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Air Quality

Wood Burning - Are You Ready to Burn?

Open fires and wood-burning stoves have risen in popularity in recent years and may be an additional form of heating, an attractive feature or the sole heat source. Some people are unaware that use in the home increases domestic exposure to air pollutants and makes a significant contribution to our national emissions of airborne particulates. These are inhaled and transported around the body where they can become lodged in the heart, brain and other organs.

While we will never be able to eliminate all airborne particulates, there are simple steps that households can take to limit emissions both indoors and out that will make a big difference. So what can you do?

  • Consider burning less - think about why you are lighting your fire, as well as how much fuel you use. Is it necessary? If your house is already warm enough and you don’t need to burn, not burning is the simplest way of reducing your costs and minimising airborne particulates
  • Burn dry (seasoned) wood - if you burn wet timber or unseasoned wood as a fuel, you have to boil off the water before the appliance can give out the proper level of heat. In turn, this creates a lot of smoke, tar and particulates which can damage your chimney and appliance and contributes to air pollution. The Forestry Commission has produced a useful guide to using wood as a fuel which includes information on how choose and dry (season) your wood
  • Buy ‘Ready to Burn’ fuel - use wood marked as “Ready to Burn” by a Woodsure Certified Supplier. Any wood displaying the Ready to Burn logo will have 20% moisture content or less so once you get it home it is “Ready to Burn”. These logs burn more efficiently than unseasoned, green wood and reduce environmental impact. You can find a local supplier by going on line and putting your postcode into the HETAS website. Further information is provided in the “Ready to Burn” leaflet and at the Ready to Burn website
  • Do not burn treated waste wood (eg old furniture or pallets) or household rubbish - treated waste wood (with paint or preservatives) can emit harmful fumes, and household rubbish may include plastics that can release toxic pollutants, such as arsenic, into your home when burnt and may affect your health.
  • Consider using an approved smokeless fuel – a list of approved smokeless fuels is available on the HETAS website
  • If you are buying a new stove - check it is Defra approved and have it installed by a qualified person, see the HETAS website for details
  • Check how to operate your appliance efficiently - Always operate your stove in line with the manufacturer’s guidance. By controlling the air supply correctly etc. you will improve efficiency - this will save you money as well as reduce emissions
  • Regularly maintain and service your stove (eg annually) - this means it will work better and will generate more heat from what you burn.
  • Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year) - during use, particulates build up in the chimney reducing the efficiency and increasing the risk of chimney fires. It is better to use a qualified chimney sweep who will also be able to advise you on good burning practices for your open fire or stove.

    Sticking to these simple tips will help to keep airborne particulates and smoke down and ensure optimum efficiency and safety.