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Open Fire vs Modern Wood Burning Stove

According to the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA), modern wood burning stoves could solve the UK's air pollution problem as they are 10 times more efficient than an open fire.

The popularity of wood burning stoves in recent years has led to many associating wood burning with stoves. However, an open fire produces 10 times more PM emissions than a SIA Ecodesign Ready stove does while burning wood.

   Under the Clean Air Act it is illegal to burn wood in an open fire. Local Authorities have found it difficult to enforce the regulation and most people do not realise that they are breaking the law.

   An open fire is the wrong way to burn wood. The high level of incomplete combustion in an open fire produces higher levels of smoke and PM emissions than a Defra exempt or SIA Ecodesign Ready Stove. Nationally 40% of wood is burnt on open fires; this figure rises to 70% in London.

   A recent Met Office report highlighted that carbon recduction is essential and wood, as a renewable carbon neutral 

fuel, plays a significant role in reducing CO2 emmisions. Concerns over the PM emmisions from wood burning are currently being dicussed by Defra in its Clean Air Stategy, instead of focusing on reducing the amount of wood being burnt, it is advocating the use of dry wood on Ecodesign Ready stoves.

  Despite this, the level of emissions from wood burning has declined in most UK cities, including London, because many households have switched to Defra exempt stoves which are certified to reduce emissions and can be used in smoke control areas.

  Burning wood at a hight temperature - which can be achieved by a modern stove - reduces its affect on air pollution.

Open fires burn fuel at a lower temperature therefore contributing more to air pollution.

  The Defra Clean Air Strategy will focus on educating consumers to burn dry wood on an Ecodesign compliant stove but it also needs to address the issue of open fires.

  There are many benefits of using a SIA Ecodesign Ready stove rather than an open fire such as the increase in efficiency from 30% to between 70-80% resulting in much more heat in the room and the use of fewer logs. It is estimated that it would require 16 logs in an open fire to produce the same heat as five logs in a SIA Ecodesigne ready stove. By using fewer logs, you will in turn reduce emission targets.

  As Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Select Committiee Environment Food and Rural Affairs, said at the launch of the SIA Ecodesign Ready stoves: " What the SIA is doing fits in with the world we have; we have problems in our inner cities with very high levels of NO and particulates. Anything we can do to reduce that from open fires and others, through SIA Ecodesign Ready stoves, has got to be an absolute benefit.

  If you do not own an Ecodesign stove, there are measures that can be taken to reduce air pollution. A simple way to do this is to know how to light your stove correctly. Burnign wood at a high enough temperature will reduce the amount of PM emmisions produced. Here is an easy to follow step by step guide on how to get it right.

Step 1: Use plenty of small kindling.

Step 2: Set all air controls at fully open, light the fire and close the door. Flames should fill the box for about 10-15 mins while the stove reaches a good operating temperature.

Step: Refuel with slightly larger logs if your stove has more than one air control then close the one that allows air in directly from the room.

Step 4: Once the stove has reached optimum temperature you can reduce the amount of air using a 'secondary' control. Be sure not to close it off too much as there needs to be a reasonable flame in the stove and the glass should stay clear.

Step 5: Keep the temperature hot, if you are using a flue thermometer, aim for the middle for an optimum level.

Step 6: Maintain a good bright flame with medium-sized logs.

Step 7: Check the top of the chimney - if you see any smoke, adjust the air controls accordingly.

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