pollutants in your home. That said, it’s important to be aware of the effects of wood smoke and what you can do to improve your indoor air quality when you use a wood stove.

The Effects Of Burning Wood In The Home

When we breathe in wood smoke, we inhale pollutants and small particles, which can cause irritation to the lungs and eyes, and exacerbate breathing difficulties like bronchitis and asthma. Heavy exposure in the long term can lead to heart difficulties and reduced lung function, particularly in infants and older adults. 

There are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of toxins you breathe in from wood smoke. Improving filtration and ventilation is key, as this exchanges stale air for fresh air. Air conditioning systems filter indoor air to remove airborne particles, and some also act as air purifiers - make sure you understand the parts and functions of your unit, and install air purifiers if yours doesn’t have one. Clean HEPA filters regularly, and monitor the air quality with an indoor air monitor, which will alert you if there’s a reduction of the quality of the air in your home.  

Keep Your Wood Stove Clean And Well-Maintained

Ensure that your wood stove is certified by the EPA - modern stoves are cleaner and more efficient, and this certification is required, but if you’re using a very old stove, it may be time to upgrade. Modern stoves burn less wood than older stoves, and reduce the amount of wood smoke emitted.

Ensure that any air leaks are sealed and insulated, and have your stove serviced regularly. The chimney, too, should be swept once a year to clear out creosote and pollutants. As well as keeping your air quality at its best, this will ensure the safety of your stove.

Using Your Stove For Optimum Air Quality

To keep pollutants to a minimum, burn only dry, natural wood. Damp wood doesn’t burn as easily, and will produce much more smoke, as well as generating less heat. Stack split wood off the ground for six months to a year to season it, keeping it covered with plenty of room for air flow. Cracking at the ends of the logs will show you when the wood is dry. Dry wood should also make a hollow sound when two logs are knocked against each other. You can use a moisture meter to check that the wood is dry enough - moisture content should have dropped to 15-20% before burning. 

When you’re building your fire, stack larger logs at the bottom, followed by smaller logs topped with sticks or wood chips. When you’re lighting the stove, light the top of the pile. Keep the fire hot, as this produces a cleaner fire with little visible smoke. 

Because a wood stove keeps the fire contained, it causes far less problems for indoor air quality than an open fireplace. However, in order to keep the air quality of your home as clean as possible, it’s important to keep your stove well maintained and pay attention to the moisture content of the wood you’re burning. Doing this will also reduce the stove’s environmental impact, and keep it burning at its most efficient level.

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