Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, well known to us all from our lockdown television screens, has just released an annual report on air quality in the UK. The Stove Industry Association (SIA) made a significant contribution, and the resulting report provides a fair and balanced appraisal. The findings confirm much of what the wood-burning stove community has been saying for some years now.
The report highlights the issues with open fires and old woodstoves and endorses the use of modern Ecodesign wood-burning stoves and encourages the use of best wood-burning stove practices.
Air pollution emissions can be significantly reduced “…using modern, less polluting stoves and burning wood that is dry”. Additionally, “For air pollution emissions, there is substantial difference between the different open fire and stove designs, the age of the appliance and how well maintained it is, and the moisture content of the wood, for those who want to burn wood.”
Chair of the SIA, Andy Hill, commented: “In this Report the CMO and his team have considered a wide range of contributors to air pollution from industry, transport, and transboundary sources, as well as domestic solid fuel heating. We are pleased that the report recognises the huge advances in stove appliance technology that have been driven by the Ecodesign regulations and that it calls for the Clean Air Act requirements for smoke control areas to be properly adhered to. The report also highlights potentially ground-breaking new technology in some industries, and, similarly, the stove industry continues to develop and invest in new technology to reduce emissions even further.”
The myriad benefits of wood burning
The report recognises that the reasons for burning solid fuel in the home are varied with Professor Whitty noting that these include “aesthetic as well as practical, ecological or economic reasons”.
This line is important and acknowledges the unique qualities wood-burning stoves possess. It is something that we feel should be more fully recognised when making evaluations and comparing the overall impact of each home heating solution.
The myriad benefits wood burning offers the individual and society cannot be fully replicated by any other heating solution. Wood-burning stoves offer potential carbon neutrality, significant well-being benefits, heat security and perhaps most importantly right now, low-cost fuel.
Wood burning – the past, present and the future
With the recent positive progress of nuclear fission in the news, there is real hope on the far horizon for an energy source that transforms our society. However, even when this possibility is realized, likely many decades into the future, there will still be a strong argument for wood burning stoves. Perhaps not as a main source of domestic heating, but as a tool for connection and social bonding, while offering a supplementary heat source for when inevitable interruptions of supply occur.
Until then, wood-burning stoves have a key role to play in helping families through the challenging times we all face. No other heat solution can provide such a range of benefits that help so directly with the cost-of-living crisis and contribute to the environmental goal of Net Zero 2050.