Tag archief: air pollution

Wildfire Smoke May Spark Heart Troubles. (Houtrook veroorzaakt hartfalen)

We maken ons druk om asbest, maar rook van houtbranden is heilig dus gezond……….

brand asbest rook asbest wijk dicht

Fine particulate matter linked to acute coronary events, especially in elderly.


Exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution during wildfires may increase risk for cardiac arrest and other acute heart problems, particularly in the elderly, according to Australian researchers.

The time-stratified case-crossover study, which looked at cardiovascular and respiratory health effects of wildfire smoke (PM2.5; aerodynamic diameter <2.5 lm) from the 2006-2007 bushfires in Victoria, Australia, showed a 6.98% increase in cardiac arrest when ambient air is contaminated by smoke from wildfires, reported Anjali Haikerwal, MBBS, MPH, of Monash University in Melbourne, and colleagues.


Associations were observed for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, hospital admissions, and emergency department (ED) visits for ischemic heart disease (IHD) after two days of exposure to wildfire smoke in Victoria at PM2.5 concentrations, they wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

This association was observed mainly in adults 65 or older. Men showed a higher risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests events and women showing a higher risk of IHD-related hospital admissions, they added.

“The results from our study suggest that PM2.5 exposure from wildfire smoke may be an important determinant of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and IHD (ED visits and hospital admissions) and that susceptible persons such as older adults may be at higher risk during such extreme events,” Haikerwal’s group wrote.

One of the most important sources of PM2.5 air pollution is from wildfire smoke exposure, the authors pointed out, adding that “smoke from wildfires disperses widelyand affects large portions of the population away from the fire source.”

Protracted droughts make Victoria one of the most fire-prone regions in the world. The 2006-2007 wildfire was the longest running collection of fires that burned over more than 1 million hectares (about 4,000 square miles) of land in Victoria and lasted for more than 60 days.

Previously, she noted, epidemiological studies investigating the role of fine particulate matter in triggering acute coronary events, including out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and IHD, during wildfires, have been inconclusive.

This examination of the associations between of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, IHD, acute myocardial infarction, and angina (hospital admissions and ED attendance) with PM2.5 concentrations during the 2006–2007 wildfires paints a different picture.

“Their data support previous findings of increased cardiovascular hospital admissions during increased air pollution exposure, and basic studies showing that particulate contamination can alter autonomic activity and negatively affect cardiovascular health,” said Alfred Bove, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, in an interview.

“The findings indicate that patients should be made aware of an increased risk for cardiovascular events during times when air pollution is particularly severe, whether from wildfires, heavy vehicle traffic or other exposures,” he told MedPage Today.

He pointed out that it was likely that many of the subjects who experienced a cardiovascular event had underlying cardiovascular disease. For this reason, “patients with known cardiovascular disease should be instructed to avoid air pollution exposures, and find filtered air environments when pollution levels are high, as in the event of environmental smoke contamination from wildfires,” he said.

Bove added that similar advice is appropriate for those without a history of cardiovascular disease.

The authors acknowledged that a study limitation was the the lack of information on personal risk factors such as socioeconomic status, smoking, obesity, and underlying health conditions. They also lacked data on indoor PM concentrations while the wildfires were raging.

During the December 2006 to January 2007 study period, health data were obtained from comprehensive health-based administrative registries. Modeled and validated air exposure data from wildfire smoke emissions (daily average PM2.5, temperature, relative humidity) were also estimated for this period.

There were 457 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 2,106 ED visits, and 3,274 hospital admissions for IHD, the authors reported.

After adjusting for temperature and relative humidity, an increase in interquartile range of 9.04 lg/m3 in PM2.5 over two days moving average (lag 0-1) was associated with a 6.98% (95% CI 1.03%-13.29%) increase in risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, with strong association shown by men (9.05%,95%CI 1.63%-17.02%) and by seniors (7.25%, 95% CI 0.24%-14.75%).

Increase in risk was 2.07% (95% CI 0.09%-4.09%) for IHD-related emergency department attendance and 1.86% (95% CI 0.35%-3.4%) for IHD-related hospital admissions at lag two days, with strong associations shown by women (3.21%, 95% CI 0.81%-5.67%) and by older adults (2.41%, 95% CI 0.82%-5.67%).

PM2.5 levels during wildfire episodes can exceed air quality guidelines set by regulatory bodies such as the World Health Organization, the authors stated, adding that it has long been hypothesized that PM2.5 is particularly toxic because it can penetrate deep into the lungs and induce systemic and oxidative stress responses.

This in turn could potentially trigger a cascade of pathophysiological events and lead to manifestations of CHD, including chronic and angina, plaque instability, and rupture, typically following myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest, they said.

