Many homes in East Suffolk have open fires or wood-burning stoves, however people may not be aware that these can contribute to air pollution and reduce indoor air quality, which can be damaging to health.
Open fires and wood-burning stoves have risen in popularity in recent years and may be an additional form of heating, an attractive feature or the sole heat source. Some people are unaware that use in the home increases your own exposure to air pollutants and adds to our national emissions of particulates.
Long-term exposure to air pollution, over many years, reduces life expectancy, mainly due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, strokes and lung cancer. And even short-term exposure, over hours or days, can impact on lung function, worsening asthma, and increasing respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions.
We know many residents use open fires or wood-burning stoves as their main source of heating and that others enjoy the ambience of having an open fire at home. However, making a few small changes can make a huge difference in terms of the efficiency of your fire and the effect on the air quality in your home. Improving air quality, both indoors and outside, will have a positive impact on the environment, your health and the health of your family.
To help reduce emissions, both indoors and into the environment, there are simple steps which homeowners can take:
Consider burning less – many people use an open fire or wood-burning stove in addition to their normal heating. If your house is already warm, then consider not lighting the fire, which will reduce both costs and airborne particulates.
Only burn dry (seasoned) wood - burning wet or unseasoned/green wood is inefficient as it takes a lot of heat to boil off the water before the appliance can give out heat into the room. In turn, this creates a lot of smoke, tar and particulates which can damage your chimney and appliance and contributes to air pollution.
Buy ‘Ready to Burn’ fuel – look for wood marked as ‘Ready to Burn’ sold by a Woodsure Certified Supplier. Wood displaying the Ready to Burn logo has a 20% moisture content or less and can be burnt straight away. See below for further information. These logs burn more efficiently than unseasoned/green wood and reduce environmental impact. More information on the Ready to Burn Scheme.
Do not burn treated waste wood (e.g. old furniture or pallets) or household rubbish – wood which has been treated with paint or preservatives can emit harmful fumes, and household rubbish may include plastics that can release toxic pollutants, such as arsenic, into your home when burnt and may affect your health.
Consider using an approved smokeless fuel – List of approved smokeless fuels
If you are buying a new stove - check it is Defra approved and have it installed by a qualified person.
Check how to operate your appliance efficiently - always operate your stove in line with the manufacturer’s guidance. By controlling the air supply correctly, you will improve efficiency, saving you money and reducing emissions.
Regularly maintain and service your stove – servicing your stove annually means it will work better and will generate more heat from what you burn.
Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year) - during use, particulates build up in the chimney reducing the efficiency and increasing the risk of chimney fires. It is better to use a qualified chimney sweep who will also be able to advise you on good burning practices for your open fire or stove.
Make sure you are using the correct fuel for your stove and flue – some stoves are specific to the type of fuel to be burnt. Some are wood only and others are multi-fuel. Burning the wrong fuel could damage your equipment or flue, which will not be covered by home insurance.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have put in place the ‘Ready to Burn’ Scheme as part of the above Regulations – an initiative to help homeowners look after their wood burning equipment and improve air quality.
The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 came into effect on 1 May 2021 and state that wood sold in quantities under 2m3 by the majority of domestic fuel suppliers will be required to be certified to show that the moisture content is 20% or less and be labelled with the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo along with the name of the person who obtained the certificate and the number of the certificate issued. To view the content of the new 2020 Regulations follow this link - The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 (legislation.gov.uk).
Small foresters (those supplying less than 600m3 of wood in a year) have been given an additional 12 months to 30th April 2022 to meet the Regulations.
Woodsure Ltd. Is the Defra appointed certification body who administer the Ready to Burn Scheme - there are already a number of certified wood fuel suppliers within East Suffolk. Find a local supplier.
The 2020 Regulations also state that;
We are working with Suffolk County Council Trading Standards - the body enforcing the Regulations. Trading Standards have advised that businesses and members of the public can contact them if they require advice regarding the sale of domestic fuel and wood used for burning. Trading Standards can be contacted via their reporting website using the online enquiry form or by calling 0808 223 1133.