Do Wood-Burning Stoves Pollute the Air?

A wood-burning stove is an energy-efficient appliance, making it an excellent heating option for many families. Not only does it offer warmth and comfort, but it’s also a remarkable decorative statement that can transform a home's ambiance. But as with any other appliance, it has disadvantages.

Wood-burning stoves pose numerous health concerns due to the fine particles they release into the air. So, apart from consistent upkeep and maintenance, you must routinely deal with indoor air pollution and learn how to limit your exposure to the particulate matter it releases. 

An air purifier with a HEPA filter can help bring healthy, fresh air back into the room without losing a wood-burning stove's warmth and timeless vibe. 

Wait, What is a Wood-Burning Stove? 

A wood-burning stove generates heat indoors by burning wood in a controlled space. It has no electrical components and needs to be manually operated to function well. Usually made of steel, stone, or cast iron, these heating appliances are composed of pre-fabricated materials such as a baffle, dampers, and chimneys. 


There are two primary types of wood stoves: catalytic and non-catalytic. The latter is more expensive because it uses platinum and other valuable metals to burn wood. Wood-burning stoves look traditional, but models from decades ago differ from modern units sold today. 

Wood stove manufacturers have reinforced new combustion technologies and innovations throughout the years to meet the strict protocols set by the EPA. The EPA develops and implements rules to protect human and environmental health. They ensure that wood-burning appliances utilize better heating technology in compliance with Clean Air Act standards. 

EPA-certified wood stove models are twice as energy-efficient as traditional fireplaces, requiring less firewood and creating fewer emissions. 

How Does a Wood-Burning Stove Heat a House?

Different models and types of stoves work in their own ways. Typically, you need to ignite the kindling (material that helps get a fire going, like newspapers) in the firebox, the central area in the stove where the heat and firewood are contained. This space is surrounded by fireproof walls, with air vents to allow the wood to burn gradually and properly. 


Fire burning in a wood-burning stove


When the vents are opened, the wood burns faster, and more heat is produced due to the increase in airflow. Air vents vary per model. Some are adjustable, so you can take advantage of this feature to control the airflow. Keep the vents partially opened to manage the air inside and ensure that wood burns slowly and efficiently at a lower temperature. 

The wood remains enclosed for a long time, allowing secondary combustion or gasses burning at the higher part of the firebox to generate more heat with fewer emissions. 

How Wood-Burning Stoves Can Pollute the Air in Your Home

It might all seem harmless enough, but there is definitely a downside to using a wood-burning stove.

Wood-burning stoves are highly efficient yet can cause health issues by releasing fine particles into the air. Fumes from heating appliances are just as dangerous as cigarette smoke. They are filled with toxic substances like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, benzene, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds

These tiny contaminants can penetrate our lungs and blood vessels and cause serious illnesses. They can trigger coughing, asthma attacks, chronic bronchitis, stroke, and congestive heart failure, among other health problems. These microscopic elements also contain carcinogens associated with premature births and cancer. 

Then, there’s the dust. Technically, it’s ash that these stoves release. However, it combines with the other dust particles in your home and leads to a big mess. While it might seem harmless, dust can actually be dangerous to your health. These particles can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. But more concerning is dust particles that are small enough to penetrate your lungs and get into your bloodstream.

Long-term exposure to the dust from your stove is an even bigger matter to deal with. It can lead to respiratory infections, bronchitis, and even lung cancer. If you deal with allergies, asthma, emphysema, or chronic obstructive airway disease, you’re more susceptible. 

Anyone is at risk of the harmful effects of wood smoke, but children, elders, smokers, and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable. For example, people with respiratory issues may experience worsening symptoms, including wheezing and shortness of breath. Furthermore, inhaling wood smoke may cause those with heart diseases to suffer from chest pains, high blood pressure, and fatigue.

Clean the Air in Your Home

If parting ways with your stove isn’t an option, then it helps to become more proactive in limiting the damage it causes. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce indoor air pollution while still enjoying the warmth and efficiency of wood-burning stoves. 


Man burning wood in a stove


A wood stove's safety and efficiency depend on many factors, including the wood used, installation, and model design. Properly installed, EPA-certified wood-burning stoves produce less creosote build-up and smoke leakage. 

Choose a newer model and install it correctly (with timely maintenance) to limit exposure to harmful fumes and easily take safety precautions. The efficiency of wood-burning stoves can be further improved by using firewood with 15% and 20% moisture content, as recommended by the EPA. 

Use an Air Purifier to Improve Indoor Air Quality

You should also follow certain safety tips to protect yourself and your family from particle pollution. Don’t forget to remove the ashes regularly and use a covered metal container when taking them outdoors. Keep the stove doors closed when you’re not cleaning the ashes or tending to the fire. In addition, make sure that you have a fire alarm and that your home has proper ventilation. 

And importantly, invest in a high-quality device that can cleanse indoor air. An air purifier with a HEPA filtration system can filter out air contaminants as small as 0.3 microns and push clean air back into the room. We recommend you opt for a replaceable filter and not a washable one. Handling a washable filter that’s full of contaminants only exposes you to them, jeopardizing your health. Plus, it’s incredibly difficult to even get them clean!

In the winter when you’re running your stove more often, you’re going to notice an increase in dust and ash in your home. If necessary, you can let the purifier run throughout the day, and it should alert you when it’s time to change the filter.

The Sans air purifier works with three layers of protection: a pre-filter, a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter, and finally, an activated carbon filter. It ends with pulses of UV-C light, to provide unparalleled air purification. Shop with us today and breathe the difference.