SIA Responds to Mums for Lungs call for “wood burning stoves to be banned”
If you can see lots of wood smoke coming from someone’s chimney, it is likely that they are using the wrong fuel on the wrong appliance or on an open fire. Modern Ecodesign compliant wood burning stoves used with well-seasoned wood fuel at or below 20% moisture content (such as Ready to Burn certified) release almost no visible smoke from the chimney. They emit up to 90% less particulate emissions than an open fire and up to 80% less than many older, basic stove models. SIA members continue to work hard to further improve these numbers.
Modern Ecodesign compliant stoves are highly efficient and cost effective to run and they are very low carbon. Wood has less than 1/10th of the carbon intensity of gas, electricity and oil fuel and, in most cases, when wood burners are used for heating they displace fossil fuelled or electrical heating.
The stove industry has clearly demonstrated its ongoing commitment to improving air quality through independent certification schemes such as clearSkies, which sets a benchmark for appliances that go well beyond what is required under Ecodesign. It has always engaged with governments and local authorities in furthering our understanding of the factors contributing to poor air quality. The SIA fully supports the provisions being made within the new Environment Bill for local authorities to tackle and enforce air pollution under smoke control legislation. This will help get to the root of the problem of the use of poor-quality fuel in outdated appliances and open fires, a practice that is illegal within an urban smoke control area yet still accounts for an estimated 70% of all domestic solid fuel burning in London alone.
Far from being a decorative choice for the affluent few as some like to suggest, wood burning stoves have long been a sound choice for the environmentally aware consumer. For the many thousands of households in rural areas and the many thousands more in fuel poverty, they are often the ONLY choice for heating their homes. They also provide the security of being able to heat your home in the event of a failure in the gas or electricity supply.
To address the issue of air quality and to channel our actions in the right areas, we must first get our facts straight. Domestic wood burning as “the single biggest source of PM2.5 air pollution” has long been disputed by the wood burning stove industry because the data on which this calculation is based is fundamentally flawed. The SIA and UK government is working to address this. Furthermore, the comparison made between diesel vehicles and wood burning stoves when assessing impacts on pollution is also factually misleading and unhelpful. The comparison takes no account of brake and tyre emissions (the biggest source of vehicle pollution), nor does it take account of dispersion levels: a wood burning stoves vents up and out of a chimney well above roof level, whereas vehicle emissions release at human height.
The SIA would welcome the opportunity to engage further with Mums for Lungs to share our respective knowledge and work towards providing accurate information for homeowners to make informed choices.