Moisture matters when burning firewood

Moisture matters when burning firewood

Writer suggests ways to be bright and burn it right to avoid smoky skies.


I was very encouraged by the article in last week’s paper about clean burning wood stoves and that additional money is allocated to the stove exchange program. I am very much for heating with firewood where possible. The fossil fuel giants have circulated much untruth when it comes to heating with wood, in order to get people away from wood heat and use their fuel. I remember one, a few years ago, where we were told that heating with natural gas is 1,600 times cleaner that with wood. Nowhere did they mention the huge contribution to climate change from methane gas leaks at the well source and gas transmission. Methane gas is so many more times worse than carbon dioxide.

As some of you may recall, I spent 19 years designing and manufacturing wood stoves and furnaces in Smithers. During that time, I spent many hours in EPA certified test facilities. The test protocol requires the fuel to be 2×4 and 4×4 pieces of Douglas fir at about 18 per cent moisture content. I’m sure the local residents wouldn’t want to acquire EPA firewood. We therefore have no guarantee our stove emissions are as printed on your EPA label on the back of the stove. However, my experience shows that wood moisture content by far is the most critical factor in the amount of smoke created. Nowadays, it is easy to measure wood moisture with a little moisture meter. So, if you find your wood is over 20 per cent moisture you have to leave it season until it is below 20 per cent. Remember, wood like birch will not season unless it is at least split in half.

Nine years ago I built a log home and installed a stove of my design. It is not EPA tested. However, often when I drive home I see no smoke come out of my chimney. I attribute that mostly to dry firewood. In the nine years I have not had to clean my chimney (I can look up with a mirror and check). The chimney brush is still clean in the box it came in.

In this valley, in the forest, we burn over ½ million tons of slash. If we use dry wood the smoke we produce is much less than from those slash piles. So, my advice is to heat our homes as much as we can with wood and leave our fossil fuel as much as possible in the ground where it belongs.

JG (Hans) Duerichen