Regional News

Protect air quality, burn cleaner and save money

Nov 12, 2014

For thousands of years people have gathered around burning embers to cook food and keep warm. In modern times, there’s nothing like a crackling fire to warm the house.

Half of the homes in Washington are outfitted with wood-burning devices – be they wood or pellet stoves, or open fireplaces. So the Department of Ecology wants to be sure people are burning efficiently and getting the best bang for their buck as we enter home-heating season.

Burning in certified wood or pellet stoves or using other heat sources can save money on energy costs and reduce health bills related to respiratory illnesses.

Burning seasoned wood is more efficient and produces less smoke. Burning wet wood or in older stoves creates sooty smoke that contains small particles that imbed deeply in our lungs and can enter our blood stream.

These particles are especially harmful for children, pregnant women and the elderly. And they can cause asthma, respiratory illnesses and heart disease.

When wood is dry, less is needed to heat your home. Ideally, get your wood six months before you use it. Split and stack it so that it gets good airflow and keep it covered. Allowing your wood to dry can provide up to 44 percent more heat than burning wet wood.

When the air is bad, Ecology and local air authorities may issue burn bans to lessen the amount of smoke in the air. These bans are mandated when monitoring indicates we’re close to violating clean air standards designed to protect human health.

Burn bans frequently are called in communities hugging the Cascade Mountain slopes, where stagnant air is captured in the valleys. Poor air quality can linger for weeks at a time, causing long-term exposure to polluted air.

At these times we ask people to stop using their woodstoves and not burn outside. In fact, burning leaves and yard waste is no longer allowed in most communities.

Keep tabs on the air quality in your area by going to Ecology’s air monitoring website and watch for burn bans at Ecology’s website or You also can view our video on burning cleanly.


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