Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) hosted its 8th annual wood stove and home heating event on April 22nd. The event started at 11 am, beginning with the district staff introductions with Mikki Brown, Targeted Airshed Grant Program Specialist, and Julie Julie Hunter, Air Pollution Control Specialist. They explained that the Portola area itself is the airshed grant program due to the air quality that has been reported in the area.
They expressed that the high percentage of particles per million (PPM) and the average for the area is around 2.5% causing lung and health problems. 99% of that particulate matter is caused by wood stoves, but WHY?
Particulate matter is the principal pollutant of concern for smoke. It is a generic term for particles suspended in the air, typically as a mixture of both solid particles and liquid droplets. The characteristics, sources, and potential health effects of particulate matter depend on its source, the season, and atmospheric conditions. The size of the particles affects their potential to cause health effects.
NSAQMD’s goal is to protect public health, and this informative workshop sought to educate residents about simple methods they can use to reduce hazardous smoke emissions, as well as heating alternatives like heat pumps.
The first speaker was Shannon Reyna with Travis Industries. She spoke about how “good heat is smokeless heat and about EPA-certified stoves. She mentioned considerations about the issues of wood moisture and stressed the importance of proper operation of EPA-certified stoves.
She explained the intricacies of how to dry wood, and the proper moisture level is considered to be around 18-20% moisture. Splitting wood is the best way to make sure it dries properly and as quickly as possible. It is also important when testing a log with a moisture meter to test it in the center of the piece of wood instead of the end. When wood is split it has more of a surface area and can dry faster.
The importance of this is that instead of creating steam in a fireplace from moist wood, you need to create smoke and gasses as fuel instead to get a clean burn. EPA-certified stoves have air controls and need to get up to temp to burn clean. It is important to establish a good bed of coals for the first fire, and every time you clean it out.
It’s also important to make sure the door gasket is sealing well and it may need to be replaced after a few years of use. Make sure the door is latched properly and sealed. Sweep your chimney annually, and if you see smoke from your chimney it’s important that you contact your dealer to find the details on why it’s not burning clean.
Chris Neufeld, Vice President of Blaze King, flew in from Walla Walla Washington to be able to speak at the event. He has been with blaze king for over 25 years and is incredibly knowledgeable about wood stoves.
He made a point to have at least a two-year supply of wood and if you are considering a wood stove for a heat source to have the proper space and woodshed for storage of the wood. He stressed the importance that the chimney creates the fuel through airflow, and pulls the air in, to create a hot, clean burning fire. The chimney needs to be able to pull enough air and the length of the chimney can make all the difference affecting a fire.
He elaborated on the science behind specific gravity and how the denser wood, the more fuel, and energy that is created, causing a hotter fire. He also mentioned that to create a coal bed, not build it from a full load. Neufeld also mentioned how to address excessive drafts that can cause smoke fluctuations with outside weather, and not to open a window if you have smoke accumulating in your living room because the particulate matter outside from the chimney will come back into the house.
The next speaker was Jason with Heat Transfers Systems. He demonstrated the heat pump units that his company offers. He had units on display and elaborated on the technicalities of operation and different zones in units as well as the wattage required for houses. There are floor, ceiling, wall, and cabinet units and different sizes to accommodate different houses. The units are remote-controlled and can connect to Wi-Fi.
Mikki also mentioned the importance of indoor and outdoor air quality monitors and the “PAKU” app that you can download to get local air quality reports.
Food and refreshments were served, and all the companies had booths displaying their products. There were raffle prizes, display information, and Bio Block firewood bricks handed out. Thank you NSAQMD for hosting such an informative event!