Do you know what doesn’t pair well with a nice warm fire? Itchy eyes, coughing, a dry throat, and a pile of tissues from all the sneezing you’re experiencing in your own home.
A wood stove is common for many of the older homes throughout all of New England, and there is a lot to love about a wood fire: chopping and gathering the wood, the crackle, and the warm glow. But without the proper precautions, a wood stove can have many harmful effects on the health and quality of the air you and your family are breathing. Plus, it can actually cause your energy bills to rise here in Barre and Washington County!
How Wood Stoves Affect Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “The biggest health threat from wood smoke comes from fine particles (also called particulate matter).” When a wood stove burns a piece of firewood, the smoke and gasses that are released contain particulate matter and even carbon monoxide that could be escaping into your breathing air. Exposure to these particles can cause:
Other serious respiratory diseases
These symptoms can be exacerbated for those that are already sensitive to poor IAQ issues, like infants and small children, pets, and elderly family members.
How Wood Stoves Can Affect Energy Costs
You may know from science class, or even summer camp, that a fire needs three things to continue to burn: fuel (wood, paper, etc), heat, and oxygen. As a fire burns in your stove, it will look to pull oxygen from the nearest source. For inefficient and poorly designed wood stoves, that oxygen can come from your living spaces. A poorly sealed wood stove can actually pull warm air from the area you are trying to keep warm!
Chimneys can also present an issue for home comfort and energy costs. Any air leaks that are present in your home are allowing outside air to freely infiltrate your home. This is usually because of the pressure difference between your conditioned living space and the outdoors.
What Can Be Done?
If you are looking to prevent your wood stove from damaging your indoor air quality and sending your heating bills through the (poorly air sealed) roof, there are a few things you can do:
Make sure your wood stove is compliant with the most recent EPA guidelines for wood stoves and pellet stoves.
Regularly clean your chimney.
Keep the damper halfway closed while the fire is burning.
Schedule professional air sealing for your home.
Or, you can supplement the existing heating system in your home with a heat pump. These energy efficient appliances can be installed directly into the room that needs a little extra heat. Heat pumps are able to pull existing heat out of the frigid winter air, even in sub freezing temperatures, which makes them popular among Vermont homes especially. Plus, heat pumps can also cool your home in the summertime!
Need a Plan for Healthier Air and Lower Heating Bills?
If you suspect your wood stove may be causing a myriad of symptoms for you and your family like indoor drafts, uncomfortable temperatures, and respiratory issues, don’t just take stabs in the dark as to what might fix it. Scheduling an energy audit with the home performance experts at EnergySmart of Vermont will give you all the answers you need.
Our team will be able to tell you if your home is riddled with leaks (and then we will find and seal them), or we can locate where the insulation in your home has deteriorated (and recommend and install new insulation), and pinpoint where excess moisture is infiltrating your home (and fix it once and for all).