WOOD BURNING FIREPLACES
The look, smell and feel of a wood burning fireplace can soothe the soul while generating a deep, penetrating and relaxing warmth within a home. And, thanks to more than a decade of research and development by the hearth industry, there are now wood burning fireplaces that offer benefits well beyond just ambiance. These benefits include heat, convenience, energy independence, security and a costeffective way to control fluctuating energy bills, not to mention reduced emissions that can help people burn wood responsibly to help protect winter air quality.
Types of wood burning fireplaces
Adding a fireplace is an easy way to add value to a home and increase resale potential. To help in this goal, the hearth industry offers three types of wood burning fireplaces: Traditional, Clean Burning and EPA-certified. A Traditional wood burning fireplace, whether factory-built or masonry, is the type currently found in many homes throughout North America and is most frequently associated with the concept of a wood burning fireplace. The two newer, high-efficiency fireplaces, Clean Burning and EPA-certified (certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to produce less than 7.5 grams of particulates per hour), are more technologically advanced and offer more benefits to the user.
Choosing the right option
Because fireplaces are often a gathering place within a home, it’s important to spend the time to choose the right wood-burning fireplace based on expectations about performance. If the fireplace needs to provide a substantial amount of heat, the best choices are EPA-certified or Clean Burning. These fireplaces are insulated, closed combustion systems (glass doors need to be closed for proper operation) that burn Wood Burning Fireplace wood more efficiently and generate a substantial amount of heat. Due to the economics of firewood, these fireplaces are also good choices in areas with frequent or sporadic power outages, or where the cost of home heating is an issue. In contrast, Traditional fireplaces are open combustion systems (no glass doors needed for operation) and are perfect for occasional fires that produce ambiance, warmth and a little snap, crackle and pop!
Certified to protect air quality
EPA-certified and Clean Burning fireplaces are designed to increase combustion efficiency and therefore reduce wood smoke emissions. In some areas where wood burning is regulated, either an EPA-certified or Clean Burning fireplace can be installed and burned all season long. In these same areas, Traditional fireplaces can sometimes be installed but require that people take the personal responsibility to limit wood smoke emissions by using seasoned firewood or manufactured firelogs.
Selecting a Wood Burning Fireplace
Much like any other appliance, it is important to spend the time to choose the right wood burning fireplace. Before you make your final decision, visit a specialty retailer in your area for expert advice. A specialty retailer is a trained wood burning fireplace expert. He or she can help determine what type of fireplace to purchase. They can also arrange for professional fireplace installation, as well as provide advice about available firewood. Specialty retailers are also the best source of information on how to correctly operate a wood burning fireplace and what is required for proper maintenance.
There are three types of wood burning fireplaces: Traditional, Clean Burning and EPA-certified. Traditional fireplaces can be either masonry or factorybuilt. EPA-certified fireplaces are constructed much like wood stoves and are factory-built, while Clean Burning fireplaces are either factorybuilt or masonry.
Wood burning fireplaces can range from small to extremely large. Choosing a size is based on aesthetic interests, heat requirements and the sizes available in each type.
A wood burning fireplace can be installed in most homes throughout North America. In some locations there are air quality restrictions that dictate the need for EPA-certified or Clean Burning fireplaces. For all fireplaces, the most common installation location within a home is against an outside wall, although the HPBA recommends installation within the interior of a home, away from an outside wall, to improve draft and performance.
Wood burning fireplaces are naturally vented three feet above the roof of a house or a minimum of two feet above any point of the structure within a ten foot radius. Depending on the fireplace selected, this venting can occur through a masonry or stainless steel, Class A type all-fuel chimney system.
Wood burning fireplace features vary based on the type of fireplace selected. Traditional fireplaces are available with glass doors (not necessary for operation), unique firebacks, and optional fans to circulate the warmth. EPA-certified and Clean Burning fireplaces come with large, self-cleaning glass doors, heat circulation systems, grates, and ash dump access. Gas log lighters are also options with some wood burning fireplaces.
