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Ancient Revival

Cleaner ways to burn an ancient fuel

Humans have been using wood fires for heating somewhere between 400,000 and a million years. Today, though, using wood involves some compromises. Modern wood-burning systems have much, much lower emissions than old ones, but still can emit more than 100 times as much pollution as oil or gas furnaces, inside and outside your home. Some communities have even banned these stoves for this reason.

EPA-approved woodstove

But in other areas, wood is the preferred heating option because of price, lack of availability of other fuels, or simply some individuals’ economic or political commitment to live “off the grid,” independent of utilities and energy companies. If a household has available timber, it is virtually a free source of energy. Another plus for using this material is that it contributes less to global warming than burning fossil fuels. Oil, gas, coal, and wood all give off carbon dioxide as they burn. But if a tree is replanted for one that was cut down to use for fuel, it will absorb carbon dioxide as it grows, offsetting the emissions from burning. Of course a full environmental advantage only exists if it is harvested sustainably, without damage to the forest environment.

Here’s a guide to the various kinds of wood-heating units. Some use wood pellets instead of wood, obtaining higher efficiency with lower emissions.

Top Tips

At home

  • Make sure your stove is EPA-approved. Burning wood emits “microparticulates,” the very fine particles in smoke and soot and can cause serious lung and circulatory problems. If this is your heating choice, don’t burn it on an old stove (or an old-fashioned fireplace) that vents straight up the chimney. Purchase a new stove. Older stoves and fireplaces can emit from 8 to 30 times as much as soot as those built after EPA set new standards for emissions in 1988. If your stove meets the EPA standards, it will have a permanent “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” tag including the date of manufacture on the back. Not only do the new stoves pollute far less, they are much more efficient, which will save you wood.
  • Don’t let your air dry out. A heating stove in the house tends to dry out the air, which can irritate the nose and throat, aggravating sinusitis and other diseases. Ideally, indoor air should be around 45% humidity. To prevent dry air, place a kettle or pot of water on the stove or use a humidifier.
  • Keep it clean. Stove outlets and chimneys need to be cleaned periodically. A heavy coating inside a chimney can actually set your house on fire. Have chimneys and equipment inspected by a chimney sweep or stove dealer if do not want to do the cleaning yourself.

When shopping, look for

  • The right size.As with other types of heating systems, it’s important to get a stove sized to meet your needs. The maximum heat output can range from 15,000 to 75,000 Btu per hour. When you visit a dealer, bring your home’s floor plan with dimensions, because this will help fit the stove to the design of the house.
    • If you only plan use the stove to heat a single room or a small cottage, buy a smaller capacity stove.
    • Midsize stoves are usually adequate to heat smaller houses or cottages, especially if they are well-weatherized and insulated.
    • Large stoves are best for large houses with open floor plans (rather than separate rooms that can be closed off).
  • Good stats. The stove’s label will also list its emissions, efficiency, and the amount of heat it’s capable of producing.

Other Considerations

  • There are two basic types of woodstoves, “catalytic” and “noncatalytic.” The catalytic models have a “converter” inside that re-burns the gases and particles that would otherwise go up the chimney. This provides greater efficiency and steadier heat with lower emissions than most noncatalytic models. What’s not to like? Catalytic models generally cost more, and their converter requires more frequent cleaning, maintenance, and (every six years) replacement. The converter is also finicky–it can be damaged if foreign substances like plastic or other refuse are burned in the stove.
  • If you like the environmental and cost advantages of woodstoves, but don’t want the inconvenience of cutting, or hauling, storing, or lugging wood inside, plus more frequent feeding of fuel, ash removal, and chimney cleaning, a wood pellet stovemay be your best choice. It burns inch-long pellets made from wood wastes such as sawdust that might otherwise have been thrown away. Compared with wood stoves, pellet stoves
    • generally burn cleaner and convert more of their energy into heat than wood stoves. Pellet stoves range from 75% to 90% efficient, compared with ordinary woodstoves, which run from 62% to 72%. Although a ton of pellets is only about a third the volume of a cord of wood, it can deliver just about as much heat.
    • are more complicated because they have thermostats and use an electric motor to feed the pellets into the stove from a hopper. The hopper requires filling far less often than a wood stove requires adding fuel.
  • Although you may think of woodstoves in terms of old-fashioned self-reliance, their installation is not a job for every do-it-yourselfer. Wood fires are extremely hot–up to 2,000ºF, and therefore stoves must be placed on noncombustible material and either be set at the proper distance from anything combustible, or have the combustible areas protected by inflammable material. Pipes and chimneys should be properly installed in accordance local codes.


