What can I do to improve air quality?

  • Reduce wood smoke in your home
  • Reduce vehicle idling

  1. Reduce wood smoke in your home

    Improve the air quality in and outside your home by following these tips for burning wood:

    • Preheat your chimney before starting a full fire by using a small kindling fire. This allows for better air circulation and combustion.
    • Burn only seasoned, dry, split wood. To properly season wood, it should be cut, split and stacked in a covered area for 6 to 12 months (including the summer months) before burning.
    • Never burn green, wet, treated or painted wood, garbage, plastic, cardboard or glossy or bleached paper. Doing so releases toxic emissions inside and outside of your home.
    • Remember that fire needs oxygen. A clean and efficient burn requires ample air flow, so don’t overload your stove and don’t damp it down too much. Smouldering fires produce more pollutants because the wood is not being combusted completely.
    • Running a hot fire for 10 to 15 minutes after each refuelling will help the wood burn better and will produce more heat for the amount of wood you use.
    • Gradually reduce the air supply after starting or feeding a fire. A sudden reduction can make the fire smoulder until it recovers. This results in a lot of smoke.
    • Check the chimney for creosote build-up. A build-up of creosote might mean that your fires are not as efficient as they should be. Have your chimney cleaned regularly to prevent a chimney fire.
    • See Environment and Climate Change Canada's wood heating tips or the United States Environmental Protection Agency Burn Wise information for more.

    Install an efficient wood stove

    • The most important thing you can do to reduce pollution from your wood stove is to install an efficient one. Check that it meets current standards set by the Canadian Standards Association or the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    • EPA approved woodstoves employ some simple technologies that allow smoke to be combusted prior to leaving through the chimney, resulting in a reduction of up to 98% of the pollutants that come from your stove and an increase in efficiency of up to 38%. That’s up to 38% less cutting, bucking, hauling, stacking and splitting or 38% less that you pay for wood.
    • Replace your existing woodstove with either a new EPA approved woodstove or a clean burning ULC approved pellet stove and you’ll qualify for a rebate of $300 to $800.
    • See Natural Resource Canada's Guide to residential wood heating for more information.

  2. Reduce vehicle idling
    • More than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel and produces more carbon dioxide than turning off your engine and restarting it.
    • Modern vehicles only need a maximum of 30 seconds of idling at start up. This is true to temperatures as cold as -30°C.
    • Idling for more than 30 seconds (except on extremely cold days when the oil is really thick), may harm your engine. An idling engine isn't operating at its peak temperature. This means the fuel doesn't undergo complete combustion. This leaves fuel residues that can condense on cylinder walls and contaminate oil and damage engine parts.
    • Idling only warms the engine. It doesn't warm the wheel bearings, steering, suspension, transmission or tires. The only way to warm these parts is to drive the vehicle.


    You can help improve air quality by following these tips for warming up your vehicle:

    • Temperatures warmer than -30°C: warm the engine for a maximum of 30 seconds. Your engine will be warm enough to drive by the time you scrape your windows.
    • Temperatures colder than -30°C: warm the engine for a maximum of 3 minutes.
    • Make sure windows are free from snow and properly defrosted before driving away.
    • Drive slowly for the first 5 kilometres until the engine is warm.
    • Avoid using a remote car starter above -10 °C.
    • Having a block heater, oil pan heater and battery blanket ensures the fluids in your vehicle are ready to go when you are. Always keep an eye on the engine temperature to make sure it doesn’t overheat.
    • Install a power saver cord to cycle the power to your block heater only when needed. This will save up to 60% of your vehicle plug-in costs.


    You can also try these activities to reduce idling and save fuel:

    • Avoid the drive-thru. Save gas and pollute less by going inside for your order.
    • If you are driving around doing errands, turn off your engine for all stops longer than 10 seconds.