“Given the increased incidence and frequency of wildfires recently and the increased number of people at risk of smoke exposure, future research is required to investigate the role of fine particulate matter exposure from wildfire smoke in triggering acute coronary events,” they concluded. “The knowledge and evidence resulting from such research will inform policy and practice and help build capacity in the understanding and management of adverse cardiovascular health impacts in vulnerable communities during wildfire episodes.”

From the American Heart Association:

The research was funded by Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (Bushfire CRC) now a part of Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Haikerwal and co-authors disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.

  • Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

LAST UPDATED 07.17.2015

Schade vergoeding voor gedupeerden van houtrook ehh tabaksrook….

Roken is ongezond. Na tig jaren is men daar wel achtergekomen.

AD 1-6-2015 Roken op straat in China AD 1-6-2015 Rookverbod luchtweginfecties

Houtrook is 12x slechter en  30 x meer kans op kanker dan tabaksrook , maar blijft gewoon legaal.

Je mag ongestoord de hele woonwijk in de houtrook zetten……

Gezellig die houtkachel en open haard???????, maar dan geen gezeur als je later ziek wordt en jaren loopt te klooien met je gezondheid,


Luchtvervuiling maakt dom en agressief…………

Een nieuwe studie toont weer aan hoe ongezond deze stoffen zijn.

In het op 25 maart 2015 gepubliceerde rapport “Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollutants (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) on the Development of Brain White Matter, Cognition, and Behavior in Later Childhood‘ staat bij de conclusie:

Conclusies en relevantie: Onze bevindingen suggereren dat prenatale blootstelling aan PAK luchtverontreinigende stoffen bijdraagt aan lagere verwerkingssnelheid, hyperactivity disorder symptomen, en externaliserende problemen in stedelijke jeugd door het verstoren van de ontwikkeling van de witte stof in de linker hersenhelft, terwijl postnatale PAK blootstelling bijdraagt aan extra stoornissen in de ontwikkeling van witte stof in dorsale prefrontale gebieden.


Externaliserende problemen: Bij externaliserende gedragsproblemen is er te weinig controle over de emoties en worden deze uitgeageerd. Jongeren met externaliserende problemen hebben vaak conflicten met andere mensen of met de maatschappij. Typische externaliserende problemen zijn agressie, overactief gedrag en ongehoorzaamheid. Bron

Functie van de dorsale prefrontale gebieden: De DLPFC wordt verantwoordelijk geacht voor planning en hoger aspecten van gecontroleerd gedrag, zoals executieve functies, het ‘monitoren’ van gedrag, en het onderdrukken van ongewenst gedrag en motoriek. Bron.

All About Wood Smoke

Wood smoke is the problem, no doubt about it, and is by far the most compelling argument against wood heating. To be fair, the critics do have a point, although their extremism can be off-putting. There are places, mainly communities in sheltered mountain valleys, where, when the locals fire up their stoves and fireplaces during a cold snap, the smoke gets so thick you can’t see across the street. A frigid, stagnant air mass traps the smoke close to the ground. It smells terrible, affects everybody and makes some people sick.

For most of us, though, wood smoke is rarely seen as an issue because the particular topographical and climatological features that trap smoke don’t exist everywhere. Wood smoke tends to blow away before it annoys anybody. Smoke pollution only becomes a problem when the odd person can’t or won’t burn properly, thus attracting the ire of the neighbors.

In truth, the majority of woodburning devices currently installed are filthy in the smoke emissions department. That is, they emit particulates at the rate of 20 to 60 grams per hour of operation. A person who sets out to burn without smoke could easily get below this range by using decent fuel and burning smaller, hotter fires. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how. And, as of the last twenty years or so, we have new wood heating technologies that emit less than 7.5 grams per hour and most of the current models run in the range of 2 to 4 g/h. Again, an operator with a no-smoke attitude can get to the lower end of this range.

vaporization1. Wood vaporizes when heated into gases and tar particles. 2. If the temperature is high enough the tar particles vaporize into chemicals and carbon particles. 3. If the temperature is higher still and there is oxygen present, the gases and particles burn in bright flames.As pollutants go, the story of wood smoke is an interesting one. Chemically speaking, wood is about half carbon and the rest is mostly made up of oxygen and hydrogen. When you heat up a piece of wood, it starts to smoke and turn black at the same time. This is because the other stuff vaporizes under intense heat faster than the carbon burns, so smoking leaves much of the carbon behind until only charcoal, which is just about pure carbon, is left. The smoke that vaporizes out of the wood is a cloud of nasty, gooey little droplets of a tar-like liquid. Chemically, these droplets are actually big, gooey, complicated hydrocarbon molecules that take a number of different forms, mostly bad. If you’ve followed the issue, you may have seen the list of fifty or so chemicals found in wood smoke. They all sound lethal, but it turns out that only a few are actually carcinogenic. Be aware, however, that the list is bogus because these are the chemicals that result from smoldering, not burning.