…to you
A low-emission woodstove emits far less soot than other models, which means cleaner, healthier air in your home. It also requires a lot less lugging of wood and ash removal.

…to your wallet
If you have a free supply of wood, a stove can cost less to operate than any other type of heating except passive solar. If you buy wood, an efficient stove will cost much less to operate than an inefficient one. The heat produced by different kinds of wood varies widely from 12 million to 33 million Btu per cord.

…to the Earth
Wood is a renewable resource, and using it means less dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels and often less environmental damage than is involved in the extraction, processing, transporting, and burning of fossil fuels. Modern stoves that meet or exceed EPA standards emit far less soot and other air pollutants than inefficient stoves and fireboxes (but still more than oil or gas heating systems).

Getting Started

  • To find out if woodstoves might be problem where you live, contact your local air quality district. You can find it on the EPA’s website.
  • Some utilities offer rebates to customers who buy energy-efficient woodstoves and pellet stoves. Check with your utility or search DSIRE, a national online database of incentives for energy-efficiency improvements and renewable-energy systems.
  • If you decide to hire a professional to install your stove, here are some tips.
    • Don’t use any company that tries to sell older equipment or seems to be dumping equipment by offering big discounts.
    • Ask for a bid in writing that specifies the equipment to be installed, the work to be done, and the total price, including labor costs.
    • Get more than one bid, and don’t jump at the lowest price. Better installers may charge more, but if they do a better job with a better system, you will save in the long run.
Related Articles

57 Responses to “Ancient Revival”

  1. John Ackerly Says:

    Its great to see Sierra Club giving some cyberspace to wood heat and urging people to burn more cleanly. I hope the Club and its members will be more active in public advocacy for even cleaner wood stove policies. A few progressive states (Washington & Oregon) are adopting stricter emission standards for wood stoves than the lax and outmoded EPA standards. The Club and its members could help more states adopt those stricter emission standards. As a consumer, you can already use those standards: look for wood stoves that emit less than 4.5 grams per hour and pellet stoves that emit less than 2.5 grams per hour. A few corrections/comments to the content here: there is no energy star program yet for wood stoves, but there should be. You list wood stove prices as low as $200, but the only new wood stoves under the $600 – $800 range are polluting, inefficient stoves that are not certified by the EPA. Its a dirty secret that tens of thousands of new wood stoves are sold every year that are exempt for EPA regulation. For more info on this, check out this site: Its time states and the EPA started to incentivize really clean wood burning. Let’s get going!
    John Ackerly,
    Takoma Park, MD

  2. Giesa Says:

    Very interesting site. Hope it will always be alive!,

  3. Paul K. Says:

    Catalytic wood stoves are usually pre/ EPA accepted and still emit huge amounts of unburned fuel, in the form of visible smoke up the chimney.
    Even the latest EPA Type 2 accepted wood stoves and furnaces, can emit visible smoke up the chimney.
    Fact. When you see visible dark smoke coming out of a chimney, you are generating a layer of creosote in the chimney, regardless of which chimney liner; although Stainless Steel tends to not allow as much to cling.
    There is another process of burning which is many times more efficient and almost always does not emit visible smoke; after the first 15 minutes of startup. The name of that process is Gasification.
    Gasification has its roots in Europe. For years only inside wood fired boilers offered the gasification method of burning. Now inside hot air wood furnaces are available as either an add-on or primary furnace, to blow through your duct work. One brand is made in Tower, MN.
    More recently even the notorious dark smoke belching outdoor wood boilers, which I beg someone to outlaw the use of nationwide; is now available with the gasification method of smokeless burning. One brand is made in Lancaster, WI.

    Before you make a purchase of a hot air wood furnace from any retailer, do some research by searching with the word gasification. Most websites now have an explanation of the gasification method of burning.