The new breed of wood burning fireplaces includes many styles, including two-, three- and even four-sided fire views. There are arch-shaped fireplaces and one-panel glass doors that allow full fire views. The long list of finishing options includes a wide range of mantels and facings made from of brick, stone or tile.
To ensure the safe and reliable installation of a wood burning fireplace, HPBAC recommends that people use a specialty retailer and a certified professional installer. In addition to assessing the construction of a house, the professional will obtain the necessary building permits and make sure that the installation meets all local and state codes.
While wood burning fireplaces are very user-friendly and easy to operate, they do require routine maintenance. HPBAC recommends that fireplaces and chimneys be inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a WETT-certified chimney sweep.
The best fuel for wood fireplaces is firewood that has been split and dried for more than six months (“seasoned” firewood). Manufactured firelogs can be used instead of seasoned firewood and can reduce emissions by more than two-thirds (sawdust-only firelogs in all fireplaces and wax/sawdust firelogs in Traditional and Clean Burning only).
The price of the fireplace is only part of the total cost of owning a wood burning fireplace. Other requirements include the cost of the chimney, installation, delivery, annual fuel costs and annual maintenance.
WOOD BURNING STOVES
Why a wood stove? The answers are simple – comforting, economical and environmentally friendly. Whether it’s the warm glow of the fire, the crackle of the wood or the deep penetrating warmth, wood stoves have a way of making people feel relaxed and right at home. Yet, in addition to ambiance, wood stoves today produce a low-cost heat that helps protect winter air quality and reduces the threat of global warming.
Good news about wood stoves
Wood stoves are as popular as ever thanks to more than a decade of research and development by stove manufacturers that has raised the bar for all wood stoves. In comparison to stoves sold during the energy crisis of the 70s, wood stoves manufactured since the early 90s are state-of-theart appliances that produce almost no smoke. They are designed to burn wood efficiently – with little tending – while producing minimal ash and requiring less firewood. And, wood stove construction is now extremely air tight and durable, with clearances to walls that can in some instances be as little as six inches.
Wood stoves designed for style
What’s your idea of a wood stove – a pot-belly stove with a huge black pipe for venting? Think again. Wood stoves are now made from steel, castiron or soapstone and are designed to blend in with a home’s interior design. While performance reigns supreme, wood stoves are manufactured with windows for viewing and are available in many styles and colors (even red!). And, that pipe…it’s now sleek and colored to match the stove.
Wood stoves are zone heaters
Many wood stoves have the capacity to heat an entire house (if a house has good internal air flow). Yet, wood stoves can also be installed as secondary zone heaters to comfortably heat the areas of a home where the most activity occurs. Future wood stove owners will be excited to know that the heat levels can be easily maintained, for even extended periods of time, with little experience.
Certified to protect air quality
In the effort to reduce the amount of wood smoke that impacts neighborhoods and communities, wood stoves sold after July 1, 1992 are required to be certified to EPA or CSA standands. This certification ensures that wood stoves produce less than 7.5 grams of smoke per hour compared to approximately 42 grams of smoke emitted from wood stoves manufactured and sold during the 70s and 80s.
Selecting a Wood Burning Stove
Much like any other appliance, it is important to spend the time to choose the right wood stove to fit your needs. Before you make your final decision, visit a specialty retailer for experienced advice. A specialty retailer is a trained wood stove expert. He or she can arrange for the safe and reliable installation of a wood stove by a certified professional installer. Specialty retailers can also provide advice about available firewood, inform you about how to correctly operate a wood stove as well as what is required for proper maintenance.
How a stove functions and how it generates heat are two central factors to consider when choosing a wood stove. There are two types of low emission wood burning technologies available – Non-Catalytic or Catalytic. There are also three different types of heat generation: Radiant, Convection, or a combination of both.
Stoves can range from small to extremely large, but size is more about the amount of heat a stove can create (measured in Btus). The key to selecting the right stove is determining the desired heat level for an area of a house.
A wood stove needs to be installed a certain distance away from combustible materials, such as drapes and doors. The distance from a wall can vary from stove to stove, but it can now be as little as six to twelve inches from a wall depending on the model. In most instances, the chosen installation area needs to accommodate a hearth pad, tile or brick, for placement underneath the stove.
