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Preparing for winter: how efficient is your wood stove?

Preparing for winter: how efficient is your wood stove?

Untitled-1More than a quarter million homeowners in British Columbia get some or all of their space heat from wood stoves. While most use it for supplementary heat, as part of an effective zone heating system or to combat power outages, many others use it as their primary source of heating.

Wisely managed, B.C.’s supply of wood suitable for residential heating is practically limitless. It is renewable, and insulated from the vagaries of world petroleum pricing politics.

Wood stove technology has improved dramatically in the past 25 years and continues to evolve.

More efficient and cleaner wood stoves make burning wood in rural areas a smart heating choice. Last winter in B.C., a homeowner heating with wood could have realized substantial savings running into the hundreds of dollars compared with using other home heating fuels. These savings were attainable despite a winter when many families set personal records for cords of wood consumed.

“A new model wood stove can be expected to use a third less wood than older technology, non-certified wood stoves under similar conditions,” observed Tony Gottschalk, Manager of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada (HPBAC). “For many people the biggest attractions of new, efficient wood stoves are in resource and labour savings—in simple terms you need to gather and burn less wood to get the same amount of heat.”

Health Canada recommends many of our new, low-emissions wood stoves, which emit up to 95% less particulate matter and only trace amounts of other chemicals. The new stoves are up to 20% more efficient, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certified in the USA and meet the requirements of CSA (Canadian Standards Association) B415 here in Canada.

Depending where you live in B.C., you might be able to participate in the Wood Stove Exchange Program, which provides incentives for people heating with wood to install new low-emission stoves. Funded by the province and managed by the B.C. Lung Association, over 6,000 wood stoves have been replaced since the program began in 2008. For more information, go to Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program.

If you own a non-certified stove, consider an upgrade. Localized air quality issues associated with wood burning are almost always caused by old, outdated wood stoves or older technology outdoor wood boilers.

The local benefits of the homegrown wood heat sector are often overlooked. With most firewood being sourced locally or even on one’s own property, the money paid for this heat source stays close to home and in the wallets of neighbours and local businesses.


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