Just how bad are wood-burning stoves when it comes to the environment? Can you use a stove more sustainably?

If you've been reading the news recently, we'll forgive you for believing that using a wood burner to heat your home causes the same pollution levels as an HGV in your living room.  

The good news: It's not true.  

A Euro 6 HGV produces thirteen times more PM2.5 emissions than an Ecodesign wood-burning stove over the course of a week. 

In recent years, the stove industry has come a long way in improving the efficiency and eco-friendliness of wood-burners.

This year, the new Ecodesign regulations came into force in the UK, providing environmental and efficiency standards that all new stoves must meet. The new rules barely made a mark on the current industry because you'll be glad to hear that we've been meeting and exceeding these standards for years already.  

So, do you need to do anything to reduce your stove's environmental impact? How can you ensure your stove isn't significantly contributing to air pollution? What are the government's plans for stoves? Read on to find out more.  

What does the government say about wood-burning stoves?

Five years ago, the government put the 25-Year Environment Plan in the UK in place to continue action to improve Britain's natural environment. The 2023 Environmental Improvement Plan, published at the end of January 2023, is the first revision since the government enacted the plan in the Environment Act of 2021.  

Regardless of what the headlines might have you believe, the new Environment Plan is not looking to ban wood-burning stoves. The government recognises that some households rely on burning solid fuel as a primary heating, cooking, and hot water source.  

As long as you are using your stove in a way that meets local smoke control rules and restrictions, you will not be breaking any laws and will be allowed to continue using your wood-burning stove as usual.  

How to use your stove more sustainably

If you're already using an Ecodesign stove and are following Smoke Control Area rules if you live in one of these zones, there's no need to worry.  

If your stove is a bit dated, however, or you are wondering if you're being as sustainable as possible when using your stove, you're in the right place. Here are some tips you can use to reduce your environmental impact and be eco-friendlier when using your stove. 

1 - Use an Ecodesign stove

Credit: Stove Industry Alliance

If you are looking for a new wood burner, always get an Ecodesign stove. These stoves are designed and manufactured to meet the new Ecodesign regulations in the UK. This seal of approval means that you can trust the stove to be much less polluting compared to older stove models and open fires. They release up to 90% fewer emissions than an open fire, and up to 80% fewer than some older stoves. 

An Ecodesign stove has an efficiency rating of 75% or higher, meaning that they are far more effective at heating a room than open fires and older stoves and require less fuel. They produce less smoke and release significantly fewer pollutants into the air thanks to their clean-burning technology. 

2 - Choose the right size stove

Are you considering getting a new wood-burning stove for your home? A stove that's operating at 2kW when it can reach 5kW, for example, will not be burning at optimal clean burning temperatures. As a result, it will produce more pollution. Ensuring you get the right size for the room where you plan to use it is crucial for sustainable use. You can use our handy stove calculator to find the ideal model for your space based on the dimensions.  

3 - Choose the right fuel

When it comes to sustainability, not all fuels are created equal. And you may need to follow some rules if you live in a Smoke Control Area. In these areas, which cover most cities, towns, and built-up areas in the UK, you must only burn approved smokeless fuels if you do not have a DEFRA-approved stove.  

If your stove is DEFRA-approved, you can burn wood in a Smoke Control Area. However, this doesn't mean that you can throw any old wood on your stove. Pick the timber carefully – it should be free from any paint, chemical treatment, or other substances and have a moisture level of no more than 20%.  

4 - Only use well-seasoned or kiln-dried wood

Freshly cut wood is not only more complicated to light, but it'll also release more pollutants into the air. Well-seasoned wood that has been cut and left to dry for a minimum of six months for softwoods and two years for hardwood, or kiln-dried timber are the best choices for your wood burner. Seasoning or kiln-drying allows the moisture content to drop to below 20%. Not only will this ensure you can quickly light and burn it in your stove, but it'll also release fewer pollutants into the atmosphere.  

When purchasing wood for your stove, look for the Woodsure logo. It's a seal of approval to give you peace of mind that your fuel is under 20% moisture and approved for use in a DEFRA stove in a Smoke Control Zone.  

5 - Check your wood's moisture content

Before burning wood in your stove, it's worth using a moisture metre. A moisture metre is an inexpensive and easy way to check that the moisture content is under 20% before putting the wood in the stove. It can be handy if you are buying or sourcing freshly cut timber to season at home before burning.  

6 - Burn at the right temperature

Burning wood at too low a temperature or slumbering can lead to a higher release of pollutants. Moreover, it can cause a build-up of creosote in your chimney, increasing the risk of a dangerous fire. To avoid these problems, ensure your wood burner operates at the right temperature – typically between 180-220 degrees Celsius.  

7 - Use smokeless fuel

If you live in a Smoke Control Area and DEFRA has not approved your stove, you must use smokeless fuel.

You can only legally burn wood if you have a DEFRA-approved appliance.

No matter what stove you have, smokeless fuel is a good, eco-conscious alternative to regular coal (which is no longer legal). It burns as cleanly as possible, reducing your contribution to local air pollution and your environmental impact. Remember that if you plan to burn smokeless fuel, you'll need a suitable multi-fuel stove.  

8 - Consider briquette or pellet fuel

If your stove is compatible, pellet and briquette fuels are worth considering. They are made from cleaned, compressed sawdust and other wood waste, making them a more sustainable alternative to traditional wood. Plus, they will burn cleanly and produce less smoke and ash, which can reduce the number of pollutants released into the air.  

9 - Support sustainable forestry

FSC logo printed on sustainable Compostable cardboard pizza box. FSC - The Forest Stewardship Council. Shallow depth of field and selective focus image. Copenhagen, Denmark - april 22, 2022.

One of the most impactful things you can do to use your wood burner more sustainably is to ensure you're only using wood sourced from sustainable forestry. When shopping for fuel, look for FSC-certified wood. This symbol means it has been grown and harvested sustainably. By doing this, you can ensure that the wood you're burning to heat your home is not contributing to habitat loss or deforestation.  

10 - Keep your chimney clean

A build-up of creosote and other substances in the chimney is not only a severe fire hazard, but can also release more pollutants into the atmosphere. To prevent this and keep your chimney safe, you should have your chimney swept at least once per year. You can find a chimney sweep on the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps website. Ideally, you should have your chimney cleaned before or after a long period of inactivity. Most people get this job done just before or just after winter.  

Upgrade to an Ecodesign stove from Direct Stoves

At Direct Stoves, we’re committed to helping customers use their stoves as sustainably as possible. We stock a vast range of Ecodesign and DEFRA-approved appliances with high-efficiency ratings, clean-burning technology, and low pollution levels. 

Shop Ecodesign stovesat Direct Stoves now 

For more stove buying guides, advice and information, read the Direct Stoves blog 

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