Wood Stoves: Cleaner Wood Burning Tips

Learn five wood burning tips for a cleaner wood burning wood stove to help keep environmental pollution problems to a minimum.
July/August 1986
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Not only are new stove designs and aftermarket products rapidly being developed, but a wealth of information concerning how a wood stove owner can operate his or her stove in a cleaner fashion has also become available.

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Environmental pollution problems have been traced to the output of wood stoves, these five wood burning tips will help keep your wood stove cleaner burning and minimize pollution. 

Wood Stoves: Five Rules for Cleaner Wood Burning Tips

There are some very positive sides to recent wood stove emissions research. In the last few years, we've learned more about the physics of combustion than in all the years since humankind discovered fire. As a result, not only are new stove designs and aftermarket products rapidly being developed, but a wealth of information concerning how a wood stove owner can operate his or her stove in a cleaner fashion has also become available. The five wood burning tips that follow should help anyone burn wood a little bit cleaner.

Rule 1: Use the largest-diameter logs that will burn effectively. Big pieces of wood have less surface area per unit of volume . . . which prevents them from releasing volatiles (a process called pyrolysis) too rapidly. This has been recognized as the single most effective operator technique for reducing emissions!

Rule 2: Build as small a fire as is practical. A stuffed firebox often leads to areas of pyrolysis or charring (the late, charcoal stage, of burning) that can't be reached by an adequate air supply, resulting in incomplete combustion.

Rule 3: Keep the fire hot. Position the logs in your stove so that air can move through the fire zone, and be sure there's sufficient draft opening.

Rule 4: Don't increase or decrease the draft setting dramatically. Pyrolysis continues for some time after the air supply has been cut back . . . so slamming the damper shut can send much of your hard won fuel up the chimney. On the other hand, rapid opening of the damper can carry the pyrolytic products away from the fire too quickly.

Rule 5: Avoid excessively wet or dry wood. Logs that are too dry pyrolyze very quickly, overloading the combustion zone with volatile gases . . . while very wet wood can inhibit effective combustion by absorbing heat for evaporation. Standard air-dried soft or hard firewood (with 15-25% moisture content) seems to be the cleanest burning fuel.

Post a comment below.


Joan Price
9/7/2012 7:48:20 PM
I have been looking at wood burning stoves with intent to purchase. I have never owned or operated one, so this article is perfect. Once I have my new stove, I will be sure to employ your tips. Thanks for the information and advice.

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