While wood stoves can be vented through the wall to the outside of the house, the primary venting choice is through the ceiling with high-tech piping or through an existing chimney.
Most wood stoves come with generous standard features: self-cleaning glass, hidden hinges and reversible flues being just some of the many possibilities. Many manufacturers also offer optional accessories such as fans, gold plated accents and wall heat shields. Standard and optional features change depending on the stove manufacturer and model of the stove.
While wood stoves have been traditionally black with gold details, manufacturers now produce a wide variety of looks and styles that have turned wood stoves into an interior design element. Some style choices include the type of base (legs versus pedestal) and varying types of finishes, including porcelain or tile, and colors.
Does the addition of a wood stove require a building permit in your area? What will your homeowners insurance allow? What are the specific installation issues posed by the construction of your house, such as the pitch of your roof? These are the types of questions that are important to the proper installation of your stove.
Does the addition of a wood stove require a building permit in your area? What will your homeowners insurance allow? What are the specific installation issues posed by the construction of your house, such as the pitch of your roof? These are the types of questions that are important to the proper installation of your stove.
The best fuel for wood stoves is seasoned firewood. This refers to firewood that has been split and dried for more than six months. Firewood also needs to be stored outdoors, under cover, with enough opportunity for air to circulate.
The price of a wood stove is only part of the total cost of owning a wood stove. Other requirements include the cost of the chimney, installation, annual fuel costs and annual maintenance.
HEATING WITH WOOD
A Concise Guide to High Performance Woodburning
Heating with wood has been a Canadian tradition for decades. Everyone knows the comfort and ambiance associated with curling up beside the fireplace on a winter’s night. But burning wood for residential home heating can also be economical, sustainable, environmentally-friendly and rewarding. By investing in a certified, clean-burning appliance, using the proper techniques for burning your fuel and being diligent about the upkeep of your appliance, wood heat is a great alternative for many Canadians.
As firewood burns, it goes through three phases:
1. The water in the wood evaporates: Up to half the weight of freshly cut logs is water. After proper seasoning less than 20% of the weight is water. As the wood is heated in the firebox, this water boils off, consuming heat energy in the process. The wetter the wood, the more heat energy is consumed. That is why wet wood hisses and sizzles while seasoned wood ignites and burns easily.
2. The wood smokes and produces flame: As the wood heats up above the boiling point of water, it starts to smoke. The gases and tar droplets that make up the smoke are combustible and will burn if the temperature is high enough and oxygen is present. When the smoke burns, it makes the bright flames that are characteristic of wood combustion. If the smoke does not burn in the firebox, it may condense in the chimney, forming creosote.
3. The remaining charcoal burns: As the fire progresses and most of the tarry smoke has vaporized, charcoal remains. Charcoal is almost all carbon and burns with very little flame or smoke. Charcoal is a good fuel that burns easily and cleanly when enough oxygen is present. Of the total energy content of the wood you burn, about half is in the form of smoke, and half is charcoal.
The challenge in burning wood efficiently is to burn off the smoke before it leaves the firebox. The rest of the suggestions listed here will help you get more heat from your wood and reduce creosote deposits and air pollution.
Firewood takes a long time to dry. At the very latest, logs should be cut, split and stacked in the early spring to be ready for burning in the fall. Under less than ideal conditions, such as a shaded storage area, damp climate, large firewood pieces, or tightly packed piles, a full year or more may be needed to dry the wood. After drying in the summer sun and warm winds, the wood should be down to between 15 and 20 per cent moisture content. A piece of dry firewood has cracks or checks in the end grain, is noticeably lighter in weight than unseasoned wood, and does hot hiss in the fire.
A range of piece sizes between 3 inches and 6 inches across the largest dimension makes it easy to build large fires or small fires to match heat demand. Hardwoods and softwoods are chemically similar – the difference is in density. Hardwoods, being more dense, produce longer-lasting fires. However, people who live in the north and west where hardwoods do not grow are able to heat their homes quite effectively with softwoods.
