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Is the way you’re using your wood-burning stove polluting our planet?

More than a quarter of stove owners don't know what the best fuel is for minimising pollution

Wood burner

The pollution produced by stoves has been hitting the headlines recently – and it seems it’s on stove owners’ radars, too. More than a third of the 1,434 stove owners* we asked are somewhat or very concerned about the effects of stoves on pollution. But there are things you can do, so if you’re one of them, keep reading.

Burning solid fuel in homes contributes to 38% of our national emissions of potentially harmful particulate matter, according to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). But this figure is likely to include all types of solid fuel burning, such as people using open fireplaces and burning the most polluting fuels.

Read on to find out how to limit your stove emissions. Or visit our guide to stoves and pollution to find out what the government is doing to decrease the effects of stoves on pollution.

Don’t use wet logs or house coal on your stove

Nearly a third of the people we asked didn’t know the best fuel to use to create less pollution. We also found that 5% use wet logs and 4% house coal, the worst fuels for polluting our planet.

Wood fuel

The drier the wood, the more efficient it will be and the less harmful the particulate matter it will produce. Seasoned logs – where you or the supplier has dried out the logs – are the most cost-effective.

A good rule of thumb is to only burn wood with a maximum of 20% moisture. You can either look for logs with a Ready to Burn logo, showing that they have been verified as fit to burn, or by using a moisture meter yourself.

Dry firewood for a stove

Coal

House coal produces more emissions than smokeless fuel. This includes sulphur, of which high levels can irritate your airways and cause them to constrict.

Smokeless fuel is an umbrella term for a few different types of coals that produce less smoke as they burn. It includes anthracite coal, which occurs naturally, but can also be manufactured.

Ideally, you should use smokeless fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 2%.

Visit our page to using a log burner or multi-fuel stove for more advice on the types of fuels to use and their costs.

Never leave your stove to slumber

Some 14% of the stove owners we spoke to ‘slumber’ their stove – eg setting it to burn at a low output – most of the time, and 5% said they do this every time they use their stove.

Slumbering or allowing your stove to smoke is a sure-fire way to increase its emissions, so ensure your fire has a visible flame by using your stove’s air vents.

We have videos on our using a stove page that talks you through lighting your stove and keeping it burning well.

Chimney smoking

Keep your log burner or multi-fuel stove clean

When we asked stove owners what fuel is best for keeping their stove clean, 18% said they didn’t know.

Wetter fuel that smokes a lot will produce more soot and tar that will potentially clog up your stove and chimney. Using the right fuel will help.

However, any fuel will create some build-up, so it is still important to get your chimney cleaned regularly and ensure it doesn’t have any faults, such as cracks.

We were pleased to hear that the highest proportion of stove owners we quizzed (59%) get their stove swept yearly. But 31% only do it every few years and 4% never get their chimneys or stoves swept.

If you’re looking for a chimney sweep in your area, you can use Which? Trusted Traders to find a fully vetted tradesperson.

(*Survey of 1,434 stove owners and Which? members conducted in January 2019).

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