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efficient wood stoves
Wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution on the Sunshine Coast. Wood stoves, fireplaces, and other wood burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as propane or electricity.

The SCCAS is working to educate people about the serious health hazards of operating old wood stoves and fireplaces that do not meet the highest standards.

Health Concerns

The most dangerous material in wood smoke may be the fine particles that make up the smoke and soot. Many of these particles are toxic. Most are so small that, when you breathe them, they get past your body’s defences and go deep into your lungs. There, they can cause serious problems such as scarring of the lung tissue. Studies show that death rates in several U.S. cities increased when there were higher levels of fine particles in the air. Wood smoke is most dangerous to the health of infants and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with lung or heart disease. Some of the reasons wood smoke is such a serious problem are:

  • Almost all the wood smoke in BC is released during winter months. This means it is very concentrated. It takes just three months for wood smoke to become Washington’s third leading source of air pollution.
  • In the winter, we often have weather conditions that cause stagnant air. As a result, wood smoke is trapped close to the ground in neighbourhoods. At these times, air pollution in many neighbourhoods is unhealthy.
  • Studies show that people who heat their homes with wood have more respiratory problems than those who don’t. Smoke particles also invade neighbouring homes. Research shows that children in wood burning neighbourhoods are more likely to have lung and breathing problems.

Wood Burning Tips

If you use a wood stove or fireplace, now is the time to make sure your firewood is covered and out of the weather.

Wet firewood boils when it burns. With wet wood, it can be harder to get a fire going and keep it burning. Wet firewood also makes a smoky fire with little heat, and wastes wood. So, it just makes sense to burn dry firewood. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least six months usually burns best. Here's how to make sure your wood is dry enough to burn:

If you buy wood from an independent firewood seller, ask them if the wood has been properly seasoned. It should have been dried under cover for at least six months. If not, you will need to dry it for several months before you can burn it. Use a moisture meter to check the moisture content of split firewood. The goal is less than 20 percent moisture content. And remember - burning small, hot fires gives you more heat and less smoke!

If you burn, burn clean

If you heat with wood, you can reduce smoke by burning properly:

  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Be sure your firewood has been split and dried for at
  • least one year. Store it under cover.
  • Never burn wet, painted, stained or treated wood; colored newsprint; plastic; garbage; diapers; or magazines.
  • Build small fires to help the wood burn completely. Adding too much wood at one time cuts down on the air to the fire and leaves you with unburned wood.
  • Keep your fire hot. Dampering down your stove just cuts off the air, which wastes wood, creates a lot of smoke, and produces very little heat. You can tell if your fire has enough air by checking the smoke coming from your chimney. You should see only heat waves. If you see smoke, increase the air supply to your fire.
  • Make sure your wood stove is the right size for its space. A stove that is too large for the space it is heating will have to be damped down, causing more smoke. Make sure your stove is properly installed.

Wood Stove Exchange Program

The Sunshine Coast Clean Air Society, in partnership with the BC Lung Association and the Ministry of Environment, is a participant in the province-wide Wood Stove Exchange Program. The Sunshine Coast Clean Air Society offers a $400 WSEP rebate for the trade in towards heat pump, electric, propane/natural gas, or pellet. A $250 rebate is available to rural residents (>100m from neighbours) installing a wood stove with certified emissions of less than 2.0gr/hr. The MoE has funded this program since 2008, facilitating over 7,000 exchanges to date. The SCCAS has been a continuous participant of the WSE program since 2009 and is grateful to the Ministry for the funding it provides to the Sunshine Coast.

Check back on this website for announcements on the upcoming educational component of this program, Burn It Smart.

Check out our Home Heating Buyer's Guide

Visit the Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program Guidelines

For more information, contact:
Wood Stove Exchange Program Coordinator

From our blog

  • BC MoE Announces 2016 Wood Stove Exchange Program Funding

  • Ministry of Environment announces BC’s 2014-‘15 Wood Stove Exchange Program

  • Air pollution ‘still harming Europeans’ health’

  • Clean Air Society August 2013 Newsletter

  • 10 Easy Steps for Clean Air Day

  • April Newsletter and update

  • Clean Air - Smells Good to Me

  • A proper burning wood stove will have little to no smoke coming out the chimney

  • Burn It Smart workshop is sure to bring a breath of fresh air

  • The 2011 Wood Stove Exchange program promoted with a Billboard!

  • ‘Black carbon’ key to tackling climate threat: UN report

  • FREE Burn It Smart Workshop

  • The Great Sunshine Coast Wood Stove Exchange Program is back!

  • The Wood Stove Exchange Program Update:

  • Guidelines for Efficient use of Wood-Burning Appliances

  • Removing one ton of black carbon will have the same effect as removing 2,000 to 3,000 tons of CO2

  • Clean Air Day Success!

  • Montreal moves to snuff out wood stoves

  • Drop in U.S. air pollution linked to longer lifespans

  • Black Carbon Pollution Emerges As Major Player In Global Warming

News on this topic from around North America

  • Montreal to ban open fireplaces by October 2016

    Wed, 01 Apr 2015 05:25:56 -0700 Montreal's Environmental Commission has adopted recommendations that would allow wood-burning stoves as long as the pollution they produce is limited to 2.5 grams/hour of fine particulate matter. These stoves would need to be installed by October 2016.
  • Turn on the gas fireplace, lower the thermostat

    Wed, 18 Mar 2015 01:24:50 -0700 Gas fireplaces aren’t just for atmosphere any more. Thanks to design changes in recent years, many gas fireplaces are energy-efficient enough to qualify for state tax credits and Energy Trust of Oregon incentives. That’s a recognition that, if you buy right and use it properly, a gas fireplace can save ...