Wood burning in the home

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Help improve air quality in your home

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 domestic exposure to air pollutants and makes a significant contribution to our national emissions of airborne particulates. It is estimated that 38% of UK primary particulate matter emissions come from burning wood and coal in domestic open fires and solid fuel stoves. These particulates are inhaled and transported around the body where they can become lodged in the heart, brain and other organs.

While we will never be able to eliminate all airborne particulates, there are simple steps that households can take to limit emissions both indoors and out that will make a big 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. So, what can you do?

  • Consider burning less - think about why you are lighting your fire, as well as how much fuel you use. Is it necessary? If your house is already warm enough and you don’t need to burn, not burning is the simplest way of reducing your costs and minimising airborne particulates.
  • Burn dry (seasoned) wood - if you burn wet timber or unseasoned wood as a fuel, you have to boil off the water before the appliance can give out the proper level of heat. 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 - use wood marked as ‘Ready to Burn’ by a Woodsure Certified Supplier. Any wood displaying the Ready to Burn logo will have 20% or less moisture content so once you get it home it is ‘Ready to Burn’. These logs burn more efficiently than unseasoned, green wood and reduce environmental impact. You can find a local supplier by going on line and putting your postcode into the HETAS website.
  • Do not burn treated waste wood (e.g. old furniture or pallets) or household rubbish - treated waste wood (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 – for manufactured solid fuels for use in domestic combustion they should conform to a test confirming sulphur content below 2% and the fuel emits less than 5g smoke per hour. A list of approved smokeless fuels is available on the HETAS website
  • If you are buying a new stove - check it is Defra approved and have it installed by a qualified person, see the HETAS website for details
  • Check how to operate your appliance efficiently - Always operate your stove in line with the manufacturer’s guidance. By controlling the air supply correctly etc. you will improve efficiency - this will save you money as well as reduce emissions.
  • Regularly maintain and service your stove - this means it will work better and will generate more heat from what you burn.
  • Get your chimney swept regularly - 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. The more you use your stove the more frequently you will need to sweep.

Sticking to these simple tips will help to keep airborne particulates and smoke down and ensure optimum efficiency and safety.

New regulations governing the sale of solid fuels - 2021

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.

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 Ipswich. Find a local supplier.

The 2020 Regulations also state that;

  • Wood sold in volumes over 2m3 will need to be sold with guidance on drying and advice on the issues of burning wet wood
  • Manufactured Solid Fuels will need to be certified to confirm that they have a sulphur content below 2% and do not emit more than 5g of smoke per hour from May 2021
  • Bags of traditional house (bituminous) coal will no longer be available for sale from May 2021, and sales of loose coal via approved coal merchants will be phased out by May 2023.

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.

Contact Details

Environmental Health,
Ipswich Borough Council,
3W Grafton House,
15-17 Russell Road,
Ipswich,
IP1 2DE