    But, if you have to purchase all your wood; consider a wood pellet stove, furnace or boiler. Try to purchase a model that is the newest to their product line, to get the most efficient innovative features and lowest grams per hour of emissions. This method of heating was invented in America but the Europeans have developed it, far greater than we have. They have bulk delivery trucks to fill home bulk storage bins, which auger to fill your appliance manually or automatically. They even have augers to remove the ash to be picked up, for disposal. Yes, totally hands free. We in America are just starting to develop similar systems.
    All of the above can only be cost effective, if keep the heat in the building using the latest technology called; Heat Stop Pack.

  4. Paul Kajtna Says:

    I wrote an educational comment to Wood Stoves and Pellet Stoves; which educated people about a little known method of burning called Gasification which emits the least amount of emissions to heat a home; and now it is no longer on this page. Why?
    Your moderators took off a website which I listed at the bottom and put my comment up for a few days; but now it is not there.
    How can we shift people away from purchasing wood burning appliances that have high levels of visible emissions, if you delete what I wrote? My comment could have helped a future consumer doing their research to purchase a wood burning appliance, that is an extremely clean burning product.
    Please reply why you deleted my comment.

  5. Allen Says:

    To reduce air dryness and drafts, use a duct to bring outside air into the stove’s air inlet. Made a big difference in comfort in our house.

    Note, Adding water to the air in cold weather can result in condensation inside your walls and some mold growth.

  6. Dave C. Says:

    I didn’t notice any mention of corn burning stoves in your article. Do you have any information concerning the environmental impact of utilizing dried,shelled corn for home heating? I have had one for around 5 years now. Thank you for all you do! Regards from a fellow member….Dave

  7. Darrel Van Buer Says:

    Minor note:
    Under Other Considerations, … inflammable… should be NON flammable (or incombustible), as inflammable means flammable.

  8. Tyree Lamph Says:

    Another good source of wood heating has been used in Europe for thousands of years but is only now catching on. Is is a masonry stove. Tempcast sells a great model that a do it yourselfer or any stone masone can build.
    One small fire a day for 30 to 40 minutes has heated my 2300sq’ house in Utah for 2 years now without ever turning the heat on.

  9. Robert McCombs Says:

    And how, exactly, do pellet stoves work where the power fails regularly, for days, every winter? Those of us on fixed income who are smart enough to purchase stoves with catalytic converters get to buy a new CC every six years? Folks, I use an airtight of good quality and that’s what it takes in far Northern California…

  10. Roxanne Says:

    Great article and great website!
    We just installed a wood burner, and while I’m very much enjoying the warmth and money saving it offers – not to mention that “old fashioned feeling” when I use the stove top to heat up leftovers and how homesteady it looks with the wood pile and the smokestack poofing away- I am always a bit nervous about the risk of fire in our home and the damage even just a little bit of smoke that puffs out now and then could be doing to our lungs. Luckily, no one lives close by so the smoke isn’t bothering anyone and the wood is all dead trees that we cut around the acres. I hadn’t thought about the fact that the trees growing and using up the co2 offsets the smoke it produces, so I feel a bit better about that. Like it or not, in order to stay at home and home school my daughter, we need to find ways to save money and so far, burning wood has been working well for us. Even the chickens seem to like the woodpile, and will scratch around on the porch in the gritty debris and bark, and the rooster crows from atop it in the morning, as if to say “throw another log on the fire!”
    Great article, Sierra Club!!

  11. Dawn Says:

    Does anyone have comments on outdoor wood-burning systems? I haven’t seen anything on your forum about this – pro or con.

  12. Barbara F Says:

    Here in Georgia, just south of Atlanta, right now it’s freezing cold and my wood stove has burned up over half a cord in 3 weeks. I’m too old to change anything, but if I could start over with this house, I would definately get some other kind of heating installed. It’s a lot of work bringing in wood all the time even with it cut and stacked already. It’s a mess that needs constant clean up, taking out ashes etc. AND worst of all – when I go outside in the “fresh air” smoke billows down from the chimney – yes nice clean white smoke – breath that in!
    What on earth to do? !!! Run up the electric bill? Why does my cat wear a marvelous thick coat of fur that thickens in the winter and sheds in the summer and I go naked shaking until putting on layers of woolies? Then hurry to clean out the stove ashes and start up afresh. Ahh – woody warmth.
    Whatever you say about efficiency, cost effective, etc. I thank you for the interesting information. It’s great to be warm baby, when it’s cold outside.

