Wood smoke: What you can do

Whether you burn wood to heat your home, or for recreation with friends and family, you can reduce harmful wood smoke and save money by following these easy tips:

Avoid burning on bad air days

Avoid burning wood during air quality alerts. Sign up for e-mail notification of air pollution health alerts on the MPCA Air Quality Index webpage or download the Minnesota Air app. 

Only burn dry, well-seasoned wood

Not all wood burns the same. Dry, well-seasoned wood burns better, smokes less, and saves you time and money. Use a moisture meter to determine if wood is dry!  

How to get dry wood

  1. Buy it from a reputable wood dealer who sells properly seasoned wood. Test the moisture to be sure it is dry.   
  2. If you cut your own wood, split it so it can dry.  Stack it and only cover the top so the air can flow through it. Give it time to dry to less than 20% moisture. Drying time can be six months or more than a year depending on the climate and conditions. Some fresh cut wood, like oak, can be more than half water! It can take years to season unsplit logs.  Learn more about the four steps for drying firewood 
  3. Learn more about wood moisture 
  4. Protect your wood by building a wood shed 

Only burn clean, untreated wood

Never burn green wood, wet wood, plywood or particle board (any wood with glue in it), treated wood, plastics, garbage, colored newsprint or magazines, or pesticide-treated seed. These materials may release hazardous air pollutants like heavy metals and other toxics that are harmful to your health and the environment. Moreover, burning garbage or waste material is illegal. Stoves are designed to burn dry wood - burning other materials can also quickly degrade the integrity of your stove.

Maintain your appliance and chimney

Creosote can build up in flues and chimneys causing more smoke to enter your home. Excessive creosote can catch fire. Have all combustion appliances cleaned and inspected once a year.

  • Make sure all flues, chimneys, and exhaust vent pipes are properly connected, in good condition and remain unobstructed.
  • Make sure combustion appliances (fuel-burning) are installed and working in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions or guidelines. Appliances need adequate air supply and venting to the outdoors
  • Find a chimney sweep. The Alliance for Green Heat recommends a Certified Chimney Sweep by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and that have good ratings from their customers. For stove installation, look for National Fireplace Institute (NFI).

Burn cleaner

Convert to a cleaner burning wood appliance. All wood stoves sold are required to meet EPA certification standards. As a consumer, it pays to check and compare the listed emissions of stoves that you are considering; often the lowest-polluting stove is also the most efficient, meaning that they provide more heat per cord of wood. Only purchase EPA-certified appliances. EPA maintains the current lists of EPA-certified wood-fired room heater models such as woodstoves, fireplace inserts and heating fireplaces, and for central heaters such as hydronic heaters and forced-air furnaces.

Before installing wood burning equipment, determine if any township, city, or county restrictions apply, including building codes, setback requirements, zoning requirements and fire codes.  Cities, counties or townships may have specific restrictions on residential wood heating or recreational burning.  See these examples of local ordinances for wood boilers (hydronic heaters).