Burn Wisely to Preserve Air Quality

Follow these tips to heat safely and responsibly with wood this winter

By Laticia Comer

It’s that time of the year again. Lane County residents are firing up their home wood- burning devices to combat the falling temperatures.

Here are a few simple tips to help keep your home warm, reduce your wood smoke impact on your neighborhood and lower your heating bill.

Check Lane Regional Air Protection Agency’s Home Wood Heating Advisory

Before you fire up your wood stove or fireplace, check the advisory by calling (541) 746- 4328 or visit the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency website. Green means the air quality is clear and it is safe to burn. Yellow means the air quality is degrading and burn only if you have to. Red means the air quality is unhealthy and using your wood-burning device is allowed with absolutely no visible smoke from your chimney. Visible smoke on a red day can result in a fine of up to $500. If other heating methods are too expensive, please contact LRAPA—or city of Oakridge for Oakridge residents—to apply for an exemption. Exemption applications can be found on our website or mailed to you.

Season Wood for At Least Six Months

Freshly cut or wet wood does not combust well, which creates a lot of smoke. Wood should be split, stacked and covered in a well-ventilated area for at least six months.

Using dry wood ensures your fire will burn hot and completely. Remember, visible smoke are bits of your fuel that should be burned for heat. Seeing smoke means you are losing fuel, which means losing money. It’s a good idea to check the moisture con- tent of your wood by using a moisture meter. Don’t have a moisture meter? Bring a piece of wood to LRAPA’s office in Springfield and we will be happy to check it for you. The moisture content should be below 20 percent.

Is Your Chimney and Stove Clean?

A clean stove or fireplace is safer and burns cleaner. Remove your stove ashes every seven to 10 days and have your chimney swept every year. Clean or replace your plugged catalytic combustors according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Check your stove for leaks in the gaskets to ensure the stove doors stay airtight. Creosote buildup can lead to house fires, so it is important to make sure your devices are well maintained.

Check Outside for Smoke

Allow about 10 minutes for startup, then go outside and check for smoke. Make sure your fire is getting plenty of oxygen by opening the dampers and cracking the door of your wood stove. If you see smoke coming from your chimney, your fire is producing air pollution. A properly burning fire should give off only a thin wisp of white smoke or, optimally, heat waves.

Smoke Opacity Levels. 20% — Ideal. 40%. 80% — Illegal.

Don’t Damper Down

Dampering down or “holding” a fire smothers it due to the lack of oxygen. The smoke can backdraft into the house and cause serious indoor air pollution problems. It also smokes out your neighbor- hood. Keep the damper open so the fire has plenty of air to burn efficiently.

Start With Small Fires

Small fires burn hot and clean, which reduces the amount of smoke produced. It also reduces the creosote buildup in your chimney. Leave the damper or other air inlets open for 20 to 30 minutes to establish a hot bed of coals before increasing the size. Keep your fuel loads and fuel size modest to maximize heat and minimize air pollution.