When you burn wood properly in a bright, hot, turbulent fire, what you see is the tar droplets rising off the wood into a zone of extreme heat where they re-vaporize, cracking into their basic, mostly gaseous, constituents, and oxidize. That is to say, they burn. You are left with carbon dioxide, some carbon monoxide and a number of other gases, water vapor and some not quite completely oxidized hydrocarbon bits. The bits are the particulate emissions that EPA regulates. When it comes to these sooty particulate emissions, of course, the fewer the better.

The complicated hydrocarbons that spew into the air as smoke from a smoldering wood fire are inherently unstable. And they stink. Hence their formal name: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. As soon as the tarry droplets exit the chimney their more volatile gases start to evaporate and their chemical make-up changes. In the scheme of things these are heavy molecules so they eventually fall to ground. There, they mix with water and soil, transforming again as they blend into the background as humus. The key point is that while wood smoke is unhealthy to breathe in high concentrations, it is not poisonous to the environment.

It turns out that the human nose is almost unbelievably sensitive to these aromatic hydrocarbons. Maybe you have experienced this: you are cross-country skiing or snow shoeing far from the nearest house when out of nowhere comes that wonderfully spicy scent of wood smoke. Your nose can detect the most minute concentrations of these compounds in the air, at lower concentrations than the most sensitive emission montoring equipment. In most people these hints of wood smoke in the air elicit fond memories of hearth and home. Some say our highly developed response to the smell of burning wood is a form of ancient homing instinct that we still carry around in our genes.

But, at what airborne concentration does wood smoke change from being a pleasant smell to being unhealthy air pollution? The technical answer is probably meaningless to most people, but they sure know when they’ve inhaled enough, and it isn’t much. Although there might be some debate about acceptable concentrations in the outside environment, the smell of wood smoke inside a house must always be defined as pollution. No woodburning system should ever spill smoke into the room. If yours does, you really ought to get it looked at.

opacitywashingtonstateThese three photos from the Washington State department of ecology show smoke opacity levels. Note that a properly used EPA certified appliance will produce a much clearer exhaust than the photo on the left.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of smoke your woodburning activities produce. In fact, by using all the techniques that follow, you can get your emissions down near the range that oil furnaces produce, and you don’t hear too many complaints about oil heating emissions.

  • If you don’t already use an EPA certified stove, fireplace or insert, buy one as soon as you can. This one step can cut your emissions by as much as 90 per cent. Pellet stoves and masonry heaters are not usually EPA certified, but burn in the sub-5 gram range, so they are also low-emission options.
  • Use only properly seasoned firewood. That means it is cut, split and stacked in the open between six months and a year before burning. Drying may take longer in cold, damp climates, or if the wood is big pieces of very hard wood. Split the wood to a range of sizes that suit your heater.

The way you manage the fire has a big effect on how much smoke you make. When things are going well, this is what you should see:

  • When wood burns it should be flaming until only charcoal remains. If there are no flames, something is wrong.
  • If there are firebricks in the firebox, they should be tan in color, never black.
  • Steel or cast iron parts in the firebox should be light to dark brown, never black and shiny.
  • With seasoned wood, correct air settings and proper loading arrangement you should expect almost instant ignition of a new load of wood. If the wood doesn’t ignite quickly, something is wrong.
  • If the appliance has a glass door with airwash, it should be clear.
  • If the appliance has a glass door without airwash, it will be hazy, but should never be totally black.
  • The exhaust coming from the top of the chimney should be perfectly clear or white with steam. A plume of blue or gray smoke indicates that you have a problem.

That’s all there is to it. Clean burning with no smoke is not rocket science, it just takes some extra awareness like most other acts of environmental responsibility.


Al 60 vieze auto’s betrapt in milieuzone Utrecht (Nu nog de houtkachels)

Al 60 vieze auto’s betrapt in milieuzone Utrecht

In een paar uur tijd hebben al 60 automobilisten een boete gekregen omdat zij met een vieze auto in de milieuzone van Utrecht reden. Kosten: 90 euro.

Sinds vannacht twaalf uur tot vanmiddag 13 uur zijn er boetes uitgedeeld in het centrum van de Domstad. Volgens de gemeente rijden er dagelijks 55.000 auto’s door het centrum. De gemeente verwacht dat het aantal boetes de komende tijd afneemt.

ZIE OOK:  Vervuilde auto nu beboet in Utrecht

Automobilisten met een dieselauto van voor januari 2001 zijn niet meer welkom in het centrum van Utrecht. De milieuzone voor dieselauto’s is ingesteld om de luchtkwaliteit te verbeteren.

