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Woodstoves: Less is More! Some simple ways to increase the heat and reduce the smoke from your woodstove

Tuesday, November 28th 2006 1:28:09pm

Less is more!
Some simple ways to increase the heat and reduce the smoke from your woodstove

It's a winter experience many Canadians would rather do without. You wake up, climb out of bed and when your foot touches the cold floor, you're suddenly wide awake.

For Canadians who own a woodstove, 'the cold floor wake up' can often mean frequent trips to the garage or woodshed for more wood. Here's how to reduce those trips, have a safer home and enjoy renewable wood heat.

Time to upgrade your woodstove

If you are in the market for a new woodstove, consider a new, advanced combustion EPA woodstove, insert or fireplace. For those of you who heat with older stoves - you owe it to yourself and your neighbours to upgrade your appliances.

With clean glass technology, which is an air circulation technology, you can enjoy a beautiful fire and make life easier by getting the same amount of heat while using one third less wood, resulting in one third fewer trips to the woodshed. By burning the smoke in the stove, substantial reductions in smoke leaving the chimney and creosote deposits are achieved. This translates into almost no smoke emissions - some homeowners have reported that their neighbours assume they've taken out their woodstoves after a changeout.

Older stoves can emit 40-80 grams of smoke per hour, but with newer advanced combustion EPA stoves, that number drops to 2-5 grams of smoke per hour - a reduction of up to 90%. If you are not sure about how much smoke your stove is releasing, take the chimney test. The next time you leave your house, look at your chimney. If there is black or gray smoke coming out of the stack, return inside to adjust the air inlets till you have cleaned up your stove emissions. Only then can you be confident that you are burning cleanly and safely.

What to burn

It's always important to take stock of what you're burning - burn only clean, seasoned wood (ideally cut, split and stored a year ahead). If you cut your own firewood, make sure to split it into pieces that are 4 - 6 inches in diameter (10-15 cm). This will expose more surface area to the flame, ensuring the wood will burn cleaner.

Make sure you store your wood outside, not in your home where it can contribute to excess moisture and mold problems. Keep the wood off the ground and cover it to keep snow, rain and other elements from seeping into the wood -- a wood shed is ideal. Stack the wood, this will let air move through and help keep it dry.

Finally, always remember to avoid burning wet or green wood. Trying to light wet wood is a long process and produces cooler fires. As well, using wet wood means that creosote can coat your chimney and lead to dangerous chimney fires. Cool fires also often result in smoke entering the living area when you open the door.

Don't burn garbage - Put it where it belongsā€¦in the trash!

When it comes to your discarded plastic, cardboard, magazines, plywood or pressure-treated wood, remember: Your woodstove is NOT a garbage incinerator. You may think you're doing your part by avoiding the local landfill, but when you burn garbage you're putting persistent toxic chemicals into the air. These chemicals don't break down and will settle into soil, vegetation and water.

According to Environment Canada, burning garbage is the fifth largest contributor to airborne toxins in the country! It's important then, to only burn clean, dry wood in your woodstove. You'll enjoy a cleaner, warmer fire and be satisfied with the knowledge that you're helping to keep the air clean.

These are just some of the many tips you should keep in mind as you gear up for another winter season. For more suggestions, please visit www.burnitsmart.org for details on how to be a responsible woodstove owner.

Tex McLeod is Manager of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association of Canada

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Tex McLeod can be reached at 416-921-5501.

For an extensive list of advance combustion woodstove dealers or to speak with a HPBAC member, contact Jonathan Laderoute, 416-972-7401.

Click for high-resolution photo.