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Burn it Smart

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Burn It Smart, Nanaimo

If there is a lot of wood smoke coming from your chimney, or if you can smell it long after your fire has been burning, the 'Burn It Smart' campaign can help. Both novices and seasoned veterans can learn how to have cleaner, safer, more efficient fires that reduce wood smoke.

When wood is burned at a high temperature, virtually nothing but carbon dioxide and water vapor are produced, but when you allow your fire to smolder then blue/grey smoke is produced, which means creosote is forming at the same time. Creosote is deposited on the inside of your chimney when wood is not burned completely and becomes a highly volatile fuel during a chimney fire!

Safe and healthy wood burning go hand-in hand. When little or no smoke is produced, both the chimney and the air are kept clean. At these workshops, participants learn about good wood-burning practices, WETT certified installations, and the benefits of EPA / CSA -approved appliances so they may achieve a more efficient (less polluting) and cozy wood fire.

Woodstove Changeout Program

Receive a $250 rebate for replacing your old smokey woodstove with an approved unit.  In addition, many manufacturers are offering additional rebates.  Visit Woodstove Changeout Program for more details.


Learn first-hand from a WETT certified professional about how to maximize efficiency and minimize pollution! Registration is required by sending an email to or by calling 250-390-6510 by 4:00 pm on the Friday prior to the workshop.

  • January 26, 2013 - 2:00 pm at Cedar Heritage Centre (1644 McMillan Rd, Cedar)
  • February 2, 2013 - 2:00 pm at Gabriola Commons (675 North Rd, Gabriola)
  • February 9, 2013 - 2:00 pm at Bradley Centre (975 Shearme Rd, Coombs)
  • February 16, 2013 - 2:00 pm at Lighthouse Community Hall (240 Lion's Way, Qualicum Bay)

Other Resources

Videos (courtesy Government of Canada)

Air Watch Northwest Videos (

Your Home and Woodstove - Working Together!

Everyone knows if you alter one part of your body's system, it will affect something else. The same applies to your home. When you change the way you heat - or what you're heating with - it affects other elements of the house.

All parts of your home - its environment, the building's shell or "envelope", its mechanical systems, and the occupants' activities influence one another. Together they affect the performance of the house as a whole.

Fireplaces, woodstoves and other fuel burning appliances require air for combustion. If there is not enough air, it is possible that the chimney or flue could backdraft or spill dangerous gases into the house. When wood is your fuel, the lack of air can cause harmful woodsmoke production - which is unburned fuel! In your chimney it forms creosote, a dangerous chimney-fire fuel.

Within your home, a competition for air can occur just from using common household appliances. A powerful kitchen ventilator, barbeque range, or even a clothes dryer vented to the outside can exhaust a lot of needed air from the house, leading to backdrafting.

Any change you make to your home can affect its "balance". Reducing air leakage is one change you may make so your home is more comfortable. But by making your home tighter, less air and moisture vapor can escape. Higher humidity levels and reduced fresh air for combustion may result. When controlling air leakage, you must consider the ventilation and combustion air needs of your whole house.

Check your home for signs of combustion air problems. Back-puffing of the appliance, unusual odors from your woodstove, difficulty starting or maintaining a fire, and frequent headaches or nausea may be signs there is a problem.

If you know for certain what the problem is, then one solution may be to remove or replace its source. If you're using a conventional woodstove, consider replacing it with an EPA or CSA-approved appliance that uses air and fuel much more efficiently.

The 'Season' of Wood

Heating with a woodstove seems pretty simple. Put your wood in the stove, light it, and it gives heat. But to ensure a safe, clean, and efficient fire, you need to burn the right fuel - dry, well - seasoned wood!

Wood sizzling in the stove is the most obvious sign your wood is too wet! And burning wet wood is a major safety hazard. It creates excessive smoke production leading to potential creosote problems in your chimney. In sufficient quantities, creosote becomes the highly combustible fuel for a chimney fire.

It takes soft wood at least four to six months for firewood to air-dry to an acceptable (less than 20 percent) moisture level. You'll be disappointed if you order your wood just before the cold hits, thinking it will dry outside during the winter. Very little drying takes place after October. You need the summer sun and breezes.

By properly seasoning your wood before you burn, you can reduce both wood-smoke production and creosote buildup. As a bonus, your firewood consumption can be reduced up to 25 per cent. Dry wood burns more efficiently, so less wood is needed for the same heat output. If not well-seasoned, a big part of your wood's heating value will be lost driving off excess water.