De maatregel gold al vanaf 1 januari, maar de tussenliggende maanden waren een ‘gewenningsperiode’.

New medical research has confirmed exposure to smoke from bushfires can be as damaging as cigarette smoke.

New medical research has confirmed exposure to smoke from bushfires can be as damaging as cigarette smoke.

Laboratory tests on human lung cells by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney show bushfire smoke can scar and inflame lungs, just as cigarettes do.

“We take cigarette smoke exposure very seriously,” said cell biologist Brian Oliver.

“Our evidence suggests it might be time to do the same with wood smoke and try to minimise exposure.”

New research has confirmed exposure to smoke from bushfires can be as damaging as cigarette smoke. Source: AAP

Air pollution is known to soar during bushfires.

Between 1994 and 2007, bushfires in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle were associated with increased hospital admissions for asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

During the fire emergency in the Sydney region in October last year, residents were warned about tiny particles from bushfire smoke that go deep into the lungs and irritate the airways.

Dr Olivier said the Woolcock study focused on the potential role wood smoke played in triggering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which attacks and destroys lungs.

The two main forms of COPD emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and COPD affects one in 13 Australians aged over 40, usually due to smoking.

Researchers say the study also raise concerns about the effects of using wood for heating and cooking in developing countries.

“The smoke we inhale from burning biomass fuels can do long-term lasting damage to our lungs,” Dr Olivier said in a statement.

The findings were published in the international scientific journal PLOS ONE, an open access peer-reviewed publication.

Wood Burning Industry Applauds HB 396 While Air Quality Adovates Boo

Wood Burning Industry Applauds HB 396 While Air Quality Adovates Boo
By BOB NELSON • APR 3, 2015

Het stookgedrag bepaalt hoofdzakelijk de uitstoot van schadelijke stoffen. En het stook gedrag is in 99,9% slecht. Hoe goed de kachel ook is de stoker bepaalt de uitstoot. Auto die volgens de fabriek 1:20 rijdt zal in de praktijk 1:15 rijden.

Among the bills Governor Gary Herbert signed into law earlier this week is HB 396, which prevents the Utah Department of Environmental Quality from placing a season-long ban on wood burning.

While the fireplace and wood stove industry praises the governor’s action, clean air advocates seem to be in a state of shock. Dr. Brian Moench is president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. He says they are confused and very disappointed in the governor’s failure to veto the bill.

“For multiple reasons we think this is one of the worst bills,” says Moench, “maybe THE worst bill that came out of the session this year.”

Moench says the legislation was written by the wood burning industry and ignored the will of the majority to have cleaner air. He says his group and other air quality advocates will continue with efforts to educate the public on the harmful effects of wood burning, especially on children.

“Wood smoke is uniquely toxic, it’s emitted right where people spend most of their time, and it penetrates the homes of everyone in the vicinity more easily than almost any other type of pollution because to particles are so small…even smaller than particles from tailpipes,” Moench says.

John Mortensen is one of the leaders of Utahns for Responsible Burning, which lobbied for HB 396. He said in a statement that without the threat of a ban “Utah is pursuing a common-sense solution that protects responsible burning and preserves basic freedoms.”


Global Warming & Wood Smoke


Global Warming & Wood Smoke

Wood smoke pollution is also a major contributor to global warming. Soot emissions from wood burning are now considered to be the second biggest contributor to Global Warming. The burning of wood is a major source of black carbon all over the world over.

Best hope for saving Arctic sea ice is cutting soot emissions, says Stanford researcher 

Soot from the burning of fossil fuels and solid biofuels contributes far more to global warming than has been thought, according to a new Stanford study. But, unlike carbon dioxide, soot lingers only a few weeks in the atmosphere, so cutting emissions could have a significant and rapid impact on the climate. Controlling soot may be the only option for saving the Arctic sea ice from melting. If soot emissions were eliminated, more than 1.5 million premature deaths from soot inhalation could be prevented worldwide each year.

 The quickest, best way to slow the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice is to reduce soot emissions from the burning of fossil fuel, wood and dung, according to a new study by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson.

His analysis shows that soot is second only to carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming. But, he said, climate models to date have mis-characterized the effects of soot in the atmosphere.

Because of that, soot’s contribution to global warming has been ignored in national and international global warming policy legislation, he said.

“Controlling soot may be the only method of significantly slowing Arctic warming within the next two decades,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program. “We have to start taking its effects into account in planning our mitigation efforts, and the sooner we start making changes, the better.”

Source  news.stanford.edu/news/2010/july/soot-emissions-ice-072810.html

4 Year Climate Study Claims Burning Wood A Major Source For Global Warming

Climate change: Piers Forster‏@piersforster

Large climate warming from soot.

