On Monday I blogged about ways you can winterize your home to reduce heating bills. One commenter uses free wood in a woodburner to reduce utility bills.

That reminded me of a news release from the UW Extension Service. It said that Wisconsin is a leader in use of wood-fired boilers and that this trend is expected to continue because wood is a renewable energy source that can be cheaper than gas, oil or electricity. Using an outdoor boiler puts the fire hazard outside the home and also keeps wood storage and handling outside.

With boilers, however, come concerns. Nuisance and health complaints rise with the smoke from these boilers. And tests of pre-2008 boilers by the Environmental Protection Agency found they average only about 40 percent in energy efficiency.

If these boilers are improperly located or operated, or too many are grouped in a small area, they can pose conflicts with neighbors. This is particularly true if wood smoke is excessive or the smoke affects someone’s health.

State health workers report that chronic smoke exposure can cause respiratory irritation, sinus problems or headaches. People sensitive to lung or heart conditions are more at risk.

The UW Extension urges boiler operators to only add wood when there’s demand for heat, only add enough wood to heat for the next 8 to 12 hours or less to reduce emissions, use only dry wood and no trash or other materials and to keep in mind that poor locations, smoke stacks that are too short or weather conditions can prevent smoke from dispersing.

If neighbors can’t discuss and work out concerns, the UW Extension urges residents to call their local health department. For questions about health effects of smoke emissions, contact Rob Thiboldeaux at the state Department of Health Services at (608) 267-6844 or Robert.thiboldeaux@wi.gov.

Are emissions from burning wood a problem in your neck of Wisconsin?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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