LONDON’S AIR QUALITY – Burning wood correctly

LONDON’S AIR QUALITY – Burning wood correctly

Wood-burning stoves have been the subject of various hostile reports in the past few years, more recently the London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to Michael Gove, the environment secretary. The mayor has asked to amend the Clean Air Act to give him the powers to create zones where the burning of solid fuels such as wood is restricted.

Researchers at King’s College London have found that wood-burning in the capital accounts for up to 31% of the city’s particulate pollution, up from 10% in the past. The tiny particles, known as PM2.5, are the most harmful type of air pollution and exacerbate lung and heart conditions.

Correct use can reduce the impact of wood-burning stoves by a whopping 80%!

There is a problem with air quality in  London which can cause health issues for all of us.  Wood burning stoves and open fires are responsible for a part of this problem but if we understand why, we can make a big difference.

SMOKELESS ZONES

All larger towns and cities have Smoke Control Areas, often called “Smokeless zones”. If you use a wood-burner or open fire in a Smoke Control Area it is important to know the rules.

In an open fire – You are only allowed to burn smokeless coals or anthracite.

You will be committing an offence if you burn wood logs, wood products or normal “house coal”. You are however still allowed to start the fire with small wood kindling etc. Not only is it an offence to burn unauthorised fuels, but you’ll be introducing a large amount of damaging pollution in to your local neighbourhood. If we ignore these rules, it’s bad news for air quality.

Any stove installed in a Smoke Control Area must legally be an “exempted appliance”, often referred to as Defra EXEMPT.

“A big problem here is a lack of enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” said Dennis Milligan of the Stove Industry Alliance. He said that burning unauthorised fuels on open fires, were the real problem contributing to London’s dirty air.

You can check if your property is in a Smoke Control Area by contacting environmental services at your local council. Many councils will have this information on their websites.

Our schools, homes, recreational areas and our workplaces are often within a Smoke Control Area. If you use a wood-burner or open fire in a Smoke Control Area, there are some important rules to keep us all safer.

WOODBURNING STOVES

Wood burning stove
  • Exempted appliances are designed to burn the fuel more efficiently and so reduce potential air pollution. Even so, they do vary a lot from one make to another so it’s still very important to use them correctly.
  • If the temperature inside the stove is not high enough then the wood cannot burn efficiently. If the wood is not burning hot and efficiently then more of the damaging particles will pass up the chimney and out in-to the air we breathe.
  • Bring the stove to operating temperature quickly and try to keep it there.
  • Using dry wood is very important. It should contain 20% moisture or less. But, even if your wood is very dry, you will still create a real problem if the air controls to your stove are closed too much.
  • Never try to “slumber” your stove for long periods / overnight with the air controls closed off too much. Loading up the average stove to slumber for a long period can easily produce more than a kilo of tiny damaging particles which then pass out the top of your chimney and in to the air we all breathe.
  • Logs should not be too large – 5 inches wide ( 125mm) will give the best result. Using large logs to make the fire last longer will usually result in a lower burning temperature, more wasted fuel and more pollution.
  • Sweep your chimney regularly – A professional sweep can give lots of useful extra advice.
  • Don’t buy a stove which is too big (too powerful) for the room. You’ll get too hot and be likely to shut the air controls too much. The burning temperature will drop, fuel is wasted and pollution increased.
  • Use a thermometer, moisture meter and stove fan to help improve efficiency, save money and reduce pollution.
  • Don’t burn plastic waste or treated waste wood. It stinks and it’s toxic 

ECODESIGN READY STOVES

  • If you have an older or inefficient stove or one that’s too powerful, consider replacing it with a modern efficient model. You’ll instantly begin to save money and burn cleaner.The Ecodesign Ready scheme has been put into place to ensure new British wood burning stoves meet high environmental standards. The stoves of tomorrow are here now.
  • Ecodesign Ready stoves can reduce PM emissions by 90% compared to an open fire.
  • More efficient use of heat in living area.
  • Modern wood burning stoves are virtually carbon neutral.
  • Ecodesign Ready stoves are banded A+ at 80% efficient.
  • Stoves are not just a fashion fad, they are a serious form of home heating.
  • Ecodesign stoves are part of the solution to PM emissions.

Jane Wilson from Modern Housewives agrees “that there are numerous benefits to using a wood-burning oven, the most important ones being they’re energy efficien and the fact that you’re not dependant on standard electricity”

REGULAR MAINTENANCE

  • A regularly maintained appliance will ensure that it is always working safely and efficiently. A professional chimney sweep is trained in all aspects of solid fuel this is where the knowledge and experience can make all the difference.
  • A clean flue will ensure the gasses from combustion can travel quickly and unrestricted. A clogged flue will cause the gasses to slow down and cool, creating more particulates and soot.
  • Greg Parker-Hill, Ceo of Pivot Stove elaborates "There are different types of flues available DV flue? DV flue stands for Direct Vent Flue system - these types of heaters use the flue to suck air from outside for use in the heaters fire.. There is no fans required to do this, so these types of heaters are quiet Power flue? These types of heaters have an ad ditional fan to suck the air from outside for use in the heaters fire. Although there is now 2 ( or 3 ) fans now in use, the benefit is these heaters offer more options for running the flue in more options, you can even flue under your home.
  • We recommend inspecting your rope seals annually. A damaged seal can cause your stove to draw more fiercely and over-fire. A sweep will be able to replace this for you if necessary.
  • Visual inspection of the terminal – an incorrect terminal can cause large soot deposits.
  • Is the chimney the right size and height? Is the ventilation to the room sufficient?
  • Are there conflicting problems with other fires or extractors in the building?
  • Check fuel storage and moisture content
  • Sometimes a fire or wood-burner can be correctly installed but there are issues with poor function, smoke to the room, lack of heat, black glass etc, etc.
  • Kieran Whelan, Owner of Fire and Heat, advises: "As a general maintenance tip, always clean the glass before every burn. We use a bit of paper and dip it into the ash to clean the glass; it comes up a treat!"

Check our blog regularly for more in-depth information relating to all aspects of solid fuel. If you would like to make an appointment or have any questions, please feel to contact us on either 02083517164 or paul@sweepsmart.co.uk.