EPA offers tips to burn smarter and cleaner during winter season

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EPA has tips for New England homeowners who are heating their homes with wood burning stoves, fireplaces or boilers.

Wood smoke is made up of a mixture of fine particles and toxic gases that can harm your health. Fine particle pollution isn’t healthy to breathe indoors or out, especially for children, older adults and those with heart disease, lung diseases, including asthma. Exposure to fine particles has been linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, heart failure and stroke in people with heart disease, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

Regardless of the type of wood heater you use, you should not smell smoke inside your home or see smoke coming out of your chimney except during start up.

Here are some wood-burning tips to follow:

  • Upgrade to an EPA-certified heater (wood or pellet stove, fireplace insert, or hydronic heater) or gas heater. There are an estimated 13 million fireplaces, almost 250,000 hydronic heaters, and 8.5 million wood stoves nationwide. About 57 percent of wood stoves are older, inefficient devices.
  • Split and season softwood outdoors for at least 6 months and hardwood for 12 months before burning it. Burning seasoned wood generates more heat and, therefore, can result in significant cost savings over the winter. Wood burns best when the moisture content is less than 20 percent. Inexpensive meters are available at hardware stores and online for testing moisture content.
  • Never burn painted or pressure-treated wood, ocean driftwood, wood that contains glue (e.g., plywood), household garbage, trash, cardboard, plastics or foam. All of these products emit toxic fumes when burned.
  • Have a certified professional service your wood heater or fireplace annually – don’t just rely on a carbon-monoxide alarm.
  • Start fires with newspaper and dry kindling or have a professional install a natural gas or propane log lighter in your open fireplace.
  • Do not let a fire smolder – this increases air pollution and does not provide heat.
  • Reduce your overall heating needs and heating bills by improving the insulation in your home; caulking around windows, doors, and pipes to seal air gaps; and adding weather-stripping to doors and windows.

To learn more about the importance of burning the right wood, the right way, in the right wood-burning appliance, go to EPA’s Burn Wise website atwww.epa.gov/burnwise.