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Curbs on wood burners: What will it mean for households?

Domestic wood burning is the UK’s largest single source of particulate matter known as PM2.5, which is linked to health problems such as cancer.

The Government has plans to clean up air pollution which include taking steps on dirty wood burners and fires in the home. What does this mean?

– What is the problem with wood burners?

Burning wood releases harmful pollutants, such as tiny particles called particulate matter, straight into the home as well as into the air outside.

Domestic wood burning is the UK’s largest single source of particulate matter known as PM2.5, which is linked to health problems such as heart disease, strokes and cancer.

– What will the Government’s plans mean for the fuel used?

It looks likely that in the future highly polluting fuel, including wet wood which is much dirtier than dried wood and smoky coal, will not be available for sale.

The Government says it may follow the approach for wet wood that Ireland has on coal, where sale, distribution and marketing is not allowed.

But this would not affect wood sold in large volumes for seasoning at home, and there would be a phase-in period to allow for existing stocks to be used up.

– What about the wood stoves themselves?

They will get cleaner too. From 2022, all new stoves sold for use across the country will have to meet tougher emissions standards under the Ecodesign regulations, replacing rules which only require the cleanest stoves to be used existing smoke control areas.

– Will people be prevented from using their wood burners or open fires?

Local authorities will be given more powers to curb the use of polluting wood burners, for example by being able to encourage “no burn days” during high pollution episodes.

– What about existing smoke control areas?

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Councils are already able to designate smoke control areas where it is illegal to allow smoke emissions from the chimney of your home, and you can only burn authorised fuels or use appliances which have been exempted for use in the area.

People who break the rules face a fine of up to £1,000.

But local authorities say people are not very aware of and often do not comply with the rules, and smoke control areas can be hard to enforce.

So part of the strategy is to raise awareness of the link between air pollution and domestic wood burning and help people make better choices.

– What can people do right now to cut the air pollution caused by home heating from wood burners and open fires?

People can buy Ecodesign and Defra exempt stoves, which are cleaner and more efficient, and have them installed properly and regularly maintained, as well as getting the chimney swept up to twice a year.

Homeowners are encouraged not to get the fire going when it is not necessary, for example if the house is already warm, and to buy “Ready to Burn” certified fuel or dry freshly chopped wood before burning it.

House-coal should swapped for smokeless fuels and people should avoid burning household rubbish and treated wood such as old furniture.

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