With colder weather prompting increased use of woodstoves and fireplaces
in homes across the state, the Department of Environmental Protection is reminding New Jersey
residents to exercise caution and consideration of fellow residents and the environment when burning
wood for heat.
“Homeowners who have fireplaces or woodstoves should find an abundance of wood available this
year as many trees were downed or removed after Superstorm Sandy,” said DEP Assistant
Commissioner of Environmental management Jane Kozinski. “But it’s important to remember that
wood smoke does contain pollutants and there are steps you can take to minimize your impact on the
environment, on your neighbor’s air quality and your own safety.”
Wood smoke contains fine particles that can contribute to air pollution. But by following a few key
steps, in concert with having a properly installed and maintained woodstove or fireplace, residents
can greatly reduce or eliminate smoke while burning wood.
The DEP recommends the following guidelines:
Allow wood to season for at least six months before burning it, meaning the wood should sit
outdoors for at least this period of time. Seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain
and sounds hollow when smacked against another piece of wood. Wood gathered after
Superstorm Sandy is most likely dry enough now for proper burning but the longer the wood
sits before burning, the better that the wood will burn, provided it is stored in a dry place.
Use a wood moisture meter to test the moisture content of wood. Wood burns most efficiently
when its moisture content is below 20 percent.
Store wood, stacked neatly off the ground with the top covered to avoid rainwater.
Start fires with newspaper and dry kindling and keep them burning hot.
Regularly remove ashes to ensure proper airflow.
Never burn garbage, cardboard, plastics, wrapping materials, painted materials or other
materials in your stove or fireplace.
Remember to keep anything flammable - including drapes, furniture, newspapers and books -
far away from any wood-burning appliance. Keep an accessible and recently inspected fire
The DEP also urges residents to check local air quality at http://www.njaqinow.net prior to burning
wood and to consider other heating alternatives on days the air quality is unhealthy.
State regulations and some municipal ordinances prohibit the emission of visible smoke from outdoor wood boilers. These boilers heat a fluid that is circulated in homes and buildings for heating purposes. Under state regulations, these boilers may only emit visible smoke for three minutes every half-hour to allow for fire-starting.
In deciding how to heat your home this winter and reduce your exposure to fine particles from wood smoke, DEP recommends upgrading to an Environmental Protection Authority-certified wood stove or fireplace insert. The newer equipment will reduce air pollution and is much more energy efficient.
For more information on wood burning in New Jersey, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/baqp/woodburning.html