The government’s Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 outlines its strategy for the continued improvement of regulations for burning fuel at home. It will tighten limits on new stoves in Smoke Control Areas (not banning), expand solid fuel legislation to fuels burnt outside and implement measures to encourage the replacement of older appliances with modern wood-burning stoves.
These are regulations we support and believe will make a real difference. Despite this balanced government plan, there continues to be a fair bit in the news about wood burning stoves with some sensationalist headlines, untruths and misrepresented information.
Understandably these scare-stories can cause concern, so with this blog we will show you how to heat your home with a wood-burning stove without having to worry about PM 2.5 emissions.
Benefits of Using Wood-Burning Stoves
Wood-burning stoves offer a carbon-neutral and cost-effective way to heat your home without relying on electricity or other fuel sources. They provide energy independence and can be used in conjunction with renewables, helping make these technologies more viable.
They are an ideal source of emergency heating and can even be used to cook food – in fact a Charnwood Cooking Plate can transform your stove giving you even more cooking options. Wood-burning stoves also last for decades, providing an affordable source of heat for low-income households as well as significant well-being benefits.
Understanding PM 2.5 Emissions
PM 2.5 is fine particulate matter with a diameter of just 2.5 microns, which is approximately 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. These microscopic particles or droplets present in the air can be damaging to health when inhaled in sufficient quantity and come from a wide range of natural and human-made sources.
The good news, however, is that PM 2.5 emissions have been steadily decreasing over the years despite record stove sales (please see the short video above). This is data taken directly from DEFRA and is a scientific and unbiased representation of the air quality in the UK. Whilst there is more we can all do, the evidence is clearly positive.
When you consider that a candle, cleaning spray or even making toast can produce levels of PM 2.5 in the home far in excess of a wood stove, it does put things in perspective. However, whilst it’s impossible to remove PM 2.5 completely from our lives, there are ways to minimise your wood-burning stove’s contribution both inside and outside the home.
Choosing the right Wood-Burning Stove
The first step to minimising PM 2.5 starts with choosing a wood-burning stove that is the appropriate size for the space and is certified to the highest possible efficiency standards.
Whilst all Ecodesign rated stoves provide improved efficiency, some are undoubtably better than others. In fact, ClearSkies 5 rated Charnwood stoves are up to 48% more efficient than standard Ecodesign. This reduces emissions by up to 90% compared with an open fire and by up to 80% compared with older, basic stove models.
This is an exceptionally clean burn which unlocks all the benefits of wood-burning while keeping emissions to a bare minimum!
Minimizing PM 2.5 Emissions from Wood-Burning Stoves
Once you have the right wood-stove installed, the next part of the equation is using the best wood burning practices – we all have our part to play. Trusted Chief Medical Advisor Chris Whitty in his latest report acknowledges this saying, “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.”
Using the right wood
Achieving the perfect cosy fire requires choosing the right wood. Charnwood stoves are designed to run on seasoned or kiln-dried wood with a moisture content of less than 20%, which results in a cleaner and more efficient burn. This keeps harmful emissions to a minimum and significantly improves efficiency while protecting your stove and chimney – saving you money!
Seasoned wood is wood that has been cut and usually allowed to dry for at least 6-12 months. You can roughly estimate if wood is seasoned by its lighter weight when compared to wet wood and telltale cracks in the end grain. However, to be sure, we strongly recommend using a moisture meter to accurately check the moisture content.
Alternatively, you can purchase kiln-dried wood from an approved firewood seller. Click here to search in your area.
Maintenance Tips for Wood-Burning Stoves
To ensure optimal performance and efficiency, regular inspection and maintenance of wood-burning stoves is essential. This includes cleaning the stove and its components, inspecting for signs of wear and tear, and examining the flue and chimney for any blockages or other issues. Here are some of the key proactive steps to take, so you can enjoy the warmth and ambiance of your wood-burning stove for years to come while keeping PM 2.5 emissions to a bare minimum.
Use a stove pipe thermometer
A Stove or Flue pipe thermometer is an essential piece of equipment that allows you to accurately monitor your stove’s temperature. This helps burn wood efficiently, protecting your stove and chimney, while reducing emissions and maximising heat output.
As one Charnwood customer from the 2022 stove accessory survey said, “It makes it so much easier to see if my fire is working at optimum temperature and if I need to adjust the amount of wood/air flow.”
Additionally, we recommend keeping your stove glass clean so you can monitor your fire and gauge its intensity. As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to anticipate the necessary interventions for maximum efficiency.
Check the seals on your stove
Ensuring the seals of your stove are secure is essential to maintaining its efficiency and keeping any smoke out of your home. Visually inspect the gasket (rope seal) around the stove door; if it is not snug against the door, replace it. Additionally, check the seal around the chimney to prevent any leakage. Taking a few minutes to check your wood-burning stove seals will help you stay safe and warm all winter long.
If you’re unsure how to check the seals, refer to your stove owner’s manual or contact a qualified technician.
Don’t overfill the stove – allow for air circulation
When using a wood-burning stove, it is important not to overfill the firebox. Filling the firebox no more than halfway ensures that the fire has enough oxygen to burn evenly and efficiently. A tightly packed firebox can cause the wood to smoulder instead of burning, which can lead to creosote buildup. Creosote is a highly flammable substance and can be the cause of dangerous chimney fires. For a safer and more efficient burn, make sure to leave enough space in the firebox for air to circulate.
Clean out ash and soot from inside the stove regularly
Regularly cleaning out the ash and soot that builds up in your wood-burning stove is key to its performance and appearance. Clogged airflow caused by a buildup of ash and soot can cause the fire to struggle and reduces efficiency.
How often you clean will depend on how often the stove is used, but generally, it is best to do a thorough cleaning once every couple of weeks during the colder months.
We highly recommend using an ash carrier to make the process much easier and mess-free!
It is important to remember that all energy sources, including renewables, require compromise and tradeoffs to receive the benefits they provide. The key is to maximise the benefits while reducing the negatives. Wood-burning stoves are playing a pivotal role in helping families get through the energy and cost of living crises. However, we agree it is important to understand PM 2.5 emissions and to take steps to minimize them. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can heat your home with wood-burning stoves without excessive worry about PM 2.5 emissions.