Wood burners are appliances such as wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and fire pits that are used to burn wood in our homes or gardens, usually for heating or cooking.
Burning solid fuels like wood is the most polluting way to generate heat. Wood burners have become increasingly popular in recent years, as a way of creating a cosy atmosphere as well as perceptions that they are greener or cheaper sources of heat. In the UK, most people use a wood burner for decorative purposes, but some people burn wood as a primary source of heat.
Burning wood creates pollution inside and outside the home, which is dangerous for our health and the environment. Many people are unaware of the negative impacts of wood burning, even when using the most "eco-friendly" stoves or "ready-to-burn" wood.
Wood burners and open fires are the second biggest source of small particle air pollution in the UK - Read the Emissions of air pollutants in the UK article.
Even homes with "eco" wood burners are three times more polluted than those without - Read the Indoor Air Pollution from Residential Stoves article.
When wood is burned, it creates a smoke that releases harmful particle pollution, a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles known as particulate matter into the air we breathe. Particulate matter is dangerous because its small particle size means it can get into our lungs and even pass into our bloodstream - PM10 is less than 10 micrometres in size (the width of a human red blood cell) and PM2.5 is less than 2.5 micrometres in size.
How can I protect myself and others? If you burn or are considering burning wood:
Think twice before burning and use alternative heat sources only - this is especially important if you live in a town or city
Do not purchase or replace a wood burning stove or wood burner - use other heating sources/systems instead
Burn less - consider cutting back on how much wood you burn
If wood burning is the only option for heating your home:
Ensure the stove is installed and used properly
Burn better by only burning dry, "Ready to Burn" certified fuel in a modern Ecodesign and Defra-exempted stove
Burning dry wood will reduce the amount of pollutants produced to a quarter of the pollution of wet wood
Do not burn wet or painted wood. If you burn wet wood, the fuel will burn at a lower temperature and result in a higher level of air pollution. Burning contaminated wood, such as painted or preserved wood, will also create more air pollution
Maintain your appliance regularly and ensure it is clean and dry before using it to burn wood
Maintain your chimney regularly.
Read more information regarding wood burners.
We continue to work with Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) to raise awareness of what householders can do to reduce their impact on their health and air quality associated with poor burning practices, and the simple steps that residents can take.
Along with information on atmospheric emissions reports, Defra is running the 'Burn Better, Breathe Better Campaign' which aims to encourage those who use a stove or open fire to take actions that help reduce the amount of fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5) that their stove or open fire emits.
Defra has produced a range of guidance leaflets:
There is also further guidance in We all breathe the same air, which has been produced by chimney sweeps. The guidance provides clear advice on the procedures to follow when lighting a stove or fire to minimise smoke emissions.
Read the press release regarding government taking action to cut pollution from household burning.