DEEP: Wood Stoves

Wood Stoves

  {Image of neatly stacked woodpile}
Many Connecticut residents use wood stoves to heat their homes. Wood is a locally-produced, renewable natural resource and using a wood stove reduces our dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels.
However, wood stoves do significantly contribute to air pollution. So if you are considering burning wood, there are ways to reduce this pollution by burning cleaner and more efficiently.

Tips For Cleaner Wood Burning
  • View the videos from Airwatch Northeast. 
  • Only burn seasoned, dry wood. It should have a hollow sound when pieces are hit together.
  • Do not burn any garbage as this releases unintended toxins into the air.
  • Build small fires to avoid smoldering. Find more tips in the Wood Burning Handbook.
  • Adjust your damper to reduce smoke from your chimney.
  • Do not burn wood on days the air quality is "unhealthy for sensitive groups". Find out about the current Connecticut Air Quality Index  (AQI).
  • Only use wood stoves manufactured after July 1, 1992 and certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  These stoves burn more efficiently than older models. Learn about  EPA-certified wood stoves.
  • Make sure your wood stove is set up to meet local permitting requirements.
  • Conduct annual maintenance on the system.
  • Learn about chimney safety and certified chimney sweeps .

Frequently Asked Questions About Wood Stoves

Why is it so important to control wood smoke?

Wood smoke consists of small airborne particles (particulate matter or PM) that can become lodged in your lungs, making breathing difficult and leading to more serious short-term and chronic health problems for certain sensitive populations, especially those with asthma, respiratory or heart conditions, or other illnesses. Children and the elderly are also at risk. Read more from EPA about the health effects of wood smoke.

Wood smoke also contains harmful gases that also can adversely affect your health. Some examples include:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) - reduces the blood’s ability to supply oxygen to body tissues. Even small amounts can stress your heart and reduce your ability to exercise.
  • Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – can lower a child’s resistance to lung infections.
  • Hydrocarbons (HC) – can injure the lungs and make breathing difficult.

Are some wood stoves really better than others?

Yes, wood stoves (including fireplace inserts and pellet stoves) manufactured and sold after July 1, 1992 are required to be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Look to make sure that the wood stove you are planning to buy or use has the permanent EPA-certified label attached. {Chart comparing emissions of different fuels}

EPA-certified wood stoves have been tested to meet stringent emissions requirements. They have been designed to burn cleaner and more efficiently, resulting in 50%-60% less pollution. And because they are more efficient, they use two-thirds less wood, saving you both time and money.  

The information on the wood stove’s label will also help you select the right size stove for the space you will be heating. Consider ceiling height, room size, and number of rooms to be heated. It is better to buy a slightly smaller stove and burn it hotter than to install one that is too big, therefore requiring you to choke the air supply to stay comfortable. (Choking the air supply emits more pollution.)

Note: Outdoor wood burning furnaces (OWBFs) are not required at this time to be certified by EPA. Please be aware that their emissions are significantly higher than even an uncertified wood stove. See the DEEP fact sheet on OWBFs for more information.

Complaints and Contacts

The CT DEEP operates an Air Pollution Complaint Line at 860-424-3436. This line is open to all citizens with concerns regarding smoke and other air pollution. It is operated from 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Voice mail is available for complaints made during evening and weekend hours. You can also e-mail a complaint.

If you have additional questions, please contact the Air Enforcement Office at 860-424-3702.

Content last updated October 2009