Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wood Smoke Is A Controversial Subject

Wood heating in the hills of North Central Pennsylvania is a given. Years ago, nearly everyone used wood to heat their homes in this area. Old pictures show smoke clouding the atmosphere in a haze over the small towns in this area.

As natural gas was discovered, a lot of people switched to gas as pipelines were put in place by the early drilling companies. Natural gas was plentiful and cheap. Glass plants sprung up to take advantage of this resource.

But recently, prices for natural gas have gone way up , and residents have turned back to wood for a reasonably priced heating option.

Wood stoves are not always the safest things as many houses are burned down each heating season from defective chimneys.

Outside wood burners have become the wood stove of choice for the residents of this rural area. They are located outside the house and heat water which is pumped into the house to be used by a heat exchanger and translated to an existing hot air system, or pumped directly to a hydronic heating system embedded in the floor, or a conventional hot water heating system.

At any rate, the fire is outside, which means no smoke or mess in the house, and no danger of catching the house on fire, as with an internal wood stove.

This eliminates a lot of problems for the homeowner, but can cause problems for nearby neighbors if the smoke blows their way.

Considerate neighbors should consider placement so that prevailing winds carry the smoke away from other homes close by. Using a chimney to divert the woodsmoke higher into the atmosphere is a big help.

Important too, is the fuel you are using in your outside wood burner. Properly dried wood emits very little smoke. You should never burn garbage, or green wood as the smoke is noxious.

Some states and municipalities would like to ban outside wood burners altogether, but the benefits of wood heat would make designing these stoves to be more efficient a more worthwhile project.

Your comments as a wood stove user or neighbor of a wood stove user are invited here.

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