Not all wood stoves are created equal and it is good to know that some wood stove manufacturers have been working hard to not only improve the aesthetic appeal of their products, but to reduce the impact caused by particulate emissions.
Although modern stoves produce 80 per cent fewer emissions than a 10-year-old stove, the fact is that these, like any process that involves combustion, still produce emissions.
While wood burning has long been considered a low carbon energy source and therefore a way of reducing global warming, it’s been shown that incomplete combustion – which is greatly the case with open fires and old wood stoves – produces particulate emissions (PMs) that are detrimental to human health. Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK, and the fourth greatest threat to public health after cancer, heart disease and obesity according to Defra’s Clean Air Strategy.
Change is in the air
These facts have prompted changes in the wood stove industry, changes that the Stove Industry Alliance, along with its main members and Woodsure, have spearheaded. The industry has adopted a two-pronged approach. Firstly, they have launched an “Ecodesign Ready” campaign, which pushes UK manufacturers to sell products that comply with the forthcoming 2022 European stove emission legislation. This means that significantly cleaner stoves are already on the market.
Secondly, efforts have been made to educate the public about the correct choice and use of wood fuel. This has been achieved through Woodsure’s “Ready to Burn” labels that direct users to suitable wood, as well as campaigns about proper wood use that have been run by manufacturers.
According to DEFRA, wood with a high moisture content produces “over double the emissions of seasoned and kiln dried wood.” In support of this information campaign, British stove manufacturer Hunter Stoves launched a ‘How to Select Good Firewood’ video to help wood stove users identify and select the appropriate wood, thus avoiding using fuel that is damaging not only to their appliance but to the environment.
Shining a light on London’s air quality
Wood stove popularity and air pollution have featured frequently over the past year, and this is mainly because European air quality regulations have highlighted London and other cities’ struggle to improve the quality of its air. After all causes were put under a microscope, particulate emissions derived from wood burning were included as a contributing source of air pollution, along with transport, the major source of emissions.
According to the official website of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, wood burning can contribute up to 10 per cent of local PM 2.5 emissions during the winter. Higher and lower PM 2.5 emission figures have been suggested, but what is important to note is that these figures refer to wood burning as a whole, meaning open fires and old wood stoves. London Air states that in the city in 2014 “69% of people who burned wood were doing so in open fires, a practice banned in the capital by Smoke Control Areas created under the Clean Air Act.” This illegal burning of wood in open fires produces high levels of emissions and accounts for the majority of the PM2.5 in the area.
It’s all about the design of log burners
In an appeal for the use of modern, cleaner stoves and the correct firewood, in January of this year the Mayor of London invested £20,000 in an information campaign to raise awareness and encourage Londoners to stop using open fires and switch to Ecodesign approved stoves.
Mr Khan said, “The industry is already doing great work in developing less polluting ‘ready to burn’ wood and low-emission stoves, but increased effort needs to be made in raising awareness of these new designs.”
The new European legislation, known as Ecodesign, comes into effect in 2022 and sets stove emissions to an unprecedented low level. Stoves that comply to Ecodesign produce 90% fewer emissions than an open fire and 55% fewer emissions than a DEFRA exempt stove. The Hunter Stoves Group have been investing heavily in research and development to produce cleaner and more efficient firebox technology. While the company has already approved their Di Lusso Eco range to the Ecodesign standard, they are currently in the process of getting several other models tested to ensure consumers have a range of very clean burning, efficient stoves.
The company is also looking into the future and has partnered with the University of Exeter to design a stove that will be a low or possibly even a zero emissions dual chamber stove. This new stove is being tested currently.
Woodburning stoves can be good for the environment
As we approach the cold winter months, the subject of woodburning stoves is likely to hit the headlines again particularly, in cities and towns. If the industry continues to innovate and invest in cleaner and more efficient stoves, then people can relax in front of a warm fire using Ecodesign approved stoves and quality local wood.
If you are interested in buying a log burner, particularly if you live off the gas network or currently burn wood in an open fire, then please read the One Home guide on the benefits of wood burning stoves.