It is advisable to burn dry wood because it gives up to 25% higher efficiency, produces less creosote, ignites faster and smokes less, and is lighter to carry.
Starting or rekindling the fire
There are several ways to light a wood fire. Whether you use the conventional method with newspaper on the bottom and kindling on top, or the two log method or the top-down method, the important thing is to use finely split pieces of very dry softwoods like cedar or pine as kindling. Use plain newspaper to get things started. Never use glossy magazine paper or liquids to start fires. You can either bunch up sheets of newspaper and put kindling on top, or put thee kindling down first and put paper on top. Both options work, but in either case, it is the details that determine success.
Softwoods like cedar, spruce and pine make the best kindling. Find out where the combustion air enters the firebox of your stove (usually at the front just inside the loading door) and light the fire there so the kindling fire will get plenty of air. Open the air inlet(s) fully to produce rapid combustion.
Fuel load geometry
Avoid loading only one or two pieces at a time on a coal bed – most often they will not burn completely because heat is lost from the pieces faster than it is produced by burning. A minimum of three pieces is needed to form a sheltered pocket of glowing coals that sustains the fire. A loosely-stacked load of wood (in a crisscross arrangement) burns fast and small pieces of wood burn fast. So, if you want a quick fire to take the chill off the house in mild weather, use small pieces stacked loosely. A tightly-packed load of wood burns more slowly and large pieces burn more slowly. So, if you want an over night burn, use larger pieces placed compactly in the firebox.
The firing cycle
Don’t expect perfectly steady heat output from your stove. Wood burns best in cycles. A firing cycle is the time between the ignition of a fresh load of wood and its consumption to a coal bed. Each firing cycle should provide between 4 and 8 hours of heating. Plan the cycles to match your household routine. For example, if someone is home all day, two 4-hour fires allow better control of house temperature than one 8 hour burn. Adjust the amount of wood used in each load to match the amount of heat needed. For overnight burns, adjust the load so just enough charcoal is left in the morning to kindle the next fire. Fire each load hot for a few minutes to heat the wood thoroughly and form a layer of charcoal on it.
The flash fire technique
To achieve a longer-lasting fire, rake the coals towards the front of the firebox and use larger pieces of wood placed compactly against the rear of the firebox. Placing the pieces close together prevents the heat and flame from penetrating the load and saves the buried pieces for later in the burn cycle. Open the air inlet fully and leave it open until the surface of the wood has a thick layer of charcoal and is burning brightly. Then you can reduce the air setting so the flames slow down, but not enough to extinguish them.
Building an extended fire
To avoid overheating the space and smouldering the wood during mild weather, build a small fire and burn it quickly. Rake the coals into a pile at the front of the firebox and load at least three small pieces on and behind the coals. The pieces should be stacked loosely in a crisscross arrangement. Open the air inlet to produce a bright, hot fire. The air supply can be reduced slightly as the fire progresses, but never enough to extinguish the flames.
Remove ash from the firebox often so its build up does not interfere with the raking of charcoal and placement of logs. If your stove is equipped with an ash pan, remember to empty it before it is full to avoid spilling ashes in the housing or on the floor. Once removed, wood ash should be stored in a covered metal pail away from combustible material outside or in the garage. You can sprinkle some of the ash on your flower gardens to reduce soil acidity, or you can put it in a hole dug in the corner of your yard, or you can put it out with other household waste going to a disposal site.
Content created by Gulland Associates for woodheat.org.
RESPONSIBLE WOOD BURNING
On a chilly evening there is nothing more relaxing than gathering around a warm, cozy fire that radiates rich, soothing heat. The only greater comfort comes from knowing that you are also helping to protect your neighborhood air quality from excessive wood smoke. So, how can you enjoy a wood fire that emits very little smoke? The answer is simple… burn wood responsibly!
What is responsible wood burning?
Responsible wood burning is about minimizing the emissions from a wood fire. It entails practicing responsible wood burning habits (such as building small hot fires, using seasoned wood or manufactured firelogs) and using low emission wood burning hearth products (such as wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and new state-of-the-art clean burning fireplaces) to help reduce wood smoke by more than 85 percent. Essentially, burning wood responsibly is about doing the right thing for you, your family, and your neighbors while protecting your ability to burn wood well into the future.
