2010 April 17: AK Fairbanks: April 20 & 21 open house on wood burning inthe Interior: Q: A lot of the problems with burning wood have to do with moisture content. Tell me more about that.

2010 April 17: AK Fairbanks: April 20 & 21 open house on wood burning inthe Interior: Q: A lot of the problems with burning wood have to do with moisture content. Tell me more about that.

The higher the moisture levels in the wood, the more heat energy is going to be required to turn that moisture into water vapor so it can exit the wood and allow it to burn. Essentially, burning wet wood or fresh-cut “green” wood is wasting energy because the fire is not burning hot enough and creates more combustion byproducts while trying to get rid of moisture. The end result is creosote and ash that can build up in your stove and stovepipe. In addition, because the wood is not burning completely, the smoke it creates has a higher amount of fine particulate material known as PM 2.5, which can be hazardous to health.

To combat moisture, wood must be dried sufficiently. Wood should be split, stacked and covered in the summer months so that it is ready when needed. A woodpile should be protected from precipitation, but the sides should remain exposed to allow the stack to continue drying. A moisture content of 20 percent or less is ideal. Green birch and aspen can contain up to 80 percent moisture by weight. The inefficiency of burning anything more than 20 percent moisture leads to progressive increases in creosote and particulates.

If you want the full story on wood-burning in the Interior, along with a wealth of information regarding proper burning techniques, the Fairbanks North Star Borough is putting on two open houses on wood burning and PM 2.5 next week.

The open houses take place Tuesday at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor’s Center and Wednesday at the North Pole Middle School cafeteria.

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org. You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

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