Are woodburners really to blame for the London smog?

Are woodburners to blame for the London smog

As air pollution levels exceeded those of Beijing in London of late, fingers were pointed at the number of woodburners in use in the capital. The demand for woodburning stoves has tripled in the last five years as Londoners are experiment with going partially off-grid to combat rising fuel prices. However, with 175,000 woodburning stoves being installed across the country every year, are they really to blame for the level of air pollution in London?

Unseasoned logs: bad for the environment, bad for health

Wet wood uses energy to burn. Don't do it! Wet wood uses energy to burn. Don't do it!

The problem it seems is not with the woodburners themselves, but with the type of logs being burned. Burning cheap, low quality, unseasoned wood is problematic for several reasons:

    • It burns inefficiently, using energy to drive off moisture instead of generating heat.
    • Wet wood gives off more smoke, emissions and pollutants including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulate matter as it burns, negating the environmental benefit of using seasoned hardwood logs.
    • These emissions contain soot, tar and creosote which can block your chimney liner or flue and can lead to an increased risk of chimney fires, force deadly gases back into your home and damage your woodburner.

Properly seasoned firewood logs are carbon neutral and an extremely efficient source of heat. They also burn at high enough temperatures to drive off the combustible gases and particulates in the smoke before they can create a problem. Unfortunately, many new woodburner owners are unaware of the the environmental and health risks inherent in burning unseasoned wood particularly since, contrary to widespread belief, these wet logs will burn, just not efficiently.

Choosing seasoned hardwood logs

Properly seasoned kiln dried logs with a moisture content of 15% and below burn extremely efficiently and produce negligible emissions. These logs have been left to weather for at least a year and can be kiln-dried to remove even more of the moisture content. You can spot a properly seasoned log by the way the bark will have started to separate from the wood and there are noticeable cracks where the wood has dried unevenly.

Woodburners are still an incredibly efficient way to heat your home, reduce your carbon footprint and reduce your energy bills. Just make sure the wood you burn has been kiln-dried to reduce pollution.

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