Woodburning stoves have been unfairly targeted by the press, blogs and videos lately. They are being painted in a very negative light. So let’s take a look at the reality, which in our view is very different to the portrayal in the press.
Firstly wood is one of the only truly renewable fuels. It is often compared to diesel due to some of the particles that are emitted when burned. As we know diesel is a fossil fuel derived from crude oil and although some particles are emitted during burning “green” or “non-seasoned” wood badly in old appliances, we are pretty sure that diesel does not produce a major percentage of the worlds oxygen like trees do.
With the massive deforestation that has takes place in our recent history, ethical log suppliers are rapidly planting trees which will help safeguard our future generations. Those same planted trees will store the carbon released from today’s log burning making the cycle a neutral one.
Statistics are a funny thing and are taken on an annual basis. As we know, the wood burning season in the U.K. is a very short one, beginning late September through to the end of February, occasionally March. During the rest of the year any measured pollution does not come from wood stoves. Ironically it is the summer months when pm10 and pm 2.5s the dangerous carbon dust particles are often at their highest levels.
As far as we are aware there are no statistics specific to wood-stoves published in the U.K. with regards to air quality/pollution. Instead statistics are based on all domestic burning of wood and derivatives. This include open fires, camp fires, pizza ovens, BBQs and bonfires the last two in the list are some of the very worst polluters and yet advertising often only mentions stoves, how can this be?
There are four main issues that we must advise on in regards to wood burning in order for clean combustion.
- Moisture content and quality of wood logs.
Can you imagine how well your car would run if you were to fill the fuel tank with 30% water? Only burn sustainably sourced, seasoned wood with less than 20% moisture content. Using wood-sure logs will help as the checks have already been done.
- The way the end user burns their stove specifically the dangers of slumbering, over-fuelling or under-fuelling.
In years gone by some strange tales have developed with how stoves should be used. It has unfortunately become a normal practice for many to fill the stove with wood and then reduce the air supply in order to make it last through the night, this process is referred to as slumbering and it is very bad indeed with regards to air quality and pollution.
On the upside the fix here is simple; always burn the quantity of wood that the stove was designed to with the air open enough to provide moderate flaming combustion. That’s when the entire window is filled with rolling fire and no smoke is seen but not so much that the flames can be seen sucking up the chimney.
- The third problem is a little harder to address as it relates to the age and efficiency of the stove. It is a fact that older stoves are very much more polluting than new appliances. Consumers should be advised that new appliances will save on fuel, give more heat and be very much better with regards to the quality of the air we breath. Indeed, new stoves are being introduced which are already “2022 ready”.
- Finally, servicing and maintenance. In a nutshell, burn clean, dry, well-seasoned logs, do not slumber, use the correct amount of fuel in each fill and ensure that chimney is swept, at a minimum, of once a year.
We feel that further debates or articles should be measured and not unfairly target wood burners alone. What is being done to educate the consumer with regards to, BBQs Chimeneas and patio heaters? Millions of these are sold each year they are heavy polluters and never make the press? What’s worse is that they are used in the summer when pollution is the highest.
Finally, should we start pointing fingers, let’s look hard at bonfires and burning urban dung fires which produce insane amounts of pollution.
The fixes for wood burning stoves are simple and we are already getting there. The issue of particulate emissions now rests firmly in the hands of other industries which now need to do their bit, step up-to the plate, be ethical as we are, engage in the debate and affect change.
Clean Wood burning needs to be addressed holistically and not simplistically target one tiny segment of the overall market.