It was 4 years in the making but our assessment out

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21033078 … paper:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrd.50171/abstract …

 The burning of wood is a major source of black carbon the world over.

Black carbon, or soot, is making a much larger contribution to global warming than previously recognised, according to research.

Scientists say that particles from diesel engines and wood burning could be having twice as much warming effect as assessed in past estimates.

They say it ranks second only to carbon dioxide as the most important climate-warming agent.

The research is in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Black carbon aerosols have been known to warm the atmosphere for many years by absorbing sunlight. They also speed the melting of ice and snow.

Half a degree

This new study concludes the dark particles are having a warming effect approximately two thirds that of carbon dioxide, and greater than methane.

“ If we did everything we could to reduce these emissions we could buy ourselves up to half a degree less warming” Prof Piers Forster University of Leeds

“The large conclusion is that forcing due to black carbon in the atmosphere is larger,”

“The value the IPCC gave in their 4th assessment report in 2007 is half of what we are presenting in this report – it’s a little bit shocking,”

However as these type of particles don’t last very long in the atmosphere, cutting their number would have an immediate impact on temperatures.

 “Reducing emissions from diesel engines and domestic wood and coal fires is a no-brainer as there are tandem health and climate benefits,” said Professor Piers Forster from the University of Leeds.

“If we did everything we could to reduce these emissions we could buy ourselves up to half a degree less warming, or a couple of decades of respite,” he added.

Black carbon is said to be a significant source of rapid warming in the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe and northern Asia.

The particles are also said to have an impact on rainfall patterns in the Asian monsoon.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/15/black-carbon-twice-global-warming

The threat to our health and the devastating effects to climate change is REAL, it is now time for all of us to join and work together to end this severe form of air pollution.

An Environmentalists Guide to Responsible Wood Heating

Img1-smogIf you lived in the suburbs of this city, would it be responsible of you to burn wood?

  • Local air quality issues
  • Appliance selection
  • Wood heat system design
  • Sustainable fuel
  • Good operating technique

By John Gulland

A version of this article appeared in the Feb-Mar 2004 edition of Home Power Magazine

It’s fair to say that wood energy is the black sheep of the renewable energy family and, of all the renewable options, it causes environmentalists the most discomfort. Mostly they worry that burning wood means cutting down precious trees for fuel and making a lot of smoke pollution. Besides, wood stoves are not as technologically sexy as glittering solar panels and whirling wind turbines. As one anti-wood burning activist was heard to say at a public meeting, “We need to look to new sources of energy, not old ones.”

But wood is a conditionally renewable fuel and, as all environmentalists and alternative energy aficionados know, there aren’t too many renewable options available, especially ones good at providing bulk heat in very cold weather. In practical terms, households hoping to run on renewable energy in moderate and cold climate regions will probably need to rely on wood fuel to some extent or they’ll freeze.

The main gripe about wood heating is the smoke, a problem having two dimensions: the community and the neighborly. At the community level, topography and climate can conspire to trap smoke close to the ground. The pollution is visible, unpleasant and downright unhealthy, especially for children, the elderly and those with respiratory sensitivities. A different kind of problem arises when one household’s wood smoke is so dense that the neighbors are driven indoors and even there the smell permeates clothes, rugs and drapes. Both problems are serious and together they give wood burning its bad name.

Clearly, the unreserved promotion of wood heating in all locations and circumstances is not environmentally acceptable. Even venturing to say something mildly positive about home heating with wood opens one to criticism in some circles.

Acknowledging, then, that heating with wood is not a good option for everyone, everywhere, how do you go about judging suitability in your particular case? Until now a guide to decision-making, or even to guide a discussion of the issue, did not exist. This article is an effort to fill that gap.

It might be useful to clear up three common myths: first, that wood heating involves simple equipment at the level of folk technology; second, that the installation of wood heating systems entails only the application of common sense; and third, that the skills needed for successful heating with wood are intuitive.

In truth, effective wood heating is neither simple, “just” common sense nor intuitive. Effective wood heating technologies are not simple and in fact it is simple wood burning equipment that makes all the smoke and is terribly inefficient. Some peoples’ common sense in the absence of proven technical guidelines caused them to burn their houses down. And if anything, bad wood burning habits seem to come naturally. I’ve been building and maintaining wood fires every winter for thirty five years, and I’m still learning. Maybe it’s intuitive for some people, but not for anyone I know.

In proposing an environmentalist’s guide to wood heating, we’ll need to answer four questions: First, should you even consider burning wood where you live? Second, what kind of device should you burn the wood in and how should the installation be arranged? Third, what is an appropriate source of firewood and how can you get some? And finally, how should you operate the wood heating system? Each of these is a big topic, justifying its own article, so in the interests of brevity, we’ll just skim the high points.

