Wood burners have had something of a bad rap of late. With the government aiming to clean up the UK’s air quality, wood burners and open fires are coming under increasing scrutiny. But some think they're being made a scapegoat for bigger pollution problems.
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The latest to enter the debate is our favourite renovating expert, the lovely Sarah Beeny.
It all started with this response to a Tweet from clean air campaigner Karen Gaines, which stated, 'UK’s largest single source of PM2.5 – 37,200 tonnes – is domestic wood burning, representing 2.7 times the 13,900 tonnes emitted by road transport. An eco-labelled wood stove is allowed to pollute as much as 25 ten-year-old diesel trucks.'
Incidentally, PM denotes fine particles, which have been cited as a cause of disease and premature death.
Can you confirm how much wood this is assuming is being burnt in each woodburner that has been registered each year as there are clearly no records of how much firewood has been burnt?January 24, 2019
Sarah doesn't feel that people use their wood burners anywhere near as much as many reports are estimating...
I am afraid I very much doubt many woodburners are used 3-12 hrs per day - more like 3-12 hrs a month which throws the stats way out https://t.co/v61NueNxSgJanuary 24, 2019
...and especially not in new builds!
I very much doubt there are many woodburners in new builds and if they are with current insulation and airtight building regs I doubt they’d be lit for more than 12 hrs a year! https://t.co/5ztF0zTM9LJanuary 25, 2019
Sarah believes the majority of owners of wood burners don't use them exclusively to keep warm, and that they're often a supplement to central heating.
Most woodburners are not the only source of heat in a home and those that are the owners tend to live in a less heated and more jumper wearing environment https://t.co/YsMug0FyezJanuary 25, 2019
Many of her fans agree. Andrew Petherick replies 'I find lighting fires a pain anyway, so it's weekends only for me. And who has time to sit in front of them, anyway!'.
And 'Dave' says 'My wood burner is only used in winter when it’s cold. That’s only for a few hours. I can’t see anyone needing to burn for 3-12 hours, I’d have to open all my windows to let the cold air back in.'
Replying to Dave, Sarah says she believes most people will use their stove a few hours a week – but does raise concerns about people using wet or 'unseasoned' wood.
I suspect this is a more normal wood burning consumption so numbers should be revised accordingly - not to say that we shouldn’t make people aware that burning wet wood is not good for your health nor keeping you warm though https://t.co/YZ8hBtFvGTJanuary 25, 2019
Fab and another wood burning owner not using it for 3-12 hrs a day - feeling healthier already!!! https://t.co/Q1OSf2qZMFJanuary 25, 2019
Rather than focussing on wood burners, Sarah believes that the Government has bigger fish to fry – for example, air fresheners, which she says have 'totally zero benefits - Environmental impact to produce - package - ship - and dispose of whilst spitting out toxic chemicals along the way - genius!!?!'
I think my point on woodburners is theres a temptation to deal with the ‘easy things’ environmently as it makes great headlines even if the impact is insignificantly minimal - what about billion pound air fresher market - isn’t even keeping us warm whilst polluting the air/worldJanuary 25, 2019
They have totally zero benefits - Environmental impact to produce - package - ship - and dispose of whilst spitting out toxic chemicals along the way - genius!!?! https://t.co/6U0X4CYyFLJanuary 25, 2019
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Do you agree with Sarah's views? You can follow her @sarahbeeny as the debate unfolds.
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Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.
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