How to Use a Wood Stove Without Burning Down the House

Promo image. The Stuv that dreams are made of

Quite a few people living in the country use wood as their primary source of heating; If the wood is locally cut and sustainably harvested then it is a renewable resource and considered by many to be zero carbon, since the CO2 released was relatively recently stored. If the stove is modern and EPA certifed and properly installed, then the particulates are manageable. In fact, there so questions about it that have led me to ask Is burning wood for heat really green?

Alex Wilson's dogs in front of stove

© Alex Wilson/Alex Wilson's dogs like the wood burning stove

Building Green founder Alex Wilson is one of the greenest people I have ever met, and he has been burning wood as his primary source of heat for over 30 years. He knows how to do it right. He explains in an article on Building Green the key points.

Some are obvious such as making sure the stove is properly installed with the required setbacks from combustible materials. Others are less so:

On the safe-operation front, a good starting point is to burn only well-seasoned wood. (I admit to a track record that hasn’t always been great in this department.) With dry wood, there will be less need to operate the wood stove with the door ajar an less need to open it up to adjust the logs during operation—both potential risks.

Alex notes that a lot of fires are caused by ash management, not the stove itself.

An experience last year showed me just how risky spreading ashes can be. I must have run out of ash storage capacity so had to spread some ashes in the spring when we were still using the wood stove. I spread ashes that I had removed from the wood stove weeks earlier, so I hadn’t thought there could possibly be hot coals, but after scattering a number of shovelfuls I noticed some threads of smoke from the grass where ashes had been spread.
I was easily able to deal with the few hot embers using patches of snow that remained on the ground, but it reminded me just how long coals can stay hot when buried in ashes. I’m almost sure those ashes had been in the ash can for at least two weeks.

Read it all at Building Green

According to Biomass magazine, the use of wood is increasing across the USA.

Today, 2.1 percent of Americans use wood or pellets as their primary heating fuel, up from 1.6 percent in 2000... Nearly 2.5 million households use wood as a primary heating fuel, making it, by far, the dominant residential source of renewable energy in the United States.

I still wonder, between the particulates and the carbon released all at once that had been sequestered in another era, and the chopping down of living trees that are still socking the stuff away, If burning wood really is green. I will have to ask Alex.