Wood heat is in demand
With recurring concerns about the high cost of home heat, many people throughout North America are once again heating their homes with firewood. As a renewable, biomass fuel, firewood is abundant and inexpensive. Burning wood for heat also helps people take control of high home heating bills and can even keep a house warm when the power goes out.
The need to burn responsibly
Despite available technologies, many wood fires are still built in either traditional fireplaces or older wood stoves and fireplace inserts manufactured, sold and installed before 1988. Because of the inefficiency and the lack of smoke control technology in these older hearth products, burning firewood in these wood burners can produce significantly more smoke than is necessary.
Hearth industry protecting clean air
For more than a decade, hearth products manufacturers have been developing and manufacturing wood burning hearth products that emit, in many cases, less than 6 grams of emissions per hour (EPA-certified products need to emit no more than 7.5 grams per hour) compared to the 42 grams of particulates per hour from wood burners manufactured in the 70s and 80s. In addition to these appliances, there are now companies that produce manufactured wood fuels, such as manufactured firelogs and wood pellets, that help reduce wood smoke. To help spread the word about the availability of these products, the hearth industry – including specialty retailers – is actively involved in public education efforts that encourage people within North America to changeout old hearth products for low emission wood burning hearth products. Specialty retailers are also actively involved in teaching people how to practice responsible wood burning habits.
Visit a hearth specialty hearth retailer
For help with responsible wood burning, or for more information about low emissions hearth products, visit a specialty retailer for experienced advice. Specialty retailers are trained wood burning experts and can be the best source of information on how to choose the right low emission hearth product.
WOOD BURNING FAQs
Many benefits result from the decision to heat with wood, such as contributing to the conservation of the world’s non-renewable fossil fuels, and saving money. However, linked to these benefits is the environmental responsibility to burn as clean and efficiently as possible. This guide will address information on proper wood burning and provide tips to help you burn smart and with low emissions to help protect your local environment.
How can I tell if a wood stove is a new clean burning, high efficiency model?
Regulations enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require all wood stoves and fireplace inserts manufactured and sold after July 1, 1992 to pass stringent emission tests. An EPA label identifies a stove as a new clean burning, high efficiency model, and is found on every certified stove or insert.
How can I tell if a stove or insert is sized right for my home?
Consider your geographic location and climate, the number of rooms you wish to heat, and construction features of your home such as room size, ceiling height, and insulation. Ask a Hearth Specialty Retailer for information on the best stove for your space heating requirements. Click here to find a hearth specialty retailer.
I already have an older stove. Is there anything I can do to make it burn cleaner?
Yes. Even if you can’t upgrade to a new EPA or CSA-certified stove or fireplace insert right away, you can still improve the performance of your current stove. Have your wood heating system inspected by a certified hearth specialty retailer or by a WETT-certified chimney sweep to ensure it has been properly installed. To locate a WETT-certified specialist go to www.wettinc.ca. Ask the professional if your stove can be retrofitted with a catalytic combustor. While this improvement won’t ma
ke your stove EPA or CSA-certified, it has the potential to increase the efficiency of your appliance. You can also reduce emissions by burning only well-seasoned firewood or by starting your fire with a firelighter product
When installing a wood stove, what’s the first thing I should consider?
That the wood stove and chimney work as a system. It is important for the stove’s chimney system be sized properly, according to manufacturer’s instructions. Whether venting into a masonry or metal system, make sure the diameter of the chimney matches closely, but never smaller than, the size of the stove’s flue outlet. Doing anything else adversely impacts emissions and safety.
Can I install my own stove, or should I have the installation done professionally?
It is recommended that all stove and fireplace inserts be installed by a specialist certified by WETT. This technician will be familiar with your model and will have installed many others like it. This experience can save you time, money and frustration in the long run. Plus, it gives you the confidence your stove is installed properly and safely. For owners who choose to install their own wood stoves, follow the manufacturer’s instructions explicitly. NEVER proceed without professional advice if you have a question. To locate a WETT-certified specialist, go to www.wettinc.ca.