Very important is how you cut, and store your firewood. Cut your wood to length, and split it to the right size for your firebox. Smaller pieces burn cleaner because they have more surface area exposed to the flame.

Stack your wood in rows, not in rounded heaps. Allow airflow underneath by stacking your wood off the ground on poles or pallets. Leave about 6 inches between rows for air circulation. To keep the rain and snow off your wood, cover the top with a tarp or other material. Leave the sides exposed to the wind. If possible, stack your rows in a sunny location.

Remember, burn only well-seasoned wood. Never burn garbage treated or manufactured wood products (like cardboard), flyers, or plastics. They will cause wood-smoke production and often the emission of toxic chemicals.

Is Your Chimney 'Up to Snuff?'

When was the last time you had your chimney properly examined? Other than sweeping it once a year many people don't give much thought to their chimneys, especially to what is happening inside it.

When your woodstove fire is burned hot, mainly water and carbon dioxide are emitted from your chimney. With an inefficient fire, you can actually see and smell the unsafe wood smoke outside. But unseen inside the system, where any smoke leaving the woodstove flows up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation will occur.

The resulting residue that sticks to the chimney's inner walls is creosote, which is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky, tar-like, drippy and sticky, or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system.

Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities - and catches fire inside the chimney flue - the result will be a chimney fire. To ensure your chimney is "up to snuff", have it checked regularly by a Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) certified chimney sweep. Those certified professionals have passed a rigorous training program recognized by industry and government.

"WETT certified chimney sweeps are able to keep abreast of changes in codes, installation materials, and techniques through WETT's continuing education program," says Zigi Gadomski, "Burn it Smart" committee member and President of the Wood Energy Technicians British Columbia. "Two of the most important things they learn are proper venting principles, and the clearances required for chimney and hearth products."

Ensuring the efficiency of your chimney is paramount to providing the draft, which is the main driving force of the system. Without good, strong draft, many stoves fail to operate at their peak efficiencies. Produced in the chimney by hot rising gases, draft causes a negative pressure or suction to develop in the firebox. This draws more air in allowing the fire to continue burning.

Woodstoves depend on the draft generated by a hot chimney to safely exhaust gases resulting from the burning wood. Interior chimneys are highly recommended as they are always warm, so the draft is better and creosote problems are less likely to occur.

Checking out your woodstove Heating with wood is a wonderful way to keep warm during our cold and wet winters. But is your woodstove up to the task?

When you have a fire in your woodstove, check and see if there is dark or smelly smoke coming from the chimney. If so, then its combustion is inefficient and incomplete. When wood is burned at a high temperature with enough oxygen for complete combustion, virtually nothing but water and carbon dioxide is produced.

When you improve your woodstove's combustion efficiency, you automatically reduce wood smoke production.

Choosing your woodstove To heat efficiently with wood, start with a stove matched to your heating needs. Large stoves often overheat today's well insulated homes. Smaller stoves burn cleaner and use less fuel because of higher operating temperatures.

Look for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certification. EPA approved woodstoves include features designed to completely burn pollutants before they leave the firebox. They are not only more efficient than most older models, but can cut smoke emissions by as much as 90%! If your existing stove is more than 10 years old, then it may be time to replace it with a new advanced combustion unit meeting EPA / CSA standards.

Finding the right woodstove for you - When looking for an approved appliances, you have choices and it's important to find a stove that suits both your home and your lifestyle:

  1. Advanced combustion stoves use carefully designed fireboxes to optimize combustion. Features include baffles, preheated air supply and firebox insulation.
  2. Catalytic stoves (cats) route exhaust gases through a catalytic combustor, a ceramic honeycomb coated with a rare metal such as platinum or palladium. Cats burn cleaner and produce more heat, particularly under low fire conditions.
  3. Wood pellet stoves consume a manufactured fuel that is dry and easy to burn. Pellet stoves burn cleanly because the fuel/air mix can be carefully controlled over a wide range of heat outputs.

Installing Your Woodstove Safely

Wood burning stoves must be properly installed to be safe and efficient. Most importantly, ensure your installation contractor is WETT certified. Most property insurance companies require a WETT certified individual to do any repair or inspection work for them. A WETT certified installer will ensure the installation is to specification.

Nanaimo "Burn It Smart" is a partnership of the City of Nanaimo, the BC Ministry of Environment, the Wood Energy Technicians of BC and the BC Lung Association.

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