The popularity of wood burning stoves in recent years has led to many associating “wood burning” with “stoves”. However, the open fire produces 16 times more particular emissions than a modern highly efficient or Ecodesign Ready stove does while burning wood.
Under the Clean Air Act, it is illegal to burn wood in an open fire. Local Authorities have found it difficult to enforce the regulation and most people do not realise that they are breaking the law.
An open fire is the wrong way to burn wood! The high level of incomplete combustion on an open fire produces much higher levels of smoke and particular emissions than a Defra exempt stove. Nationally, 40% of wood is burnt on open fires and this figure rises to 70% in London!
A recent Met Office report highlighted that carbon reduction is essential. Wood is a renewable, meaning a carbon neutral fuel and this plays a significant role in reducing CO2 emissions.
Despite of the negative press that wood burning has had in the last year the level of emissions from wood burning has declined in most UK cities, especially London. Because many households have switched from open fires to Defra exempt wood burning stoves which are certified to reduce emissions and can be used in smoke control areas.
Burning wood at higher temperature (which can be achieved by a modern stove) reduces its effect on air pollution. Open fires burn fuel at lower temperature therefore contributing more to air pollution.
The Defra Clean Air Strategy and the Burnright campaign focuses on educating consumers (especially through the help of professionals like chimney sweeps) to burn dry wood on a high efficient stove or Defra approved stove but at present does not yet address the issue of open fires!
There are many benefits of using a highly efficient, SIA Ecodesign Ready or a Defra approved wood burning stove rather than an open fire. One of the benefits is to increase efficiency from max. 20% to approx. 80% and higher. Resulting in much more heat in the room and the use of fewer logs. It is estimated that it would require 16 logs on an open fire to produce the same heat as 1 Log in a high efficiency or SIA Ecodesign Ready stove. By using less logs, you will in turn reduce emissions. As Neil Parish MP, Chair of the select Committee Environment Food and Rural Affairs confirmed is that anyone using a high efficiency, SIA Ecodesign Ready and Defra Approved stove is doing his bit to tackle the inner-city problems, by reducing NOx and particulate emissions! Anything we can do to reduce that from open fires and others, through using highly efficient stoves, has got to be an absolute benefit.
If you do not own a highly efficient stove, there are measures that can be taken to reduce air pollution. First of all is to get your chimney flue swept regularly and your stove serviced annually. Another simple way to do this is to know how to light your stove correctly. Burning at high enough temperature will reduce the amount of particulate emissions produced. Here is an easy to follow step by step guide on how to get it to burn right.
Step 1: Use plenty of dry small kindling
Step 2: Set all air controls at fully open, light the fire with natural fire lighters
Step 3: Light the fire and close the door. Flames should fill the firebox for approx. 15 minutes whilst the operation temperature rises
Step 4: Refuel with slightly larger logs. If your stove has more than one air control then close the one that lets the air in from under the grate (primary air) or the one that lets the air in directly from the room if it has a second sealed outside vent
Step 5: Once the stove has reached its optimum temperature you can reduce the amount of air using the (secondary) other air controller on the stove. Be sure not to close it off too much as there needs to be a reasonable flame in the stove and the stove glass should stay clear at all times
Step 6: Keep the temperature hot, it is recommended to use a thermometer. With this tool you have an overview and can see if you are burning the stove hot
Step 7: Maintain a good bright flame with medium size dry logs
Step 8: Check the top of your chimney, if you see any smoke, adjust the air controls accordingly