Firewood not always the best heating source

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Firewood not always the best heating source

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:13 pm

Nowak: Firewood not always the best heating source
About this time of year, some people will start showing an interest in burning wood to keep their house warm.
Oct. 22, 2012 8:28 p.m.

About this time of year, some people will start showing an interest in burning wood to keep their house warm. Hopefully they will have actually collected the wood back in the spring or summer so that it is well-dried or seasoned as they say. Unfortunately, many will be just starting to cut wood and a lot of it will probably be green.

A general rule of thumb is that if you see smoke coming from a chimney or flue pipe, then that is an inefficient fire and they are wasting a natural resource and they are polluting the air downstream from their house with potentially dangerous particulates. In some cities that are trapped in valleys, like Missoula, the smoke particulates get so bad that there can be a haze hanging in the air for weeks, especially during inversions.

Particulates in the air are very bad for everyone's health, but especially for the very young, the old, and anyone with breathing problems. Many cities attempt to limit the air particulates from wood burning by limiting the number of wood fireplaces and by limiting open burning of wood and leaves.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are three stages of wood fire burning. The first stage is defined by the temperature needed to boil water. If you are burning damp wood, much of the fire is spent boiling water and sending it up the flue. At those low temperatures, and especially if the flue is not very hot, many particulates will cling to the flue and could eventually become a flue fire.

The next stage is that range of temperatures above boiling water and below that at which all of the chemicals in wood become gases. In this middle zone, many of the chemicals are vapors and they form the smoke that is going up your flue. Vapors, which are visible, are not gases, which are not visible. Vapors contain all of those nasty chemicals which cling to particulates and which poison the people downwind and also cling to your flue lining.

You must get your stove temperature to the level needed to make all those chemicals into gases to be the safest and to get the most heat from your investment. There is no such thing as free fuel. Even if you cut your own, you have to expend energy cutting it and hauling it and you may spend more on that than if you were hooked up to natural gas and had adequate house insulation.

I love the ambience and the smell of a wood fire, but when you put 20,000 people in a city, wood fires can be a hazard to everyone downwind. They are especially dangerous when there is an inversion and the smoke is trapped in the city.
I am not aware of very many wood stoves that have the capability to burn wood at the temperatures necessary to gasify all the chemicals. I doubt that any such stove would be an open standing stove in your living room.

Before you consider burning wood for heat, first do everything possible to insulate your house. It is likely that it is less expensive to use natural gas or electric sources of heat than to use wood. Please be considerate of your neighbors if you decide to burn wood. Do not be one of those who are polluting the air in our cities as it may be harming your neighbors.

Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.

source ... 07/OPINION


Wood stove education part of better air quality goals

October 23, 2012

The City’s airshed management plan mentions wood-burning stoves and fireplaces as a pollution concern.

City environmental and sustainability services manager Jen Fretz told council in a workshop Tuesday that proposed solutions include targeting the worst offenders by educating them on proper burning techniques and creating a wood-stove exchange program.

The City is not looking at banning the devices, at least not for many years, she said.

Fretz told council the three main sources of air pollution in Kamloops are industrial (which the City has little control over), mobile/transportation (which the City has some say over), and area — open burning and land clearing (which the City has control over).

Education and awareness are a big part of reducing emissions and social pressures can also help get people to cut down, she said.

Overall, Kamloops has good air quality, but there are incidents like the 2003 wildfires, or occasional smoky days, that make people feel it isn’t that good, she said.

One-third of the air emissions in the city are from industrial sources, one-third is from transportation/vehicles and one-third from area sources like wood stoves.

Coun. Pat Wallace said she’d have difficulty telling someone he couldn’t use wood for heat. And if there was ever a long power outage in the middle of winter, people might need to burn wood in fireplaces or wood stoves to keep warm, she pointed out.

Fretz said the idea is not to ban stoves and fireplaces, but to manage them. There are people with asthma who suffer health problems from wood smoke, she said.

Coun. Ken Christian noted that Kamloops is late jumping on the airshed plan bandwagon, with Merritt, Kelowna and Williams Lake already well settled into their plans.

Mayor Peter Milobar said other cities might have more aggressive airshed plans, but this is a first step. If it goes too far too fast, people won’t buy in, he said.

The full plan will be brought to council late this year or in early 2013.

source ... lity-goals
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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