Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Wood Burning and the Environment

Jotul Oslo stove installed in Vermont. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Sun, Brattleboro, VT

Jotul Oslo stove installed in Vermont.
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Sun, Brattleboro, VT

Burning wood produces environmental impacts. These impacts are reduced considerably when done responsibly.

Responsible wood heating should be defended from criticism that it is bad for the environment. In fact it should be promoted on environmental grounds.

When we talk about the impact of wood burning on the environment we should consider three distinct forms of impact: smoke pollution outdoors, indoor air pollution, and the impact on the health of the forest.

Despite these three different forms of impact, being responsible is not such a complicated task. Responsible wood heating is so straightforward that its main requirements can be stated in a single sentence, like this one:

Burn sustainably harvested, properly processed and seasoned fuel in an advanced combustion stove or fireplace that is vented through a chimney that runs straight up through the building.

It sounds so simple, but as you can imagine, there are some complex issues and layers of meaning under the surface of the words. Here is a brief explanation.

Properly processed wood is cut to the correct length and split to the correct range of sizes for the appliance. Having wood the right length and range of size makes it easy to build good, clean burning fires. Owners should consult their appliances’ manuals or get expert help at authorized dealerships.

Properly seasoned fuel is split and stacked in an area open to sun and wind for between six and twelve months, depending on how hard the wood is, how large the pieces are and how dry the climate is. You cannot burn without smoke if you are using wet wood.

Sustainable harvesting involves selective, uneven age cutting so that an acceptable level of biomass and biodiversity is maintained permanently on the site.

Advanced combustion stoves and fireplaces burn wood about 90% cleaner and one-third more efficiently than older conventional appliances. That means a lot less smoke outside and lower forest impacts because less wood is used. And there is a bonus: the same advanced appliance characteristics that result in lower outdoor emissions also lower the likelihood or tendency that smoke will spill inside the house.

The chimney should run inside the house, because if it runs up an outside wall, there is a good chance that smoke, odors and cold air will flow backwards into the house, polluting the indoor air. In any case chimneys with other combustion appliances and wood-burning units should not share the same flues; the exhaust of different appliances should never be mixed, due to safety reasons.

Although there has been a tradition in rural areas of burning garbage in backyard barrels and in wood burning heaters, it is now apparent that when you burn garbage, you’re making poison. Backyard garbage-burning is usually illegal to do and burning garbage in modern wood burning appliances can often be damaging.

We should all be working towards environmentally appropriate wood heating. Please promote responsible wood heating in your community.

You will find several articles on the environmental impacts of wood heating at



A full list of EPA certified wood and pellet stoves can be found at:

Tax Credit for Wood or Pellet Stoves Expires End of 2016!

The federal tax credit for purchasing a qualified 75% efficient wood or pellet stove runs through to December 31, 2016. The credit covers 10% of the purchase and installation cost, capped at $300. Learn more about this at

Incentives to replace wood stoves within all areas of EPA can be found at:

Current Change-out Programs and Financial Incentives. The full list with updates can be found at


Efficiency Maine Residential Home Energy Savings Program

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Residents of Maine
  • Rebate: $500 for qualifying wood and pellet stoves; $5,000 for qualifying pellet boilers

Efficiency Maine Low-Interest Loans Program

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Residents of Maine
  • Loan: Varying loan amounts for qualifying wood and pellet stoves, pellet boilers and furnaces

Rumford River Valley Changeout

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Homeowners residing in Andover, Byron, Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Farmington, Hanover, Peru, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford, and Wilton
  • Rebate: $1,000 for Rumford River Valley residents


Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC)

  • Program Duration: Program now closed, but will likely return in 2017
  • Eligibility: Homeowners of Massachusetts
  • Rebate: Standard Rebate between $500 and $1,500; Low-Income Rebate between $1,500 and $2,500

New Hampshire

Cheshire County, NH American Lung Association Wood Stove Change-out Program

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Homeowners residing in Cheshire County, NH
  • Rebate: $1,000 for Rumford River Valley residents; $300 to $1,500 for Cheshire County residents; $3,000 for low-income residents of Cheshire County

New York

New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) Pellet Stove Incentive Program

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Residents of New York state
  • Rebate: $1,500 rebate; low-income residents $1,500 to $2,500

ReHome New York Home Energy Loan Program

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Homeowners in New York (credit check required)
  • Loan: Low-interest loan to purchase and install an EPA-certified wood stove, fireplace, or insert or an EPA-certified pellet stove or fireplace insert


Efficiency Vermont Rebate Program for Purchasing a Central Pellet Boiler System

  • Program Duration: Through end of 2015 (may be continued in 2016)
  • Eligibility: Residents of Vermont
  • Rebate: $2,000 for purchasing a qualifying wood pellet boiler and $2,500 cash back available from the Clean Energy Development Fund

Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) Small Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program for Advanced Wood Pellet Heating Systems

  • Program Duration: Ongoing
  • Eligibility: Residents of Vermont
  • Rebate: $2,500 per unit; $5,000 total per customer for purchasing a qualifying wood pellet heating system


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