Should you consider wood heating?

People who live downtown in a multi-story building, should forget about wood heating. Even if it were physically possible, it wouldn’t be responsible. Even in detached houses, urban wood heating can be problematic.

In general, wood heating works best at the urban fringe and beyond, but even using that criteria there are limits. For example, if your nearby urban area has frequent air quality problems in winter, you might want to consider other options that have less local impact. If you’re unsure about whether wood heating would be suitable where you live, consider this: if all your neighbors also decided that wood heating was a good idea, would it make your area a less pleasant or healthy place to live? If so, look for other options.

Also worth considering is the fuel supply. Wood heating is best done in a local context, so the fuel supply, in the form of standing trees, should be reasonably close to where you live. If your area is not well-forested, other heating options would be better.

So, if you don’t live in a city, and your region doesn’t have winter air quality problems, but is forested, then hey, wood heating might be for you.

How to select the right equipment

Img2-wood_stoveA wood stove is the most economical and efficient form of wood heating.

Many costly mistakes get made in the selection of wood heating equipment, and we need to clear up one of the most common pitfalls right away. Strictly decorative or recreational wood burning is not environmentally appropriate. Conventional fireplaces without heat recovery are inherently wasteful and polluting and don’t belong in an environmentalist’s home. We’re dealing here with efficient, low pollution wood heating, and you can’t do that with a conventional fireplace.

A word about houses. Ideally, an environmentalist shouldn’t have a house that wastes energy because virtually all energy use produces environmental impacts. It is relatively easy now using standard building materials to create a snug, efficient house, the very kind that is best suited to wood heating. The most efficient form of wood heating is space heating with a wood stove, as distinct from central heating with a furnace or boiler. Ideally, the heater is located in the most lived-in part of the house, typically the central area consisting of the kitchen, living and dining rooms. This arrangement makes the space where you eat, relax and entertain the warmest in the house, while utility areas and bedrooms stay cooler. Moderately-sized energy efficient houses can be heated comfortably with a single, well-located wood stove.

Img3-happystoveA straight up venting system makes for a happy stove.Now an equally important word about chimneys. The chimney is not simply an exhaust pipe. Think of it as the engine that drives the wood heating system. Straight chimney systems provide the most reliable, maintenance-free performance, so locate the chimney directly above the stove location so the flue pipe and chimney run straight up from the stove flue collar. This arrangement produces quickly-building, strong draft, no backdrafts and much less chance of smoke roll-out when the door is opened for loading. Plus maintenance is reduced because there are no elbows for deposits to collect in. Straight-up chimney systems give the kind of performance we all want.

Getting the right heater is important and fortunately the general criteria are fairly simple. Look for anything that is certified for low emissions by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A good selection of EPA certified wood stoves, fireplace inserts and factory-built fireplaces is available. Not only will an EPA certified heater emit about ninety percent less smoke, it will deliver up to one-third higher efficiency than the old parlor stove or airtight. You’ll get more heat from less wood and make less pollution in the bargain.

If you are a fan of all masonry construction, you could a consider masonry heater. These massive units cannot be EPA certified because of their design features, but have been shown to burn clean and provide efficient heating. A masonry heater is a specialized design in which a fire is burned rapidly and the heat absorbed by tons of masonry mass for gentle release over the next 12 to 24 hours.

You’ll need help selecting the right heater. For stoves, inserts and fireplaces, visit as many specialty hearth retailers as you can and hear what the sales people have to say. If you are able to visit at least three, their relative competence will probably be revealed. I suggest you pick the dealer you trust first, before making the final product decision. A good dealer can offer you workable options, then it is up to you to select what you think looks the best. Because the stove, insert or fireplace will become an ever-present member of the family, you’d better like the look of it.

Minor differences in smoke emission ratings or in published efficiency figures don’t really mean much, considering that your fuel and operating practices will have such a large effect on performance. Find a good dealer, listen to their advice and pick what you like, as long as it is EPA certified. Chances are good that you’ll be satisfied. If a masonry heater is more to your liking (and you have some extra money you don’t know what else to do with), contact a member of the Masonry Heater Association of North America. In my experience, heater builders are talented, committed individuals who could make a lot more money in some other line of work if they didn’t insist on doing what they love.

How to identify environmentally appropriate firewood

Img4-carbon2Graphic courtesy of ICC-RSFWood is considered to be a renewable fuel and almost carbon dioxide neutral because trees absorb CO2 as they grow. When trees mature and fall in the forest and decompose there, the same amount of CO2 is emitted as would be released if they were burned for heat. In heating our houses with wood, we are simply tapping into the natural carbon cycle in which CO2 flows from the atmosphere to the forest and back.