Where can I find a qualified installer?
A hearth specialty retailer can provide you with professional installation assistance. Ask the retailer about the installer’s credentials. Does the installer have experience with the make and model of the stove you are buying? Is the installer certified by WETT?
What is WETT?
Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc. (WETT Inc.) is a non-profit training and education association managed by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by holders of valid WETT certificates. Through its administrative designate, WETT Inc. functions as the national registrar of the WETT program. Through professional training and public education, WETT Inc. promotes the safe and effective use of wood-burning systems in Canada.
How can I tell if I am operating my wood stove properly?
Check the exhaust coming out of your wood stove chimney; the smoke is your operational barometer. If your fire is burning properly, you should only see the white transparent steam of evaporating water, darker and opaque smoke will only be slightly visible. The darker the color of the exhaust, the less efficiently you are operating the appliance. It may be necessary to adjust the operation of your wood stove to decrease the opacity of the exhaust (that is, the density of the smoke). A 15% opacity
level indicates efficient operations, while a 90% level reflects unacceptable polluting conditions; some state regulate opacity levels from wood stove chimneys.
Why is wood smoke undesirable?
Smoke, in the form of solid particles (particulates) and volatile gases, is unburned fuel. An improperly operated wood stove fails to achieve the high combustion temperatures necessary to burn the particulates and ignite the gases. These gases and particulates contain half the heating potential of your firewood. The loss of this fuel up the chimney amounts to a loss of efficiency. Improperly operated wood stoves can also adversely affect air quality. However, the use of EPA or CSA-certified wood stoves and wood burning fireplace inserts, combined with the proper operation of all wood burning stoves and inserts, can decrease the level of polluting emissions by up to 85 percent.
Are there times when my wood stove or fireplace insert will emit more smoke?
There are two periods in the operation of a wood stove most vulnerable to creating smoky emissions — during startup and during refueling. However, these smoky periods can be dramatically minimized by proper operation.
What can I do to minimize the amount of smoke at startup and refueling?
Create the drafting conditions necessary to maintain clean combustion. “Good drafting condition” occurs when your chimney consistently draws air into the wood stove at a high enough rate to prove adequate oxygen for complete burning. To create this draft, you must “preheat the chimney.” Some chimneys require longer preheating periods than others, depending upon their height, outside exposure and construction. Typically, preheating requires 5-15 minutes of vigorous firing.
How do I preheat my chimney?
At startup, remove all but a thin layer of ashes from your firebox. Insert five or six crumpled individual pieces of newspaper and dry finely split kindling or a firelighter. Firmly open the air supply (dampers) to the woodstove and ignite the paper on all aides. You may find it necessary to leave the stove door slightly ajar during the first few moments of the fire. After the first load ignites, add more kindling until the chimney is preheated. The fire should burn briskly and full of flame during the startup if you are operating the wood stove properly.
When reloading, place finely split pieces of wood on the charcoal bed and fully open the air supply. Using smaller pieces of wood during reloading encouraged rapid reheating of the chimney.
You’ll know the chimney is preheated when each large piece of wood you add to the fire burns vigorously, without a loss in intensity of the fire. Keep listening to the sound of the air entering the stove. A constant and rising movement of air signals that good drafting conditions have been achieved.
Some wood stove manufacturers provide specific guidelines for startup and preheating phases involving the indirect monitoring of chimney exhaust temperatures. Typically, chimney connector temperatures must reach 500-600 degrees F. before the chimney is fully primed. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions when temperature and startup procedures are specified.
Once I have preheated my chimney, how should I operate the stove?
Although all wood stoves require preheating during startup and reloading, their operation afterwards vary somewhat. Wood stoves using catalytic combustors require the monitoring of temperatures and air supply to ensure the catalyst engages at appropriate times in the combustion cycle. Generally, catalytic stoves require lower combustion temperatures in the firebox to burn cleanly. At 500-1000 degrees F., the catalyst ignites, burning the volatile gases and particulates. Non-catalytic stoves attain much higher temperatures in the combustion path before the gases and particulates burn. Always refer to your wood stove manufacturer’s operation manual and follow the instructions for your particular make and model.
