Word burning stoves: they’re cosy, warm…and potentially deadly. Here’s why you should absolutely avoid installing one in your home if you have any other option.
Much of this data comes from Chief Medical Officer’s Chris Whitty’s 2022 report on air pollution. The findings have lead to renewed calls to ban new wood burner installations by 2027.
Since 2022, new wood burning stoves have had numerous upgrades to make them greener than older models.
With a name like that, you’d think that an Ecodesign Wood Burner would be great for the environment, or at least less harmful than a gas boiler.
Unfortunately, they remain one of the most polluting sources of domestic heat possible.
An Ecodesign model using properly seasoned wood will still emit 750 times more pollution than a modern HGV.
In fact, that same model will produce 450 times more emissions than a gas boiler, which is traditionally seen as a far worse source of pollution.
But Isn’t Log Burning Carbon Neutral?
Theoretically, biomass fuel can be carbon neutral. A tree absorbs carbon as it grows, and will release that carbon when it’s burned. This is supposed to be a self-sufficient loop, not taking carbon out of the atmosphere but ultimately not adding any to it either.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true in practice. Such carbon neutral burning requires very careful tree management, which isn’t often done. Some bags of woodchip aren’t sourced sustainably, and are shipped from all over the world, adding to their carbon footprint.
To put this into context, those emissions we mentioned before? They were produced using the greenest form of biomass fuel in lab conditions. Most real-world biomass boilers will actually be worse for the environment.
But None Of This Impacts Me, Right?
Even if you don’t worry too much about your carbon impact, it’s very important to remember that all these emissions can have a major impact on your health.
The most common emission from any wood burner is called ‘fine particulate matter’. You may also see this called PM2.5. They’re both basically another name for tiny particles of soot. You can tell its in the air by the smell of smoke.
These particles can lead to all kinds of problems, including an increased risk of lung cancer or pulmonary fibrosis. That’s before you get into how they can intensify symptoms of asthma, and reduce your lung function.
Fine particular matter accounts for about 50% of people’s exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
In short there are a huge number of problems with using wood burning stoves, and you should absolutely avoid installing them in your space.
If you like the feel of a warm fire, IR panels actually make for a great clean alternative. They use radiant heat, which is similar to the warmth a fire produces.