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HEATING, VENTILATION & SERVICES Behind the headlines


Mark Blewitt of ESSE explains why environmental issues attributed to wood burning stoves are not as straightforward as they seem, and the impact of a new eco standard


I


t is true that recent headlines relating to wood burning stoves have not been particularly positive, following a government paper that some media interpreted as to be identifying them responsible for polluting the atmosphere with harmful particulates. Anyone who cares to dig a little deeper will realise that the research cited in that paper in fact identified open fires burning unregulated fuel as the real culprits. Nothing new there – stoves started to appear back in Victorian times precisely to increase the fuel economy and reduce emissions. At the heart of the design was the principle that stoves burn fuel more efficiently and create less pollution in comparison to open fires where 80 per cent of the heat goes straight up the chimney. Under existing legislation, burning wood in urban areas should occur in a specially designed appliance (or stove). If you live in a clean burning zone as set out by the Clean Air Act, the appliance must meet the higher Defra standard. These are often called ‘Defra approved’ appliances but more accurately they are ‘Defra exempt’. The Department for Environment & Rural Affairs (Defra) exempts certain appliances from the Clean Air Act as they have been designed and tested to burn cleanly when burning dry wood with a moisture content of under 20 per cent. Defra-exempt appliance have become the clean burning choice in both urban and rural areas even when the location is not within a clean burning zone. Wet wood, or wood that has been painted or treated, will not burn cleanly regardless of whether it is being burned on a stove (Defra exempt or not) or on an open grate. Burning wet or dirty wood will result in tar and soot, atmospheric pollution and damage to the installation.


Alternative solid fuel


While we have so far only mentioned wood, What about other forms of solid fuel, namely coal, anthracite and manufactured smokeless coals? Some readers may recall


ADF SEPTEMBER 2018


Stoves presently available with efficiencies of around 80 per cent will become less efficient as a result of the Eco Design standard


that prior to the demise of British Coal and our mining industry, many homes relied upon a solid fuel stove as a primary heating appliance, except we knew them as ‘room heaters’ rather than stoves. Heating stoves today are direct descendants of such models. In those days, a ‘stove’ was something capable of cooking as well, while some designs would also offer water heating or laundry iron heating too. Anthracite, natures own ‘clean burning fuel’ is still mined today at Onllwyn in South Wales but its popularity is on the wane. Younger generations not brought up on coal find it difficult to light and we might concede that, since we have a diminished capability to mine our own, transporting fuel from distant shores cannot be thought of as an environmentally beneficial option. Customers looking for a manufactured mineral fuel should look for the ‘UK approved smokeless’ label these fuels will have low sulphur content. Petroleum Coke and bituminous ‘house coal’ should be avoided completely.


The environmental choice Specifying a UK-manufactured stove constructed from UK-made steel and cast iron must surely be an excellent environmental choice. A quality brand that is used and maintained correctly will at least last a lifetime, and well-loved examples could last almost indefinitely. Almost entirely recyclable it may be, such thoughts are almost unnecessary. How different to most manufactured items in the modern world! Burn seasoned, dried logs, again ideally from a local source and you would be hard pressed to imagine a more environmentally friendly, carbon neutral


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