Recent Posts

Wood Burning Stoves: Air polluting

In the great flurry of home upgrading many of us are putting in wood burning stoves and the evening perfume of burning wood has become common in the street.  There has been at least one smokeless coal fire in longstanding use in our street where the home has no central heating.  Now home improvers are increasingly installing wood burners.  As independent experts are already worried about the poor quality of the air we breathe, we took a look at whether wood burners might make it worse.

The best statement of advice we have found comes from ‘Environmental Protection UK’ : Emissions of local air pollution from a modern wood-fuelled appliance are usually higher than those of an equivalent gas fired appliance.  If you live in a rural area where the air is relatively clean a wood fuelled system may be the best option, whilst if you live in an urban area with poor air quality a gas-fired system may be the best choice environmentally.

The Daily Telegraph has written about wood burning stoves specifically in London: they are the ‘must-have’ appliance even though they are expensive and inefficient and that they add pollution to the air, quoting Australian data.  The author concludes:  I already live in a big, dangerous city clogged with traffic. I am not concerned about a few microns of extra air pollution. Indeed, tonight I shall put an extra log in the stove.

Clean Air in London – campaigning for cleaner air – refers to Borough Councils’ concerns about wood stoves, especially as we have some of the worst air quality in Europe and are not meeting our legal air quality standards.  The report notes that appliances are assessed as meeting emissions standards on a measurement of ‘visible’ smoke rather than ‘invisible’ pollutants.  It refers to: ‘A 2008 study by the Government which concluded that an increase in wood burning in the UK (to about 7% of UK heat demand) using wood burning appliances with average emissions would mean an extra 577 km of UK roads exceeding European limits for PM10 [tiny particulates which we breathe in] and health costs on UK citizens of around £2.8 billion. – See more at:

Residents installing stoves are probably buying a stove which is graded as exempt from control.  Clean Air in London says that the standard applied is out of date and does not include assessment against our concerns regarding particulates today.

Kings College London, which carries out air assessments in London,  has research data which raises serious concerns about air pollution and wood stoves.  This is quite technical and here is the link if you want to skim it :

Wood burning stoves do add to air pollution even the approved ones.

Another link:

3 replies on “Wood Burning Stoves: Air polluting”

Nannyish? – perhaps. But respiratory sufferers would say otherwise. Asthmatics, COPD sufferers are already affected by air pollution in London; conditions are exacerbated by particulates, smog and smoke. If wood burning is adding to these, and there is little control at present, there should be a debate. It would be a retrograde step to allow uncontrolled increases in carbon emissions after so much progress has been made. We need more information. Here in Dulwich, the Dulwich Estate has the power to approve or refuse chimney flues as a flue is a change to the external appearance of a property. We will asking the Estate their views on this.

The controls are in place through the Clean Air Act 1956 and subsequent updates and more specifically the Smoke Control Area that is Greater London. Monitoring is down to local boroughs not Dulwich Estate.

That monitoring should also include the retailing of logs, house coal etc which although not suitable for use in London is widely sold locally at Garden Centres, petrol stations etc. That is something which Southwark and Lambeth could enforce – if they have sufficient resource to do so.

Thank heavens the majority of us did not have to live through the great smogs of the 1950s.

As with all these emotive issues, a sense of perspective should be applied.

Leave a Reply to David Miller Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s