Wood-burning stoves have gained in popularity over recent years but the smoke from burning causes air pollution which is harmful to our health and can cause breathing problems, including asthma attacks.
If you are thinking of buying a stove then consider purchasing one that has a Defra exemption permitting its use in smoke control areas, or an Ecodesign Ready stove as these have been rigorously tested and have low smoke emissions. Stoves which have not undergone these tests do not carry this assurance.
If you do need to use a wood-burning stove there are some ways you can help to reduce their environmental and health impacts.
Buy 'Ready to Burn' fuel
Look for the 'woodsure ready to burn' logo as this identifies good quality dry wood when looking for fuel to burn immediately.
Season freshly chopped wood before burning
Although it may be cheaper, wet or unseasoned wood (often sold in nets) must be dried before burning. Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burned. As well as potentially damaging your stove and chimney it is also much less effective at heating your home.
Use approved solid fuels instead of 'house-coal'
These produce less smoke when burned and are also more efficient so cost you less to heat your home.
You can find a list of approved fuels on the Defra website.
Do not burn treated waste wood or household rubbish
This is because treated waste wood and household rubbish, including old furniture, pallets or fence panels, can emit harmful fumes and toxic chemicals (such as arsenic) into your home when burned.
Good maintenance of your stove will help you to reduce smoke and carbon monoxide and ensure it runs to its optimum efficiency and safety.
Regularly maintain and service your stove (annually)
Get your stove checked regularly to keep it working at its best as it will also generate more heat from what you burn. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines on how to operate your stove and only burn the permitted fuels.
Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year)
Using your stove will cause soot and tar to build up in the chimney. As well as reducing the efficiency of your stove it can also increase the risk of chimney fires. Use a qualified chimney sweep (they can also give you advice on good burning practices).
Help reduce the harmful effects from smoke:
- Burn seasoned wood (including 'ready to burn') on a low emission appliance;
- Maintain stoves and sweep chimneys regularly;
- Install a carbon monoxide monitor – this will alert you to dangerous fumes and reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.