  13. Kent Johnson Says:

    Pleaase bring the above information (Paul Kajtna’s) back to this site again. I’ll be real pleased to read it. We use both wood (2 units) and a pellet stove. We like all three and have our own source of alder wood.

  14. anderson Says:

    Research is going into “rocket stoves” they can burn smokeless. I think most of the research is at the home madee level -check it out on the internet.

  15. Paul Mueller Says:

    Why no mention of masonry or soapstone stoves?? They burn very efficiently and store a lot of heat in their mass which they then release slowly over the course of 12-24 hours. The Europeans invented them and have enjoyed them for centuries, yet here in America they seem to make little headway…

  16. Brent Nelson Says:

    When I bought my condo, it had a built in wood using fireplace. I have always wanted a wood stove for heat. I did some decent wood stove research before buying the one I have. What I found was, that if you are going to install a wood stove into a built in fireplace ( built in as in a metal fireplace not a brick and masonry one), you MUST buy the wood stove that is EPA approved to use in your fireplace to be in compliance. I did pull a permit to have mine installed and did it myself with help from a buddy. Since the fireplace already had a metal sleeved chimney pipe, I sleeved it with the one the dealer recommended.

    While using wood for fuel there is the labor of getting the wood or buying it. I get it for free and split it myself. Its a great form of exercise as well. The cost of heating a home here in Portland Oregon , with electricity ( I have 110v fan forced electric heaters in my rooms) can be fairly expensive. I chose the wood stove for my primary heat source. Even if I buy wood, its still cheaper to heat my place with wood rather than electricity.

  17. janet Says:

    I would be intereseted in knowing what comunities have banned wood stoves. I, for one, would love to live in such a place. As far as burning wood being carbon neutral, could we please question that? IT takes a little while to burn a tree, but much longer to grow it. We should be cutting down on all carbon emmisions, regardless of their source, to improve the carbon balance. Burning trees produces more co2 per btu that other fuels sources. Switching from one carbon fuel to another that is less efficient (wood is the worse) isn’t necessarlity helpful. How about using our most efficient fuel (natural gas), skip the wood buring , please, and conserve.


  18. phyllis Mattson Says:

    What about the Duraflame type of fire. better than logs, or worse?

  19. Don G. Says:

    The articles on fireplaces and wood stoves missed one very important air pollution guideline. That is, don’t burn garbage, plastics, rubber, coated paper, and materials other than wood because they result in high particulates as well as releasing significant amounts of chemicals, some, like dioxin, that are human carcinogens. Burning these materials in fireplaces and wood stoves is generally not legal under state and local laws, but is being done by individuals across the county in significant frequency and amounts.

  20. Bob Dixon Says:

    There was someone in San Jose, CA working on a filter system for wood burning stoves. I would like to encourage the Sierra Club and anyone to present and/or foster more research into this method of eliminating particulates from the wood burning process. I imagine the technology exists, possibly from automobile emissions research. Maybe it just needs to be modified for wood burning emissions.
    Does anyone know?

  21. Emi Donato Says:

    Thank you for the insightful article. We were thinking of getting a used wood stove insert but are reconsidering based on your findings. A new, cleaner stove is the way to go. Thank you for the info.

  22. elisabeth Says:

    yes indeed, here i am researching and wondering about a million things and would like to read paul kajtna’s article….can it be put back on?

  23. Roni Filla Says:

    We purchased a Pellet Stove for the Master bedroom in March 2009 and can’t believe how easy it is to operate and how clean burning it is. We had no heat in that room or side of the house for 20 years. Yes it gets cold here, into the teens, and on that side of the house the cold would burn your nostrils. We have a wood burning insert in the fireplace in the Family Room that was the only source of heat for 20 years. That wood burning insert gets the family room up over 80 degrees with the ceiling fan on. Now we are talking about getting a Pellet Stove for the Family Room, because of our lung problems. It is probably because of the wood burning stove we have that we have the difficulties we do with our lungs. Not the only reason but certainly part of it. I appreciate this information being available on Sierra Club and all information pertaining to how we heat our homes. The EPA’s list of Woodburning Stoves is wonderful information that you have provided. I found the Pellet Stoves to be the highest in efficiency of all the other stoves listed on the EPA’s List. Good info. Thanks.

