Wood stove pollution and health effects
The weather is getting
chilly...and controversies over wood stoves are popping up all
over. One came into my inbox and another into my blog feed
last week, so I thought I'd weigh in.
First, from our
regular reader Roland:
For those of you,
like me, who hate following links, here's the upshot, excerpted
from the first link:
"There is no amount of wood smoke that is
good to breathe. It is at least as bad for you as cigarette smoke,
and probably much worse."
blogs in the homesteading world are posting rants against the
EPA's new policy that would make it illegal to sell your old wood
stove if it emits more than 7.5 grams per hour (g/hr) of
particulates. Here's a sampling of the headlines to give you
a feel for the tone of the pieces:
EPA Takes an Ax to Self-Sufficiency: Most Woodburning Stoves Will
Soon Be Illegal"
"Off Grid Attack: EPA To Outlaw Many Wood Burning Stoves"
To help explain my take
on the matter, let's go back in time. Mark and I started out
with a monstrous
wood stove that spewed forth smoke (see the top photo), and
we saved up until we could afford a fuel-efficient
Our current model burns so clean that I can't actually see smoke
once the initial water vapor is driven off. I had initially
reported our Jotul's emissions rate as 5.2 g/hr, but the EPA
to list it even lower, at 3.4 g/hr.
Am I glad we saved up for the fuel-efficient wood stove?
Very much so! Would I have skipped the intermediate,
polluting step and gone right to the efficient stove? Well,
we couldn't have afforded the efficient stove when we got the
inefficient stove, so knowing what we knew then (not much), we
probably would have just bought an inefficient, used wood stove
locally. It's not as if the EPA is going to send out officers to
look for illegal wood stoves --- their regulations are only going
to be enforced by insurance companies --- so poorer people will
likely keep buying whatever they want used if they can't afford
insurance. I've heard from various people locally that you
can't really insure a home heated solely by wood anyway (at least
around here) unless you install a heat pump and say that's your
primary heat source, so this might not make a big difference.
How do we feel about
the polluting effect of our current wood stove? Pretty
good. I don't have data to back this up, but I estimate the
minimal amount of particulates emitted by our wood stove is so
well dispersed before the smoke hits our nearest neighbor (roughly
a half mile away) that the effects are negligible there.
Here at the source, I figure we're still breathing cleaner air
than the average urban or suburban American, and we have the
benefit of being able to harvest our own fuel sustainably at a low
cost, enjoying radiant heat and wood chopping, and not worrying
about lack of heat during our sometimes-extended power outages.
In the end, I think the EPA rule is a good thing. The first
place I part company with libertarians is the environment --- even
though our government does a poor job of protecting our earth, I
think we'd do an even worst job without its oversight. Since
the current rule will likely push at least some people who can
afford it to change over to a more efficient stove, while not
unduly harming people who can't afford to make the switch, it
seems like a win-win. I'm sure many of our readers will feel
very differently about the topic, though, so feel free to comment.
Our chicken waterer
makes it fun and easy to keep chickens --- no more poopy
to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the
RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.