Do I operate my stove differently in cold vs. warm weather conditions?
Yes. During the warmer seasons of spring and fall, control the total heat output by limiting the amount of fuel (wood) rather than by closing down the air supply. Make shorter, hot fires using more finely split wood. The actual air supply setting will vary according to your stove instruction, but the fuel loading will be consistently smaller. Let the fire burn out rather than smolder at low air supply setting. When your home requires more heat, restart the fire with kindling as always, but add smaller fuel loads. This allows your stove to operate at maximum efficiency and with minimum emissions. Avoid the temptation of building a big fire and then starving it for air.
Is it important to have my stove and chimney cleaned?
Yes. Smoke rising through your chimney may condense and build up on the cooler inside walls forming a substance known as creosote. The volatile substance can ignite and burn in the chimney. Many chimneys and installations are unable to withstand these dangerous creosote fires; the results can be tragic. Chimneys and vents for wood stoves and inserts also perform the necessary function of directly venting the hot gases from a fire away from the house. If the chimneys or vents are obstructed by debris or animals the hot gases can be forced back into the home. At the same time, wood stoves and inserts require service to ensure they are operating correctly.
How often should I have my chimney inspected and cleaned?
It is recommended that all chimneys and vents be inspected on an annual basis and cleaned as necessary. However, frequent stove or insert use may require monthly chimney inspection and cleanings. Wood stove or wood burning fireplace connectors (stove pipes) should be checked as often as every 2-4 weeks. A WETT-certified chimney sweep can show you the proper methods for these more frequent inspections and can provide valuable insight into the proper working of your chimney and/or vents.
How often should I have my wood stove or fireplace inserts serviced?
Inspection/service/maintenance for solid fuel appliances and venting systems should be done at least once a year.
How can I make my fireplace produce less emissions so that I can still enjoy a wood fire?
You can install an EPA or CSA-certified wood burning insert, or you can burn manufactured firelogs which produce more than two-thirds emissions than firewood burned in an open hearth fireplace.
Does it matter what kind of wood I use?
Your fuel supply should consist of a mixture of hardwoods, like maple or oak, and softwoods, such as fir and pine. When first starting your fire, use softwoods. They ignite easily and burn rapidly with a hot flame. Hardwoods provide a longer lasting fire and are best used after preheating the chimney. If hardwoods are unavailable, you can control your fire’s burn rate by using larger pieces of wood.
Is it important to season wood before burning it?
The seasoning, or drying, process allows most of the natural moisture found in wood to evaporate, making it easier to burn. A properly seasoned log will have 20%-30% moisture content. Wood only dries from the surface inward so un-split pieces dry very slowly. To properly season wood, split the logs as soon as possible and stack them in a dry spot for 6-18 months. Pile the wood loosely, allowing air to circulate through the split logs. Hardwoods take longer to dry than softwoods. Humidity and temperature levels also impact drying time.
What’s the best way to load wood into my stove or insert?
Avoid placing pieces of wood in parallel directions, where they may stack too closely. Vary the position of the wood in the firebox to maximize the exposed surface area of each piece of wood. Only use wood properly sized for your stove’s fire chamber. Complete wood combustion requires wood (fuel), temperature (heat), and oxygen (air) to burn completely and cleanly.
Is there anything I shouldn’t burn?
Never burn garbage, plastic, foil, or any kind of chemically treated or painted wood. They all produce noxious fumes; these are dangerous and highly polluting. Additionally, if you have a catalytic stove, the residue from burning plastics may clog the catalytic combustor.
Requirements within Canada
Looking to purchase a new hearth appliance, but aren’t sure what the requirements are where you live pertaining to burning wood? Currently, there is no federal regulation in Canada to determine what products are acceptable for sale and use. However, many provinces and even some municipalities have their own requirements – either within their building code or within by-laws. As a homeowner, it’s important to understand what restrictions you need to abide by within your jurisdiction.