  24. itl337 Says:

    The Tulikivi is another option, though expensive. Not only burns cleaner, but you only burn two loads of firewood a day to keep it nice and hot (though not too hot to touch — and hug!) emitting a lovely radiant heat, which is much more pleasant than regular woodstove heat. We’ve had one for 5 years and love, love love it.

  25. dennis Says:

    Is there a specific time in the near future that fireplaces will be banned.

  26. clairesse Says:

    woodburners are being banned in many areas because of pollution. whatever the benefits, your neighbors are breathing air polluted by the emissions of these burners. the outside burners are typically worse and people in our area have been forced to move because of the exacerbation of asthma due to a neighbor burning wood.

  27. Jim Groves Says:

    I have a corn stove and am the manager for the Preserve Our Planet Corn Cooperative and Save Our Sky Home Heating Cooperative. We have about 75 members in the co-op who utilize 2 corn bins (silo looking structues) that hold about 25 tons of corn each. We take he corn out in 5 gallon buckets which burn for about 12-16 hours per bucket. Corn burns hotter than anything else (wood, oil, gas) and is not only a renewalbe resourse, but actually creates a positive oxygen event. Corn sucks up huge amounts of CO2 which is stored in the stalks and cob and releass lots of oxygen when growing. Since we are only buring the kernals, very litte CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. The cobs and stalks are plowed under to fertilize the soil. Our corn is delivered in a soy diesel truck and is grown with no pesticides. We are located in Takoma Park and Mt. Ranier Maryland. For more info, do a search on “Save Our Sky Corn”. In the hits you will also see a page from the HyattsvilleWiki which talks about corn burning as well.

  28. M Lane Says:

    It is time that Americans wake up and stop believing wood burning device manufacturer propaganda.countries are starting to ban wood burning to protect human health, lower medical costs, insurnace premiums etc. There is no such thing as a clean burning stove regardless of age or certification. Black Carbon soot, Carbon Dioxide, Acrolein,and hundreds of other harmful substances are pumped into the air. The opacity and color of smoke is irrevalent. It all harms people. Wood burning is not safe or carbon neutral. The moment the smoke leaves the chimney the nearest tree doesn’t magically suck it in. Instead it harms every person in its path that breathes it. It can stay in the air near the ground for several weeks and can travel up to 700 miles. The certified stove (EPA studies and others proove this) degrade within just a few months or years and produce more health damaging emisssions then an older stove. The emissions of pellet stoves is as harmful to health as wood smoke. Pellets contain resins, petroleum, waxes, chemicals to process them and hold them together. They produce the same carbon soot, dioxide, acrolein, etc. as any other wood. Sawdust has been named a carcinogenic substance. Pellets are sawdust.

  29. Jon W Candy MD Says:

    17y ago bought a Sequoia catalytic fm Vermont Castings, very efficient and a handsome, contemporary design. First thing to go, the catalytic element. In trying to replace it, a nut was frozen and the bolt broke. Rather than risk complete ruin, a jury-rig repair was done and the original converter is still there. The flue regulator burned out. Then the internal castings progressively warped and finallly broke. I’ll get thru this Winter with a piece of rebar and tie wire. Next stove will have firebrick and no C-converter. The outside of the handsome stove is perfect, but no one around here will overhaul it.
    What I really wanted to add to the discourse, is that a small fan makes a huge improvement in a wood stove’s ability to heat a home or cabin, guaranteed. jwc

