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: http://cleanairinlondon.org/sources/updating-the-clean-air-act-for-modern-fuels-and-technologies/#sthash.kgNhatt7.dpuf.
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 Clean Air in London says that the standard applied is out of date and does not include assessment against our concerns regarding particulates today.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 : http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/LAQNSeminar/pdf/july2011/Gary%20Fuller_Wood_Smoke_PM_in_London.pdf
Wood burning stoves do add to air pollution even the approved ones.