We know that many people have chosen wood burners for environmental reasons, and we know they are cosy and nostalgic, but we want to make sure everyone is aware of the pollution and health impact, and the best practice for avoiding and reducing that.
Wood burning is considered a carbon neutral heating source, because trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow which neutralises the carbon dioxide released when they are burned. If this is your motivation, it is important to consider where the wood has come from, has it been sustainably forested and new trees planted for those removed, has it been grown locally or are there emissions from transporting the wood and has the wood been dried which will require energy use.
However, wood burning has been found to produce large amounts of particulate pollution, which can contribute to climate change and is harmful to health. A DEFRA survey has shown that 49% of open fire and stove users are unaware of the health impacts of burning wood, and DEFRA research indicates that 38% of PM2.5 pollution in the UK comes from domestic wood burning, compared to 11% from road transport, with particulate pollution from wood burning still increasing and particulate pollution from road transport decreasing. Air Quality News investigated the impact that wood burning has on indoor pollution and their monitoring suggested that when using a wood burner in a residential area with other wood burners, the average PM2.5 level across 24 hours was 72.9 μg/m3, regarded as ‘unhealthy to all’.
Reduce air pollution by avoiding unnecessary burning; only use appliances when essential and use other heating options if available. If you do use your wood burner follow best practice for running it and avoid using it when poor air quality is forecast. If you want a less polluting and low carbon heating source, consider renewables or electric with a renewable tariff instead of a wood burner. There is currently funding available for low carbon heating, through the government’s Green Homes Grant.