The impact of wood burning stoves on air pollution

The impact of wood burning stoves on air pollution

What we have to say…

Recently, we have read a few articles about wood burning stoves and their impact on air pollution. Following the development of various research projects, we can see it is difficult for scientists to cover in their studies, the wide variety of issues that can have an impact on air pollution, with a particular focus on the effective and efficient use of stoves and boilers. We saw a need to bring together their unique and focused projects and look at the bigger picture. This is one of the main reasons HETAS, with others, commissioned a study to bring together the results of numerous quality research projects. These covered the use of fuels, appliances, and user behaviour. This review concluded, there are good ways to reduce the environmental impact of using solid fuels, but there are also practices that must be avoided.   

We are very pleased that burning dry wood, with a moisture content of 20% or less, greatly reduces particulate emissions. Simple lab studies have shown wet wood emits 5 times the particulates of dry wood under similar test conditions.   

Addressing concern…

One recent report suggested that a health warning should accompany wood burning and solid fuel stoves. This was picked up by Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership, who urged people to stop burning solid fuel. Some articles that quoted the charity, attribute 38% of outdoor particulate pollution to domestic burning. This is a figure that was published in The Clean Air Strategy 2019 and we can understand the concern. A more detailed look at this figure reveals that research on domestic burning included agricultural burning, particulates from abroad, commercial catering, bonfires and BBQs alongside domestic residential stoves and biomass boilers. Having a better understanding of the terms used in these extensive reports reduces concern considerably. Our recent scientific review covers this issue in more detail.   

We believe further accurate research is needed to understand the impact of wood burners on air pollution in residential properties. We have detailed some simple steps that you can take as a consumer, to reduce your impact of indoor and outdoor air pollution.  

What can you do?  

  • Choose an energy efficient stove – Ecodesign Compliant  
  • Use the right fuel – labelled Ready to Burn for both wood and manufactured solid fuel  
  • Regular servicing and sweeping – 40% of chimney fires take place between January and March  
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for refuelling 

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