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Wood Heating

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Learn to burn cleaner and more efficiently

Wood heating is the largest source of smoke (fine particle) pollution in Spokane County during the heating season. Stable weather patterns can make matters worse by trapping smoke near the ground during the winter. 

Wood smoke is a complex mixture of fine particles, many of which are toxic and known to cause cancer. Breathing wood smoke can harm everyone, but children are most vulnerable because their lungs are still developing. Also at higher risk from wood smoke are infants, the elderly, and those with existing heart and lung ailments.

Today’s new wood stoves burn much cleaner and efficiently, but how the stove is operated is the biggest factor in how much it smokes. The goal is to see only heat waves or just a wisp of smoke from the chimney.

Chimney Smoke

State law prohibits excessive chimney smoke. Smoke is measured as opacity. Smoke so thick you can’t see an object through it is considered 100% opacity. Smoke is in violation when it obscures an object by more than 20%.

After start-up, check the chimney. If you see more than heat waves, provide more air (open your damper) to the fire.  

Smoky chimneys may also be caused by burning firewood that has not adequately dried. Wood should be split, stacked and loosely covered to dry at least 9-12 months.

Manufactured logs and pellets may be burned in your wood burning device. Burning anything other than natural firewood or manufactured logs/pellets is prohibited under state law.

Buying and Installing Wood Burning Devices

Washington regulates the types of wood stoves and other wood burning devices allowed for sale, resale, exchange, or that are given away. They must meet federal EPA and Washington certification standards. 

Use a stove that is EPA certified, the right size for your home, and properly installed. Never install a non-certified wood stove. See EPA’s wood heater database webpage for listings of approved wood burning devices. A permit and inspection is required for installation so contact your city or county building department for details. List of certified wood stoves and wood-burning devices:

Federal emission standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves are now more protective than Washington standards. All other wood-burning devices must still meet Washington standards.

Buying or Selling a House with an Uncertified Wood Stove

Removing an uncertified wood stove is not required when you are buying or selling a house. To help protect air quality, we encourage you to use cleaner home heating options, such as electric or natural gas, and recycle uncertified wood stoves. However, selling an uncertified wood stove on its own is illegal. Wood stoves are certified when they are manufactured. A homeowner can not apply to have a wood stove certified.

Is your wood stove EPA-certified?

During a Stage 1 burn ban (Yellow) only EPA-certified devices may be used, therefore, it’s important to find out if your device is EPA-certified or not. 

  • If your wood stove (free-standing or insert) was manufactured prior to 1993, it probably is not EPA-certified. If it was manufactured in 1993 or later there should be a label on your device indicating EPA certification. This can only be done at the manufacturer level. If there is no label present, the device has not been tested for emissions levels in an approved laboratory setting, and therefore is not EPA-certified.
  • Below is an example of a label that can be found on wood stoves that are EPA-certified. Sometimes the labels are on the back of the stoves.

Temporary Burn Restrictions & Exemptions

We issue temporary burn bans when fine smoke particles become concentrated and are not readily dispersing due to weather conditions. The type of ban depends on the level of pollution and weather forecast.

Learn more about burn restriction details and exemptions.