Wood burning stoves and their role in our low carbon future

Jun 10, 2021

Wood burning stoves and their role in our low carbon future

NB: This article was originally written for H&V News and appears in its June 2021 issue which can be viewed here.

With new carbon reduction targets set to become enshrined in law later this year, the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) looks at how the use of modern wood burning stoves can help meet the UK’s 2035 and 2050 objectives and the evolution in appliance design and certification that ensures wood stoves are a future proof solution.

The original environmentally friendly solution

Long before carbon reduction and air quality targets made daily headlines, wood burning stoves have been delivering renewable, sustainable, and affordable heat for homes across the UK and the rest of the world. In fact, many of today’s wood burning stove owners will argue that they are the original environmentalists.

With an estimated two million stove and fireplace installations in the UK, representing a domestic investment of approximately £2 billion in people’s homes, wood burning stoves not only provide a warming backdrop to family life, but they also make a genuine contribution to economic growth.

The stove industry takes the issues of air quality and carbon reduction very seriously and the SIA has been working closely with both Defra and BEIS to ensure that improvements are being made to reduce emissions from wood burning stoves and fireplaces whilst continuing to achieve the environmental benefits of using renewable biomass fuel.

Ecodesign Regulations – 21st century technology

On 1st January 2022 the new Ecodesign Regulations for solid fuel space heating appliances come into force. Any appliance manufactured from this date must comply not only with increased appliance efficiency targets (75% minimum) but also with an 88% improvement on permitted CO emissions, plus strict emission limits for particulate matter (PM), organic gaseous compounds (OGC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The stove industry has been well ahead of the curve on this. Since 2017 appliances with the SIA Ecodesign Ready label have been available and in 2020 the clearSkies emissions and energy performance certification mark for solid fuel stoves and fireplaces was launched with levels that go beyond the Ecodesign requirements. This means that there is already a comprehensive range of appliances on the market that meet, and exceed, the requirements of Ecodesign Regulations.

These modern Ecodesign compliant stoves feature the very latest fireboxes that have been specifically designed for more complete combustion, employing secondary and tertiary air systems to burn off excess hydrocarbons in conjunction with more efficient baffle and aeration systems. They are more efficient by virtue of their design, but also more importantly, they are significantly less polluting.

Independent tests show that a modern SIA Ecodesign Ready or clearSkies certified wood burning stove will produce up to 90% less emissions than an open fire and up to 80% less than many older, basic stove models.

Low carbon technology

Far from having to reinvent the wheel, these advances in stove design mean that an already tried, tested and trusted environmentally friendly heating solution, has been brought right up to date to sit alongside and complement a growing range of innovative heating technologies that will drive the shift to lower and zero carbon homes.

Used in conjunction with a heat pump, for example, which operates at a steady state, a modern wood stove will deliver fast, controllable, and low carbon localised heat to deal with the common temperature fluctuations of the UK climate.

The bigger picture

Achieving our carbon reduction goals is about much more than just ensuring that we have the right appliances in our homes, however. It is imperative that consumers are given the right information to ensure that they can operate their wood burning stove as cleanly and efficiently as possible.

Taking the advice of an independent retailer when choosing a stove will ensure the right heat output is selected and the correct installation, via an appropriately qualified competent person, is carried out.

Fundamental to stove performance is the right fuel. Wood fuel should have a moisture content of less than 20% to ensure maximum efficiency and minimum emissions (the Woodsure Ready to Burn scheme certifies wood fuel to be below 20% moisture content).

Regular maintenance, including chimney sweeping at least once a year, completes the picture.

Future proof choice

Modern wood burning stoves with SIA Ecodesign Ready or clearSkies certification pave the way for a shift to lower carbon homes.

Already a very low carbon solution, combined with their low emission, renewable and sustainable credentials modern, wood burning stoves offer a viable and scalable solution for the delivery of a sustainable heating strategy. Importantly, with the changing climate and increased stress on our energy and utilities system, they provide the security of being able to heat the home in the event of grid outages, while at the same time reducing our reliance on fossil fuels for domestic heating, making them a truly future proof choice.


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