Appropriate firewood is produced using sustainable forest management practices, meaning that the integrity of the forest, including the trees, the soil and the site, is maintained and that species diversity, both plant and animal, is maintained or enhanced. While this may seem like a tall order or a utopian vision, the fact is that sustainable forestry management has been practiced for decades in thousands of private wood lots across North America. Farmers’ wood lots that look the same today as they did fifty years ago are the best demonstration of good forest management practices.

In practical terms, sustainable forest management can be described as uneven age selective harvesting, involving the removal of damaged or diseased trees and the thinning of concentrated stands of single species, while leaving seed trees of all present species and some standing dead trees to provide wildlife habitat. Wood lots in farm country generally conform to this prescription. If you can get your firewood from a farmer, there is a good chance that it comes from a sustainable source.

The other major source of firewood is logging operations that produce lumber, pulp or veneer logs. In these operations there is always waste produced, such as trees that are center rotten or are damaged by road and trail building, and the top branches for which there may be no commercial market other than firewood. While these logging operations do not necessarily use sustainable methods, many do, and the damage would be done whether or not some of the waste wood is diverted as firewood.

The key to understanding sustainable forestry is to view the forest, not as a museum containing exhibits, but as a living community which, like all communities, is constantly evolving. Climate, soil quality and site characteristics vary widely, but many of the forested areas of North America are highly productive, meaning that a lot of firewood can be removed each year from each acre, while the quality of the stand and wildlife habitat are enhanced.

Those of us who heat homes with wood can do our part for sustainability by pressuring our firewood suppliers to prove that the wood they sell comes from a sustainable source. If many of their customers asked questions about sustainable forestry, firewood dealers would soon pressure their suppliers and the public will would be expressed within the firewood market.

Img5-piledwoodImg6-woodpilends4Firewood should be cut, split and stacked in an open area in early spring to be ready to burn in the fall. Very hard woods like oak may take longer, and drying in damp maritime climates can also take longer than just the summer months.

Here is one final suggestion about sustainable firewood. Ugly wood piles that include wood from less desirable species tend to be more sustainable than perfect piles of maple or oak with regular pieces in the classic wedge shape. This is because straight lengths of these high value, slow growing species should be used for furniture, not wood heating. Ugly wood piles are created by using everything, right down to two-inch diameter sticks and including all the bent and twisted sections of the tops. Although I live in sugar maple country, my firewood is mostly white birch and poplar because I have a lot of them on my property and because they mature in less than 50 years and then fall over. I just catch them for firewood before they fall.

Regarding fuel other than firewood, don’t burn it. Burning waste paper, or even worse, general household trash, produces elevated emissions of dioxin and some other nasty toxic gases. Burning salt water driftwood has the same result. Burn clean, dry, uncoated, untreated wood and just enough newspaper to light the fires.

What day-to-day practices produce less smoke and higher efficiency?

There is no simple formula for building and maintaining fires that deliver maximum heating efficiency and don’t smoke, except to say that wood should be actively flaming until it is reduced to charcoal. The design differences among wood stove models and chimney configurations, and differences in firewood and heat demand all have their effects on wood burning practice. That is to say, we users must adapt to conditions and learn by experience the best way to operate our wood heat systems to achieve the twin goals of high efficiency and low emissions. Given that limitation, however, here are some guidelines that might be useful.

To begin with, the operating instructions supplied with the heater should be followed, especially the procedures for operating catalytic stoves.

In general – all of these suggestions are generalities – wood burns best in cycles. A cycle begins with the placement of several pieces of wood on a coal bed and ends when that wood has burned to a similar-sized coal bed. Adding one or two pieces per hour in the attempt to maintain constant heat output is not a good strategy. In fact, adding only one or two pieces is not a good idea at any time. When loading, always add at least three pieces to create a triangular formation where the glowing surfaces of one burning piece radiate on the other pieces, creating the site where a fire ignites and is sustained. To burn in cycles, wait to reload until you notice that the room or space is beginning to cool off, then add a load of at least three pieces, and preferably more.

Match the size of the load to heat demand. That is, in the relatively mild weather of spring and fall, use several small(ish) pieces of wood, rather than fewer of the large pieces you would use in colder weather. A cycle should last between four and eight hours, depending on a variety of circumstances. For example in spring and fall, I like to use the ‘flash fire’ technique, which consists of three to six small pieces of firewood placed in a crisscross arrangement and burned fairly fast. The result is about four hours of heating, no smoldering and no overheating of the space. In colder weather, use larger pieces crisscrossed for short fires. For extended overnight burns, load the wood compactly in the firebox to slow down the rate at which it decomposes and burns.

