Caring for the Air – How Metro Vancouver’s Wood Stove Programs Reduce the Impact of Wood Smoke

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Modern units can reduce harmful particulate emissions compared to traditional stoves and fireplaces

Many people believe that wood smoke is natural and not harmful to breathe. Actually, wood smoke is made up of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and a mix of chemicals that can be hazardous to human health. Also, wood smoke is estimated to be the leading contributor of PM2.5 emissions in the region. To reduce the impacts of wood smoke on our air quality Metro Vancouver offers homeowners a cash incentive to upgrade their fireplace or wood stove.

Smoke from wood burning appliances has caused air quality concerns in many Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. To help reduce wood smoke emissions, Metro Vancouver has offered a wood stove exchange program since 2009. A rebate of $250 is available towards the replacement of a fireplace or uncertified wood stove with a newer low emission unit, including natural gas, propane or electric options.

One North Vancouver resident who changed out an old, uncertified insert in 2013 had this to say about the program, “The program requirements and rebate form are easy to understand. We save money in fuel costs because the old unit used to ‘gobble up’ the wood, whereas the new unit uses much less wood. If I can do it, then anybody can.”

345 exchanges have been made to date, resulting in ongoing PM2.5 reductions of approximately 6,000 kg each year. These are distributed across the 345 neighbourhoods in which the old wood burning appliances previously operated. This reduction is equivalent to taking 370 older heavy diesel trucks, or over 5,200 new, low emission trucks off the road. Replacing a fireplace or old uncertified unit with a natural gas unit or new wood burning appliance has several benefits:

  • At least a 70% reduction in PM2.5 pollution, and other contaminants, indoors and out
  • Increased energy efficiency, which saves you money, fuel and time
  • Reduction in creosote build-up in chimneys that helps to reduce the risk of fire.

To learn more about how to qualify for the Metro Vancouver woodstove exchange program please visit:

Please note that rebate funding is limited and will be issued to qualifying residents on a first come, first served basis. There are currently approximately 55 rebates available.

More Ways to Reduce Woodstove Particulate Emissions

Only Burn Seasoned Wood

Allowing air to circulate is the key to a good wood pile. Photographer: Caroline Steinhauer

Freshly cut softwood can contain up to 60% water. For the most efficient, cleanest burning, firewood needs to be dried (seasoned) to below 20% moisture content. Wood dries through its exposed grain surfaces, so even trees that have been lying dead for a long period will need to be cut to length and split to dry fully in the middle. Dry, well-seasoned cordwood wood burns hotter, cuts fuel consumption, and reduces the amount of smoke and particulate matter your appliance produces.

How long it takes to adequately season your firewood depends on the kind of wood you are using, and how it is stored. Softwood that is split and stacked, takes 4-6 summer months to dry to an acceptable moisture level. Hardwoods take at least 12 months to dry after being split and stacked. To season your wood, stack it on lumber rails or pallets to keep it off moist ground. Cover the top of the pile with tarps, metal or wood sheathing, but leave the sides open to allow air to circulate.

Typical BC Softwoods

Typical BC Hardwoods
Cedar Alder
Fir Aspen
Hemlock Birch
Pine Maple

How to tell if your wood is dry enough to use:

  • dry wood is much in lighter in weight
  • the ends have visible cracks
  • it ignites and burns easily without smouldering or making hissing sounds
  • two dry pieces of wood banged together sound hollow whereas wet pieces banged together sound solid and dull
  • use a moisture meter to measure the water content of a freshly exposed surface
Choose When to Use Your Woodstove

Beginning in October and running until March, the residential wood burning smoke forecast will advise people whether smoke from their chimneys is more or less likely to cause pollution. Call 604-436-6777 for daily updates on whether wood smoke is likely to build up in your neighbourhood.

Attend a Wood Heat Workshop

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In November, Metro Vancouver will be hosting a wood heat workshop. Anyone can attend and admission is free! Workshop attendees will learn a variety of techniques for optimal wood heating practices including:

  • planning, installing and maintaining a wood heating system
  • smart burning techniques to maximize efficiency and minimize smoke emissions
  • wood heat options
  • firewood preparation

You can even bring a piece of wood from your woodpile and we will test it for moisture content! The workshop takes place on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm at the Maple Ridge Fire Hall No. 1 – 22708 Brown Avenue, Maple Ridge. For registration information please contact Grace Cockle at 604-436-6722 or

Google Map link

Want to learn more about Metro Vancouver initiatives? Check out our new and improved Video Gallery. You can browse hundreds of videos on topics of interest to Metro Vancouver residents, including our popular events such as the Sustainability Breakfasts and Zero Waste Conference (#ZWC2015). 


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