By Christabel Watts - posted on September 23, 2020

Wood Burning

This article explains the problems with wood burning and the solutions you can take to reduce the impact on air pollution and your health.

Get Help

If you have a complaint about nuisance wood burning and smoke, please contact your local council. If you or your loved ones are vulnerable to air pollution, you can follow air pollution forecasts, such as DEFRA-Air or try the AirVisual app.

The Problem

Many people aren’t aware that household burning, such as the use of wood stoves and open fires, is the biggest contributor to particulate matter pollution. Also that carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates from domestic appliances e.g. boilers, heaters, fires, stoves and ovens, which burn carbon containing fuels e.g. gas, coal, kerosene and wood causes poor indoor air quality.

Inhalation of particulate matter pollution has health impacts and there is no safe level. Long-term exposure to particulates increases age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes. Short-term exposure to high concentrations of particulates can exacerbate lung and heart conditions, significantly affecting quality of life, and increasing deaths and hospital admissions.  

Household burning is the biggest contributor to particulate matter pollution. 

Clean Air Hub

The Solution

If you reduce burning, burn cleaner fuels, use efficient appliances and switch to alternative low emission fuels you’ll be reducing and avoiding outdoor and indoor air pollution and the associated health impacts.

Reduce burning of solid fuel wherever possible. Avoid unnecessary burning and only use stoves and fires when essential e.g. during particularly cold weather and use secondary heating options if suitable or available. If you do rely on solid fuel for heating use authorised fuels and exempt appliances, or consider switching fuels. Consider the amount and type of fuel or wood you buy ahead of winter months.

Burn cleaner fuels on your stove and open fires, such as smokeless, authorised fuels or dry, well-seasoned ‘ready to burn’ wood. Consider the types of fuel you buy, where you buy them, seasoning, moisture content and correct storage.

Use efficient appliances, such as DEFRA compliant exempt appliances or future EU Ecodesign 2022 appliances and ‘burn right‘ in your appliance. Consider the types of appliance you buy, where to buy them, how they are installed, cleaned and serviced.

Switch to alternative fuels if possible. Switching heating to low or no emission fuels, such as gas, electric, renewable options will reduce particulate pollution and can reduce carbon emissions.

Be aware of regulations in smoke control areas, nuisance bonfires and other relevant legislation around burning solid fuel.

Other ways to reduce and avoid air pollution from wood burning and heating include:

  • regularly servicing your stove and boiler
  • using a carbon monoxide alarm
  • ventilating your home
  • reducing electricity and gas usage

What Next

Further ways to limit exposure to air pollution include:

  • following air pollution forecasts
  • avoiding strenuous activity when pollution is high
  • closing windows when there is smoke outside or next to a busy road at rush hour
  • using active travel
Wind turbines

Read our Breathe Easy article for more on air pollution.