Never let a fire smolder. In advanced, EPA certified stoves, the wood should be flaming brightly when you go to bed at night and you should still have plenty of coals in the morning with which to rekindle the next fire. Gone are the days of “banking” fires with huge unsplit “blocks” and choking off the air supply before bed, a procedure that wasted much of the wood’s potential energy and coated the chimney with flammable creosote. The new stoves call for new operating procedures.

Remove ashes frequently. Don’t let them build up in the firebox or ash pan. In the firebox they interfere with proper loading and make dealing with the coal bed more difficult. In stoves with ash pans, the forgetful owner who doesn’t empty ashes frequently enough ends up with a dusty mess to clean up as ashes end up everywhere under and inside the stove body. In cold weather, I remove a small amount of ash from my firebox every morning before loading.

Much more could be said about the finer points of modern wood stove operation, but with these basic ideas and a good attitude as a starting point, you can develop your own special practices that suit your system, firewood and heat demand. And that’s part of the pleasure of heating with wood.

Some environmentalists take a dim view of wood energy, seeing it as crude and backward and just plain polluting. But any serious analysis of a post-fossil fuel future, in which renewables dominate as they must, cannot escape the limitations of solar and wind as producers of the bulk heat needed to warm houses in moderate to cold climates.

Instead of ignoring wood and hoping it will go the way of coal-burning power plants and toxic pesticides, we environmentalists should confront the issue head-on by forcing wood energy into the twenty-first century. We should promote advanced combustion technologies and the social responsibility of using them appropriately. Those of us who choose to heat with wood need to pledge our commitment never to make visible smoke, an outcome that, with care, is achievable now.

How should wood smoke be regulated?

An exchange of ideas with one of our readers.

Some background: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, since 1988, regulated the smoke emissions from new wood stoves. Manufacturers cannot sell a new model until it is tested and certified as meeting specified smoke limits. Some think this is the right approach and others do not.

Don’t penalize everyone – prosecute the polluters

From Robert in Oregon

Regulators should not ban this or that kind of stove, but ban the creation of offensive smoke that crosses property lines.  It would be very helpful to provide some kind of checklist so it’s possible to separate acceptable users from unacceptable ones.  This could apply to all smoke-generating uses, not just boilers, and focuses on the harm done to others, not technology.  Such a method automatically allows users to have relatively smoky burners if they are far from neighbors, but requires cleaner burning in denser areas, which is consistent with almost everything else in the continuum of rural/urban life.

Here in Oregon, the state pioneered the use of annoying, restrictive legislation on emissions, which covered the entire state, though pollution was a problem in a few geographically distinct areas.  This raised the costs for everyone (to the extent that the law is actually obeyed), while benefiting only the people in sensitive areas.  Of course, the EPA liked this concept, and now similar restrictions are in effect nation-wide.  Since most of America’s poor live in rural areas, fuel is cheap in rural areas, and smog is unusual, the burden of the regulations hit hardest where cheap woodstoves are most needed, and where emission control is least useful.  The difference between a new $1000 stove and a used, $200 stove is far from academic for some people.  The higher efficiencies will never offset this difference in many cases, since there are so many sources of free or nearly free fuel.

In my opinion, laws shouldn’t impose a burden on anyone who isn’t causing harm.  Smoke is a public nuisance only if it bothers someone, and should be dealt with case-by-case.  Emissions are more cumulative, so restrictions will need to cover everyone in a smog-prone area, but people outside such areas should be exempt.

Without emission controls on stoves, no one can burn clean

From John at woodheat.org

Robert makes a good case based on the logical ‘polluter pays’ principle and we agree that banning of particular stoves is dumb. But we think there is clear evidence that mandatory emission controls like the ones EPA uses are the best solution for users, their neighbors and the environment. Here’s why:

  1. You cannot burn wood efficiently and with low smoke emissions in a stove with no combustion system.
  2. Without a regulation, manufacturers cannot develop and produce stoves with good combustion systems because their price would be undercut by competitors building simpler stoves.
  3. The stoves that meet the EPA rules are about one-third more efficient than the conventional stoves that we would all still be using without EPA’s intervention. That saves us all a huge amount of work and/or money and leaves a lot of trees still standing.
  4. In an unregulated environment manufacturers can say anything they like about their product’s performance and no one can challenge them.
  5. In times of shrinking government and deregulation, there is little or no likelihood that governments will regulate with “smoke cops”. It just costs way too much and creates constant friction between government and the public and endless court battles. The EPA regulation is national, effective, and cheap to maintain.
  6. The incremental cost of adding a competent combustion system to a stove is only $200 to $300, which is small compared to the performance advantages and fuel savings. Low income people can still buy inexpensive used stoves.