Fire it up right!

How to build a clean-burning fire in your wood heater

During the public discussion lately about the harmful health impacts of wood smoke, many people have noted the importance of knowing how to build a clean-burning fire. Many people simply don’t know how to operate a wood heater effectively, they say.

Well, listen up. Here’s the drill:

• Use only seasoned, dry hardwood (oak and almond are best) that has been split properly.

• Start fires with clean newspaper and dry kindling and burn hot, bright fires.

• Don’t close the dampers until you’ve built up a sizeable bed of coals.

• Let the fires burn down to coals, then rake the coals toward the air inlet (the door), creating a mound.

• Reload the heater by adding at least three pieces of wood on or behind the coals.

• Use smaller fires in milder weather.

Wood smoke is toxic. For relatively guilt-free burning, purchase an EPA-certified, advanced-technology wood heater and have it professionally installed. It will heat much more efficiently than your old heater, emit far less smoke and produce more heat with less wood.