The Environmental Impact of Log Burners: Keep or Ditch?
5 mins to read

The Environmental Impact of Log Burners: Keep or Ditch?

# Woodburners

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A wood-burning stove can transform your living room, kitchen, or bedroom into a cosy paradise.

However, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to warm your home, is a log burner the best option?

Join us as we look at the environmental impact of log burners and how to stay as sustainable as possible when heating your home.

Let’s start by asking if wood burners cause pollution. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Is having a log burner bad for the environment?

The main advantage of a wood burning fire when it comes to sustainability is that you’re burning a renewable energy source. Unlike fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil which are finite, wood can be replenished over time. (Of course, it’s important to make sure the wood you burn comes from a sustainable source.)

Wood burning fires also produce fewer carbon emissions than other heat sources like gas or oil-fired central heating. Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel, meaning the amount of carbon dioxide released when it’s burned is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide the tree absorbs while it is growing.

However, the main disadvantage of log burners is that they produce air pollution, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide. This air pollution reduces the air quality of our towns and cities, as well as our homes.

According to DEFRA, wood burners and open fires are the second biggest source of particulate matter air pollution in the UK.

The environmental impact of wood burning fireplaces and UK law

Green trees seen from the ground below

The UK Government has realised that wood burners can cause pollution and has established new rules that log burner owners must now follow.

New log burners must abide by the Ecodesign regulations to ensure efficiency. Independently assessed to meet emission limits, Ecodesign-approved burners are the cleanest wood burning stoves on the market. Wood burning fireplaces that don’t meet these regulations are no longer available for sale.

Log burners in ‘smoke control areas’ can only release 3g of smoke an hour – with fines of up to £300 for homes that don’t comply. You can see if you’re in a smoke control area on the DEFRA website.

Businesses can only sell wood that complies with the ‘Ready to Burn’ standard and contains less than 20% moisture – as wet wood causes excess smoke. If you collect and chop your own wood, you must dry it before using it, which can take up to a year.

Will the regulations surrounding log burners become stricter in the future? It’s hard to say. 

The rules that are currently in place are working. Wood burning stoves have gone from contributing to 38% of particulate matter air pollution to 17%. 

However, with aims for the UK to meet net zero carbon emission targets by 2050, further regulations may be needed to help achieve this goal. For example, earlier this year, the amount of smoke that log burners could release in smoke control areas was reduced from 5g to 3g.

We’ll keep you updated with all the latest news and developments surrounding the environmental impact of log burners.

How to ensure a wood burner is eco-friendly

Burning firewood in a round bowl

If you have a wood burner, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure it operates as sustainably as possible. Here are our top tips for maintaining and running a sustainable stove:

  1. Only use your log burner when needed. Once your home feels warm enough, stop using it
  2. Regularly maintain your log burner and get a professional to clean your chimney or flue at least once a year. This means your fire can burn more efficiently and cleanly and also operates more safely
  3. If your wood burning stove is over ten years old, consider replacing it with a more efficient Ecodesign model
  4. Build your log fire slowly, as overloading it with too many logs can lead to smoke. Avoid using accelerants like gasoline or lighter fuel, as these release toxic fumes
  5. Fit a flue liner. This helps improve airflow, meaning more efficient combustion
  6. Make sure your wooden logs stay dry by sheltering them from rain and snow. A moisture metre is an affordable way to make sure they’re dry enough to burn
  7. Buy sustainably sourced firewood from fast-growing forests where one tree is planted for every tree felled. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification
  8. Don’t burn paper, cardboard, plastic, or treated wood, as these can release toxic fumes
  9. Burn smaller logs, as larger ones can smoulder and release smoke at low temperatures
  10. Consider an alternative to wooden logs, like coffee logs or paper bricks. These produce less emissions but still create lots of heat

Sustainable stoves: what eco-friendly alternatives to log burners are there?

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of a log burner, the good news is that eco-friendly options are available. 

Electric fireplaces are very efficient and eco-friendly as they don’t produce fumes. Nevertheless, a significant downside is that they’re not as pleasing to the eye, and you don’t get that authentic flame!

A great alternative if you want a sustainable fire with an actual flickering flame is a bioethanol fireplace. Bioethanol is a plant-based fuel, meaning it doesn’t produce toxic fumes, smoke, or soot. Plus, as you don’t need a flue, since it is a smokeless fuel source, you can install your fireplace in a much wider array of places in the house. 

While a bioethanol fire isn’t intended to be the primary heat source of your home or replace your central heating, it still gives off plenty of additional warmth, perfect for those cold winter nights!

In conclusion: is owning a log burner bad for the environment?

The environmental impact of owning a log burner hinges on responsible usage and conscientious maintenance practices. When employed correctly, a log burner need not be detrimental to the environment. 

By selecting and burning suitable fuels while diligently upkeeping your wood burner, you can enjoy its warmth while still being environmentally conscious.

Nevertheless, for those seeking a greener and cleaner heating option, a bioethanol fireplace emerges as an excellent choice. 

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This innovative alternative not only offers efficient and sustainable heating but also minimises the environmental footprint, making it a smart and eco-conscious investment for those committed to preserving our planet.