  30. Melinda Says:

    Wow, the article and all the comments are very interesting and educational. I moved out to the country here near Lake Michigan and this is my third winter here burning in the already present wood stove which heats nearly the whole house. I burn dead wood from the property, having struck a deal with a wood dealer who cuts and splits mine and then gets some for himself to sell to locals. This is a northern bermed house and as well all rooms are connected via a register plus the back two rooms are “open” in that the walls with the door only go up just above door level to allow warm air to enter. The entire south side has huge windows for the sun’s warmth to be cast upon the tiles (WHEN the sun shines in Michigan), also adding warmth to the house. After reading the article I checked the stove and there is no EPA anything on the back of it. Hmm. Must be old. And this may be why I’ve a cough ever since I moved in? A new stove is not possible for me on a fixed income. There is a great deal of truth to the work of having a wood stove and yes, it is messy but hauling in the wood warms me up too, gathering kindling is almost meditative, and a small broom and dustpan by the stove helps for clean up. I am concerned about the air quality inside after reading the article — there is a lot of dust too. I wonder if I have to move and do the city thing and gas company thing? Already had early onset pneumonia once this winter. Btw, IF one burns a hot fire, keeps it hot, there should not be any smoke coming from the chimney, just a heat wave. Also keeping the fire hot really cuts down on creosote build-up.

  31. Grace Says:

    I hated my pellet stove. It will not work when the power goes out, and it ran up my electric bill. The fan and feeder noises were annoying. The pellet bags are expensive, heavy (40 pounds?) and have to be stored where they won’t get wet. Late in the season it’s impossible to find pellets. If you buy too many you’re stuck with them all summer. On the upside it was very easy to install. It’s easy to clean the vent pipe. At a slow burn a full hopper would last 24 hours. I have a wood burning stove now and I love it.

  32. Jim Wolf Says:

    Both corn and pellets may be more efficient than wood but raise questions for me. Most of the corn grown for burning and other non-food uses uses lots of diesel, herbicides and pesticides. I don’t know much about the pellet making process but wonder about its impact.

    We have to look at the total environmental cost not just the impact that the end point of use.

  33. Deidra Darsa of HPBA Says:

    The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) agrees that modern, EPA-certified wood stoves can be an affordable and relatively low carbon home-heating source. However, it is very important to use dry wood and burn the stoves properly. EPA-certified stove owners can learn more about its use through a series of videos the HPBA has created with the help of the U.S. EPA. Go to for information and demonstrations on proper wood-burning stove use. Find a knowledgeable retailer in your area at

    The HPBA is the North American trade association of manufacturers and retailers of EPA certified wood stoves, pellet stoves and gas fireplaces.

  34. LShafer Says:

    You missed one critical fact about wood burning. If you collect your fire wood from storm damaged trees that would just lay in the woods and rot, you ARE being carbon neutral, because when the wood rots, the carbon that is stored in it combines with oxygen, and produces—-CARBON DIOXIDE!!!!!!!!! So, whether you burn it or not, it will revert to CO2. And, wood is renewable, as opposed to coal or petroleum.

  35. Richard Barth Says:

    I’m all for saving the earth but I’m also concerned about immediate human health issues. Even a well maintained, properly fired, modern, EPA certified wood stove emits tremendous particulate and volatile organic compound pollution. The only situations in which such a source of heat makes sense are isolated locations that are not subject to thermal inversions or other smoke trapping conditions. In all other situations you will be subjecting yourself and your neighbors to serious health risks. The trend towards banning wood burning in urban environments is well founded. For more details go to

  36. Wayne Robey Says:

    All catalytic burners are not the same. Caution below.
    I purchased a used stove several years ago with what seemed to be a good catalytic burner (often called a catalytic combustor) 6″ dia ceramic 3″ thick with 4 partitions/inch. I installed it with 3′ vertical followed by 20′ horizontal 8″ dia stove pipe feeding a brick chimney about 30′ to the top. Last year the catalyst was nearly inactive and this year I replaced it with one made from alumina foam fiber 1″ thick coated with catalyst. It is cheap and advertised by Clear Skies Unlimited as being EPA approved. I try to burn wood without making a lot of smoke and even without the catalytic burner, it is hard for me to see any smoke even with a clear blue sky and no wind and there is little creosote buildup in the chimney. When the original catalyst was in good condition the viewport directly above the catalyst would stay clean so I could easily see the catalyst. I added a inconel sheathed type K thermocouple directly above the catalyst to help maintain proper temperature. With the Clear Skies catalyst and a temperature above 300 degrees C, the viewport becomes too coated with soot to see through in 90 minutes. I tried stacking two units for a 2″ effective thickness and the time to a impossible to see through view port is doubled. (I shine a strong light though one part and look through a shaded part) The deposit is a find carbon with little or no binder. This catalytic burner is to be avoided.

