We can all do more to tackle air pollution, says HETAS CEO

Response to chief medical officer’s report on air pollution
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In the chief medical officer’s annual report on air pollution (published Thursday 8 December 2022), Sir Chris Whitty has cited solid fuels as being by far the most polluting method of domestic heating within England.

Acknowledging the rising popularity of wood burning over recent years due to “aesthetic… practical, ecological or [now, more than ever,] economic reasons[1]”, the government report lays out the best ways to approach solid fuel domestic heating where its use cannot be avoided.

HETAS, the leading biomass and solid fuel heating organisation, is one of the contributors to the report. The not-for-profit organisation can vouch for the unprecedented demand for solid fuel heating currently, with its website recently reaching peak traffic levels surpassing 500,000 users as consumers seek out new or alternative ways to keep warm this winter without breaking the bank.

Bruce Allen, chief executive officer for HETAS and Woodsure, comments:

The crucial takeaway from Chris Whitty’s report for us is that almost one third (32%) of those interviewed for the report had either recently burned wet wood or were unaware of the correct wood seasoning requirements for efficient and cleaner burning. This means that an alarming proportion of solid fuel users may be causing unnecessary pollutants to be emitted from their home appliances.

“Dry or seasoned wood (with a moisture content of up to 20%) emits 7.21g per tonne of PM2.5 emissions when burned. But this figure quadruples to 28.87g per tonne when the wood is wet[2]. If more people burned better by simply switching to the right fuel or by using an efficient appliance, we could dramatically reduce harmful emissions and ultimately do much better by our planet.

“The domestic burning sector is of course aware that solid fuel appliances emit harmful pollutants. But with around 70% of UK housing stock said to be unsuitable for heat pumps, homeowners need to rely on a combination of complementary heat sources until truly green heating innovations become mainstream and financially viable.

“Part of our job as a not-for-profit industry organisation is providing help and guidance to promote appliances which meet performance limits for low emissions, and to raise awareness of ways to burn fuel as efficiently, cleanly and sustainably as possible where fires and stoves are the solution chosen by the home or business owners.

“We all breathe the same air; and while we agree that the industry undoubtedly must do more to tackle air pollution, consumers must take action too to make cleaner, safer choices when it comes to solid fuel. Our advice to consumers covers three main points:

  1. When installing a new heating appliance, opt for DEFRA-listed stoves or burners certified by the Cleaner Choice Scheme which achieve 50% lower PM5 emissions
  2. When choosing fuels, look for the ‘Ready to Burn’ label – a DEFRA certification (administered by HETAS and Woodsure), guaranteeing the cleanest fuels for burning at home
  3. Don’t skimp on annual sweeping or servicing; a well-maintained appliance will burn more cleanly, efficiently and safely

For more information about cleaner, safer choices for solid fuel use within the home, visit our Advice hub or the Woodsure website.


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