Wood Stoves, Fireplaces, Pellet Stoves and Masonry Heaters
Wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington. Wood stoves, fireplaces,
and other wood burning devices put out hundreds of times more
air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas or
This web site has information about burn bans, which wood burning devices are
legal in Washington, why wood smoke is harmful to health, and how to
reduce the smoke from your wood burning device.
The most dangerous material in wood smoke may be the fine
particles that make up the smoke and soot. Many of these
particles are toxic. Most are so small that, when you breathe
them, they get past your body’s defenses and go deep into your lungs.
There, they can cause serious problems such as scarring of the lung tissue. Studies show that
death rates in several U.S. cities increased when there were higher levels of fine particles in the
air. Wood smoke is most dangerous to the health of infants and children, pregnant women,
the elderly, and people with lung or heart disease. Some of the reasons wood smoke is such a serious
- Almost all the wood smoke in Washington is released during
winter months. This means it is very concentrated. It takes just
three months for wood smoke to become Washington’s third leading
source of air pollution.
- In the winter, we often have weather conditions that cause stagnant air.
As a result, wood smoke is trapped close to the ground in neighborhoods. At these times, air pollution in many
neighborhoods is unhealthy.
- Studies show that people who heat their homes with wood
have more respiratory problems than those who don’t. Smoke
particles also invade neighboring homes. Research shows that
children in wood burning neighborhoods are more likely to
have lung and breathing problems.
Washington's wood stove/pellet
To protect health, Washington has strict laws about wood stoves and other wood burning devices. Most
states use federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards for fine particles to determine
which wood burning devices can be sold. To be sold in Washington, all wood burning devices must meet both
EPA’s standards and Washington’s stricter standards.
Outdoor wood-fired boilers are illegal in Washington.
Fine particle emissions standards
Type of Device
|Catalytic wood burning device
||2.5 grams per hour
||4.1 grams per hour
|Non-catalytic wood burning devices
||4.5 grams per hour
||7.5 grams per hour
|Factory-built fireplaces and masonry heaters
||7.3 grams per kilogram
||Currently no limit
Any new wood burning device sold, offered for sale, or given away to Washington residents must meet
Washington’s standards. Even devices that are exempt from EPA
certification must meet Washington standards. Wood burning
- wood stoves
- pellet stoves
- wood furnaces
- manufactured fireplaces
- masonry heaters
Other Washington requirements
- Burn only wood that has a moisture content of no more than
20 percent. Wood that is split and then dried for at least a year usually
meets this requirement.
- It is illegal to burn some materials. Illegal materials include garbage, treated or painted wood, particle board, plastics, rubber, waste
petroleum products, animal carcasses, asphalt products, paints, chemicals, or anything that
normally emits dense smoke or obnoxious odors.
- Smoke density is restricted. Smoke plumes can have no
more than 20 percent opacity. This means you should see only heat waves coming
from your chimney. If you can see smoke coming from your chimney, you're wasting fuel and your fire needs more air. (It’s okay to have more smoke only when you are
starting or stoking a fire.)
- There is a $30 fee on the sale of new solid fuel burning
devices. This includes wood stoves, pellet stoves, coal
stoves, manufactured fireplaces, masonry heaters, wood furnaces, or
any other devices that burns a solid fuel. The fee pays for
wood stove education and enforcement programs. More
information about the fee is available from the
- Non-wood heat sources are required in new or
significantly remodeled construction.
- A local air quality agency or Ecology may prohibit the
use of uncertified stoves under certain conditions. Usually, this happens when
an area fails to meet federal air quality standards.
- Air quality agencies call burn bans when wood smoke pollution
reaches unsafe levels. Burn bans have two stages:
- Stage 1: The use of all uncertified wood heating devices is banned when pollution approaches unhealthful levels.
- Stage 2: All wood heating is banned when pollution reaches an even higher level.
Burn bans do not apply to homes with no other source of adequate heat.
All outdoor burning is also banned during burn bans.
Find out if there is a burn ban in your area
Choose the right wood burning device
Use a wood stove or fireplace that is certified in Washington,
the right size, and properly installed:
- See two helpful videos (Windows Media Player Required -
Download for free)
- Consider all other heating choices before you purchase
or install a wood stove. Natural gas and electricity are much cleaner ways
to heat your home. Insulating and weather stripping can cost less than a wood
stove and reduce your heating costs. Many cities, counties, housing authorities,
and utility companies offer grants, low-interest or interest-free loans, or free
weatherization and conservation programs. Check with the local clean air agency in your area for more information.
- If you choose to heat with wood, use a wood stove that is certified in Washington, the right size for your home, and properly installed.
- Never install an uncertified stove. It is illegal to
install an uncertified stove in Washington.
Is your firewood ready to burn?
If you use a wood stove
or fireplace, now is the time to make sure your firewood is
covered and out of the weather.
Wet firewood boils when it burns. With wet wood, it can be
harder to get a fire going and keep it burning. Wet firewood
also makes a smoky fire with little heat, and wastes wood. So,
it just makes sense to burn dry firewood. Wood that has been split, dried and
stored under cover for at least six months usually burns best.
Here's how to make sure your wood is dry enough to burn:
- If you buy wood from an
independent firewood seller, ask them if the wood has been
properly seasoned. It should have been dried under cover for
at least six months. If not, you will need to dry it for
several months before you can burn it.
- Use a moisture meter to check the
moisture content of split firewood. The goal is less than 20
percent moisture content.
And remember - burning small, hot
fires gives you more heat and less smoke!
If you burn, burn clean
If you heat with wood, you can reduce smoke by burning
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Be sure your
firewood has been split and dried for at
least one year. Store it under cover.
- Never burn wet, painted, stained or treated wood;
colored newsprint; plastic; garbage; diapers; or magazines.
- Build small fires to help the wood burn completely.
Adding too much wood at one time cuts down on the air to the
fire and leaves you with unburned wood.
- Keep your fire hot. Dampering down your stove just
cuts off the air, which wastes wood, creates a lot of smoke, and
produces very little heat. You can tell if your fire has enough air by
checking the smoke coming from your chimney. You should see only heat waves. If you
see smoke, increase the air supply to your fire.
- Make sure your wood stove is the right size for its
space. A stove that is too large for the space it is heating will have to be damped down, causing
more smoke. Make sure your stove is properly installed.