Is it time to ditch your wood burning stove?

Posted by on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 at 4:08pm.

If you have an old wood burning stove in your home, like the old pot-bellied stoves you see in the movies, the provincial government and the B.C. Lung Association are encouraging you to get rid of it.

In fact, there’s a $250 rebate for those qualified purchasers who trade in their old clunker in favour of a brand new, cleaner-burning appliance that’s EPA and CSA-certified, while funds last.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan is hoping to improve air quality in Kelowna and area with a wood stove exchange program.  Participating retailers will take your old stove and recycle it, providing you with the paperwork required to apply for rebates when you purchase an electric, wood-pellet or gas-burning heating product.

The program has operated in Kelowna for the last 5 years.  In all, 244 inefficient smoke-spewing wood stoves used indoors have been exchanged, resulting in cleaner air and less carbon monoxide.

What’s wrong with wood stoves?

There are a few fallacies about wood smoke that the provincial government and the B.C. Lung Association would like to debunk.

Burning wood is natural:  Since wood is found in nature, then wood smoke must be harmless.  That is not the case.  If it were, tobacco as a natural substance would be fine, too.  Even though people have burned wood since the cave man days, modern science has discovered that wood smoke is polluted.  It’s linked to many health ailments such as asthma and a variety of respiratory problems. That includes heart attacks and stroke.

Isn’t wood smoke a minor issue compared to other types of air pollution?  This depends on where you are, geographically.  In the Okanagan, wood smoke is dense and stays low in the value.  Apart from the fire hazard in this dry region, open fires are only allowed with a permit and only during October to April. In other parts of North America, like San Francisco Bay area, wood smoke in the winter pollutes the air with toxins to a greater extent than does industry and vehicle emissions.

Wood smoke only bothers people who have trouble breathing.  It’s hazardous for everything.  It’s only more hazardous for the young or the elderly or those with existing respiratory issues.  Even healthy people when exposed to wood spoke can experience lung inflammation. An excellent guideline is, if you can smell good burning then it’s already getting into your lungs.

Doesn’t smoke rise?  The hot air and smoke may rise above your head, but the pollutants from the fire hover at ground level for as long as 10 days.  Cold weather makes this problem worse, as the heavy air acts like a lid over the ground.

Closing the window will keep the smoke out.  The toxic particles from wood smoke are so minute that they find their way into even the most air-tight buildings.  In fact, in the present of wood smoke outdoors, the pollution level inside can be up to 70% that of what’s found outside.

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