B.C. Air Quality

Wood-Burning Appliances

Wood has been used in B.C. as a heating fuel for a long time. It can be an effective and economical way to heat your home as long as you choose the right appliance for the function and know how to operate it properly. However, inefficient wood stoves and fireplaces, and improper burning, can result in a lot of smoke pouring out the chimney and into your neighbourhood.

To make matters worse, people often try to make their final load of fuel last all night by damping the air supply as much as possible. The result is a smouldering fire and a great deal of smoke with all its pollutants. This harmful smoke tends to linger near its source, rather than dispersing outwards or upwards. It has the greatest impact near or even inside the homes that produce it. The worst impacts of wood smoke can be avoided by following clean-burning practices and by using clean-burning wood stoves that meet the emissions standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Residential wood heating is a significant source of particulate matter (PM) emissions in British Columbia, accounting for approximately 15% of B.C.'s total PM emissions. Wood smoke from stoves is a particular concern as the emissions happen close to ground level in the communities where people live work and play. That means these emissions are more likely to be inhaled than emissions from a tall stack in an industrial area. See Air Quality and Your Health for information on the health impacts of particulate matter.

B.C.'s Solid Fuel Burning Domestic Appliance Regulation requires that wood stoves sold in the province after November 1, 1994 meet particulate-matter emission limits equivalent to the U.S. EPA wood stove standards. The regulation also specifies labeling and testing requirements for wood stoves.

The Ministry of Health Services and the Ministry of Environment are reviewing and revising this regulation. For more information, and to view the ministries’ policy intentions paper, see Proposed Changes to the Solid Fuel Burning Domestic Appliance Regulation.

Environment Canada has created a Model Municipal Bylaw for Regulating Wood Burning Appliances (PDF: 798 KB/51 pages). It is intended to help municipalities establish a bylaw on wood-burning appliances in areas where these appliances are causing significant air quality problems.

In 2012 the Ministry of Environment commissioned a survey on the prevalence and use of wood burning appliances in BC. Information from that survey was used to calculate an inventory of air pollutants emitted from residential wood burning in BC. Estimated emissions are available for the province as a whole and for many individual communities.

See Types of Wood-Burning Appliances for information on wood stoves and fireplace inserts, outdoor fireplaces and chimineas, and outdoor wood-fired hydronic heaters (boilers).

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