  37. Andy Says:

    I am still relatively new to wood stoves ( using one for 2 years) compared to some experienced folks on here but I hear a lot about pollution and air quality damage. I started using wood stoves with few rules. 1- Never cut live wood, only use dead wood.
    2-buying wood is the last option. always try to cut, split and stash it by yourself.
    3- I have tried to add a community / social element to this by inviting my wood stove using friends to go with me to cut and haul firewood.
    I use a EPA certified c-converter stove I know all stoves are polluting but electricity is nowhere close to clean.

  38. Charles Keller Says:

    I just read the comments about the differnt catalytic systems for wood stoves. I have to strongly disagree. I reluctanly used the honeycomb combustors for years in my Buck Model 20. I love the stove but hated the combustors. They would literally disintegrate in a few months. I contacted Buck Stove and they recommended that I try the combustors from Clear Skies Unlimited. Thank the good Lord for these combustors. I have had one in my stove for almost two years and it works perfectly. I wish to also thank the good people at Buck Stove for the tip.

  39. Marilyn Taylor Says:

    I am looking for a fireplace insert that will not bankrupt me, but get that smoke out of the air and be a cosy looking fire. Any one out there have a suggestion. We live in San Antonio, and so don’t use the fireplace except maybe 10 times a year.
    Thanks alot for your help!

  40. Jason Webb Says:

    It is important to use a properly sized appliance for the space to be heated

    Jason Webb

  41. Jolin Says:

    Pellet fuels, previously, is much environmental than classic fuels. Therefore, if you want to lower the greenhouse effect you have to cut down bringing out Carbon dioxide. The 20 percent carbon savings are significantly exceeded. How might it occur? Burning the pellets in a specially designed oven, merely the Carbon dioxide emitted, which has been noted in the growing period of trees. Which makes these pellets are CO2 neutral. This procedure is referred to as carbon cycle. The burning of non-renewable fuels, however, co2 is revealed, which has been taken for many years and co2 has long been been kept on a large scale. Greater combustion of non-renewable fuels, the stronger of greenhouse effect occurs.

  42. theoharis Says:

    interesting article for wood and pellet stoves

  43. Joseph Says:

    I’m from Italy and we use 99% wood pellet boilers. The questione is why in the states the 99% (who buys a pellet stove) don’t buy the boilers??????????

  44. Abdel Irada Says:

    I would like to thank M. Lane for his contribution, for of all the contents of this page — article and comments alike — only it offers completely accurate information.

    From the EPA to the various local and regional air quality management districts to multiple independent studies conducted for the public benefit, every objective examiner has concluded that residential wood combustion, at best, remains harmful to both the user and neighbors, and is in no sense carbon-neutral.

    Meanwhile, my family, living in a neighborhood where heavy and continuous wood-burning is prevalent, can attest through much misery that there are many nights when we all wish we could only somehow do without breathing. There is simply no escaping the smoke; it surrounds our home, and since our home is not airtight, it also enters. On some winter nights, we can see the smoke inside our house. And when it does, we all suffer: I have been known to cough so hard from it as to eject vomitus, and my daughter has all but lost her sense of smell to chronic olfactory fatigue.

    This page disappoints me. I would have expected better from the Sierra Club than this morally and intellectually vacuous parroting of the hearth industry’s long-refuted talking points. Human health and lives are at stake, and those matter more than big business’ big profits.

  45. wood stove Says:

    interesting article for wood and pellet stoves. thanks for sharing/ please visit

  46. living with asthma Says:

    If you care at all about your neighbors, do not switch to wood-burning, no matter how cool and outdoorsy it makes you feel. See the table on fine particle air pollution from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency here:

  47. Tom Says:

    Great Article. I think that a good portion of the pollution from wood burning comes from improper burning techniques. I have been in the forestry business, including selling firewood for 30 years.. I have yet to see any classes addressing the subject.When you see trails of heavy smoke coming from a chimney for more than a few minutes, it makes me wonder.

