While much focus on air quality is associated with the transportation industry, one of our neighboring counties is learning that the way we heat our homes also has a significant impact on clean air. Did you know that 74% of the poor air quality identified in Klamath County comes from uncertified wood stoves and fireplaces? Even though this is outside of the Rogue Valley, their story illustrates an important lesson that all of us in Southern Oregon can benefit from.
Air quality has become an intense focus for Klamath County because they were identified in 2009 as failing to meet EPA standards for PM2.5, otherwise known as fine particulate air pollution. The Klamath Air Quality Advisory Committee currently monitors and reports on the county’s progress in meeting standards. One issue that has been identified is emissions created by residential wood stoves and fireplaces.
Smoke is comprised of gases and microscopic particles as wood or other combustible materials burn. Health threats are primarily associated with fine particulate matter. Fine particles can enter the lungs, cause bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, aggravate chronic heart and lung conditions, or even cause premature deaths.
Wood stoves are a popular and effective heat source for many Southern Oregon homes. Today’s stoves are constructed to reduce fine particle emissions while operating with high efficiency. It’s old models of stoves that cause pollution issues. The EPA’s current mandatory smoke emission limit for wood stoves is 2.0 grams of smoke per hour (g/h.) Consumers can easily access the EPA’s database of EPA-certified wood heaters to choose good wood stoves for their homes.
Outdated wood stoves allow harmful particulate matter to escape into our atmosphere, which is dangerous for humans and wildlife alike. The average g/h for uncertified woodstoves is 4.6. EPA regulations do not require homeowners to replace existing uncertified wood stoves, but they cannot be removed and re-sold.
Fireplaces are often far less controlled than wood stoves in regards to emissions. The EPA estimates the average emissions for a fireplace are 28 g/h, while the average for an EPA-certified wood stove is only 1.4 g/h. However, there are some things you can do to lessen the impact on our atmosphere when burning wood. The EPA has these suggestions:
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood and maintain a hot fire. Don’t burn inorganic materials (garbage, plastic, or pressure-treated wood.)
- Have a certified technician inspect and service your appliance annually.
- Convert your fireplace to an efficient, EPA-approved wood-burning appliance.
Several government agencies provide financial assistance or incentives to encourage homeowners to replace non-conforming wood stoves and fireplaces with new models. For example, the South Central Oregon Economic Development District has a program (currently pended until 8/1/2022) to provide up to $6,000 for woodstove changeout.
Are You Interested in Discovering Ways to Improve Your Home’s Impact on the Environment?
The Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition’s mission is to enhance the livability of the Rogue Valley. We promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!