Wood Burning Fireplace Regulations by Province
The table shown here summarizes the requirements for wood burning appliances across Canada as of 2019. It should be noted that within Canada the CAN/CSA B.415.1-10 test standard (Performance testing of solid-fuel-burning appliances) and the US EPA 2015 test method are considered equivalent. However, products in the US must be tested using the US EPA test method and meet 4.5g/hr PM emissions or less.
HPBA Canada highly recommends consulting your local specialty hearth retailer regarding municipal requirements and by-laws before making your purchase. They can advise you on the efficiency, emissions rating and give you a better understanding of the appliance you are looking to purchase.
City of Montreal
Message from APC (Association des professionnels du chauffage)
Unfortunately, many people still think that wood burning is forbidden, or will be forbidden, in Montreal, or in the province of Quebec. However, it is possible, and only two cities forbid wood burning. Misconceptions regarding wood burning are related to old, uncertified appliances.
Since 2007, only EPA- or CSA-certified fireplaces and stoves can be sold in the province of Quebec, and since this provincial regulation does not specify an emission threshold, they are set at 4.5 gr/h for the moment, automatically following EPA recommendations. Not only do these appliances reduce up to 90% of all particulate matters when compared to old, uncertified appliances, they can also run at as much as 75% efficiency. That’s good news for air quality, comfort and personal finance.
Concerning the City of Montreal, comprising 19 districts, the Bylaw No. 15-069 called Bylaw Concerning Solid-Fuel-Burning Devices and Fireplace, it says, in summary:
During smog alerts, it is forbidden to use your solid-fuel burning device;
Starting October 1st, 2018, it will be forbidden to use your wood burning device, unless it is recognized by an organization identified in schedule B to this by-law, (EPA and CSA) as part of a certification process, establishing that it has an emission rate equal to or less than 2.5 g/hr of fine particles into the atmosphere.
Some people still wonder if their city is concerned. Here is the situation in the City of Montreal, and also in the cities around Montreal. We remind you that in the rest of the Province of Québec, since 2009, only EPA- or CSA- certified devices can be sold. For any questions, please contact your city about their rulings and bylaws.
City of Montreal
Existing appliances: Still acceptable in the home. However, starting October 1st, 2018, they are not permitted to be operated unless they are certified to EPA or CSA standands, emitting 2.5 gr/h or less fine particles (except in power outages lasting 3 or more hours). There is no obligation to shutdown your device.
New installations: Permitted to install EPA- or CSA-certified appliances emitting 2.5 gr/h or less fine particles.
Other cities around Montreal
|Beaconsfield||Allowed to use an existing woodburning device, but not to install a new one or to replace an old one. Excerpt of Bylaw BEAC-046 (63 KB) art. 3.2.5: Only installation or replacement of wood burning appliance with a gas-fueled appliance or pellet-fueled appliance are allowed in Beaconsfield.|
|Dorval||Existing appliances: Permitted to use a wood burning device, but starting December 1st, 2018, it will be disallowed, unless an EPA-certified appliance emitting 2.5 gr/h of fine particles is installed (except in power outages lasting 3 or more hours). No obligation to shutdown the device. New installations: Permitted to install a fireplace or stove if it is EPA certified and emitting 2.5 gr/h or less of fine particles.|
|Hampstead||By-law 1003 (adopted recently) now allows EPA- or CSA- certified wood burning devices emitting 2.5 gr/h or less of fine particles.|
|Montréal-Est||Vested right for existing appliance. New installations or replacement of existing units must be EPA or CSA certified, emitting 2.5 gr/h or less of fine particles.|
|Ville Mont-Royal||Allowed (EPA or CSA appliances emitting 2.5 gr/h or less of fine particles).|
Currently, there is not a complete list of certified appliances to the 4.5g/hr of particulate emissions (PM) requirement we see in the United States or in specific Canadian jurisdictions. However, the US EPA hosts a list of all appliances tested and verified to the 2015 EPA NSPS and recently a list of appliances verified to 2.5g/hr PM using the CSA B.415.1-10 test standard has been created for the City of Montreal. To visit either of these databases, use the links below.
Have a question or just want to say hello? Drop us a line and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.