  48. Jessica Brylan Says:

    This might be good information for my research. If I use it, I’ll be sure to link back to you and mention you as a resource.

  49. Roger Lehet Says:

    Hello, As a manufacturer of a new breed of wood stoves, and 27 years in this industry I must ask where you get the information that gas or oil furnaces could be “hundreds of times cleaner” than a wood stove. The process of extraction, distillation, shipping, piping, and the noxious gasses released along with horrible condensate which can destroy anything it comes into contact with, are simply off the charts when compared to a certified stove and its renewable fuel supply. This is a problem NO ONE seems to take into account. Please re check your statement taking this into consideration before putting this sort of completely misleading information on the net where people with less knowledge can be mislead

  50. John Ackerly Says:

    The points made by Roger Lehet, just above this post are excellent. Wood can be – and often is – far too polluting. But lest we all fall into a NIMBY mindset, we really need to think about the far flung environmental impacts of fossil fuels. Gas and electricity is clean at point of combustion, but both have terrible impacts upstream.

    One correction to the article above is that pellet stoves are unfortunately not more efficient than wood stoves. Recent evidence shows that pellet stoves can range anywhere from 40% to 80% efficient, using high heating values (HHV) which is accepted in America. Anyone claiming 90% efficient is using low heating values (LHV) which are used in Europe. Before buying a pellet stove, ask if the company measures efficiency using the EPA accepted B415 test. If not, consider buying a pellet stove from someone else. Look for HHV efficiencies over 70 – 75%.

  51. Ray & Bobbie Says:

    We live in a mobile home park–when the wind is very light there is a breeze running between the trailers–this breeze seems to bring fumes (emissions) from my neighbors pellet stove vent pipe (2 feet from ground) appx 30 feet to my m/ho and 35 feet from my heat pump–We have trouble sleeping and have constant headaches–?? could the pellet stove exhaust be a possible culprit?

  52. Morris Says:

    my neighbors burn wood all winter for their heat source,this should not be allowed in a residential area at times, the smoke smell comes into my home and it is really bad.I’ve told them about this and they don’t care,they are a family of five and they do not recycle that is the type of people they are.I live in IN so you know what kind of winters we have.I have headaches as your previous writer stated.

  53. Beth Says:

    We have a central pellet furnace that my husband (engineer) had installed. He rigged up the vent pipe outside and created a holding bin (10 tons!) for the pellets – all in our basement. We have cut our heating bills by more than 1/2!

    My concern: we have never had our air quality tested, the pipe runs just outside our back door and I can see the smoke blow down and towards our house. We can also smell the burning pellets from the smoke outside, not to mention sometimes it smells like exhaust. I want to have our inside air quality tested to be sure we aren’t sending toxic fumes back into our home. In addition, I know that all this wood and storage bin, while in our basement, has no fireproofing materials around it. I am unsure of the risk of fire to our house should anything “spark”.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to get our system inspected to esnure that while we have saved $$ and may help by burning a more sustainble source for heat, we aren’t really harming ourselves and the environment even more?


  54. Bill L Says:
    Please don’t burn wood smoke is toxic

  55. Teporah Says:

    I just learned about rocket stoves. Only one person mentioned them here. They have almost zero emmissions and burn about one fourth of what a traditional wood stove does. They are very easy to make, are extremely safe, can be as beautiful as the homeowner designs them to be, and the engineering behind the zero emmissions is both simple and brilliant. Some folks cannot afford a wood or pellet stove. This is an excellent alternative. Just google “rocket stoves” for more information.

  56. DeborahMarchant Says:

    WHY is an “environmental” group like Sierra Club promoting woodstoves?? The current relationship between this group, and others like the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and the U.S EPA, have a dysfunctional relationship with the polluting wood burning device industry. This unhealthy relationship is like this analogy. It’s like how one family member is allowed to smoke cigarettes inside the home, because the head of the household allows it, and eventhough the rest of the family clearly does not want to breath the smoke. — Until we can install at least an effective 99% effective afterburner on chimney tops, stop beating around the burning bush and just put out the fires! I’m at risk for cancer in my wood smoked city, and so are probably the animals, domestic and wild.

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