Burn Wise: Facts & Figures + Health and Safety Tips
Include these facts and tips in your Burn Wise messaging, articles, and other outreach.
Return to Toolkit Home
Facts & Figures
- Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contains a mixture of harmful gases and particle matter (PM2.5). Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease, and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illness. (EPA)
- People at greater risk of health effects from wood smoke are older adults, children and teens, and people with certain health conditions such as heart or lung disease and asthma. Pregnant people may also want to take precautions to protect the health of their babies.
- Residential wood smoke emits more PM2.5 pollution than both on-road (cars & diesel trucks) and non-road (tractors and bulldozers) vehicles combined, and five times more PM2.5 pollution than petroleum refineries, cement manufacturers and pulp and paper plants combined. (EPA 2017 National Emissions Inventory)
- Nationally, residential wood combustion is the second largest contributor of wintertime PM2.5 emissions. (EPA, 2017 National Emissions Inventory)
- Three of every ten house fires caused by home heating are due to poorly maintained fireplaces and dirty chimneys, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.
- Over 2 million of the nation’s wood stoves are inefficient, uncertified devices. (EPA 2017 National Emissions Inventory)
- There are approximately 12 million fireplaces, 897,000 hydronic heaters, and 12.5 million wood stoves in use nationwide. (US Energy Information Administration 2018)
- Forty percent of homes heating with wood have an annual income of $40,000 or less. (Energy Information Administration, 2015, EPA National Emissions Inventory, 2017)
- The PM2.5 emissions from one old dirty, inefficient wood stove is equivalent to the PM2.5 emission of 8 old diesel school buses.
- Studies show that portable air cleaners with clean air delivery rates of about 100 to 300 cubic feet minute can substantially reduce indoor air concentrations of PM in living rooms and bedrooms, often reducing indoor PM2.5 concentrations by about 50 percent on average. (Allen et al. 2011; Barn et al. 2008; Bräuner et al. 2008; Butz et al. 2011; Chen et al. 2015; Cui et al. 2018; Kajbafzadeh 42 www.epa.gov/iaq RESIDENTIAL AIR CLEANERS et al. 2015; Karottki et al. 2013; Lanphear et al. 2011; Park et al. 2017; Shao et al. 2017; Weichenthal et al. 2013; Xu et al. 2010.)
- Replacing an old, inefficient wood stove and fireplace with cleaner technologies has many benefits:
- Saves money, fuel, and time
- Up to 50 percent more energy efficient
- Cuts creosote build-up in chimneys that helps reduce the risk of fire
- Can reduce PM2.5 indoors and out (EPA)
- EPA estimates that if all of the old wood stoves in the United States were replaced with cleaner- burning hearth appliances, an estimated $56-126 billion in health benefits per year would be realized.
- Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain a mixture of harmful gases and particle matter (PM2.5). Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease, and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses.
Health and Safety Tips
- To reduce wood smoke emissions, upgrade to a cleaner and more efficient heating device such as a heat pump, gas stove, or EPA-certified Step 2 pellet device or catalytic/hybrid wood stove.
- Have your wood burning appliance and chimney inspected annually and make sure you are burning the right wood, the right way, and in the right appliance.
- Split, stack, cover and store your firewood for six months if it is a softwood, and at least one year for hardwoods.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood.
- Check the moisture in your wood with a moisture meter. A moisture content of less than 20 percent is best: https://www.epa.gov/burnwise/test-your-wood-moisture-meter.
- Start with a small, hot fire using lots of dry kindling. Gradually add a few pieces of larger wood as the fire matures and allow for good air flow between pieces. This will reduce smoke. Never burn garbage, plastics, or pressure treated wood.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the house and outside each bedroom.
- Go outside after your fire has been burning for 20 minutes and look up at your chimney. If there is smoke, your wood may be too wet, your fire may need more air, or your stove and chimney may need maintenance.
- To reduce exposure to wood smoke and ash inside your home, open your wood stove door slowly and remove ash after it has cooled down.