Smoke from wood burners and open fires
The Stroud District has no designated smoke control areas. Consequently, people are entitled to have open fires and operate wood and multi-fuel stoves in their homes.
However, the increase in the popularity of such burning has led to increases in the emission of fine Particulate Matter (PM).
PM can travel large distances in the atmosphere. Approximately 15% of the concentrations of PM that people in the UK are exposed to come from naturally occurring sources such as pollen and sea spray. Another third is transported to the UK from other countries, predominantly from mainland Europe.
Overall, approximately half of UK concentrations of PM comes from anthropogenic sources in the UK such as wood burning and tyre and brake wear from vehicles.
Looking purely at this anthropogenic half of all PM emissions, in the last 10 years it is estimated that domestic wood burning has doubled across the country and that emissions of PM2.5 from domestic wood burning increased by 124 per cent between 2011 and 2021, to represent 21% of anthropogenic PM2.5 emissions in 2021.
Open fires and wood-burning stoves have risen in popularity in recent years and are often used as an additional form of heating, an attractive feature of the home or as the sole source of heating. The emitted fine particles (PM2.5 ), both inside the home and beyond, from domestic combustion can produce a range of health impacts such as respiratory and cardiovascular difficulties. It is important, therefore, to ensure that such combustion is carried out responsibly and that all steps are taken to minimise emissions.
A few small changes can make a huge difference in terms of the efficiency of your stove and the effect on the air quality in your home. Improving air quality, both indoors and outside, will have a positive impact on the environment, your health and the health of your family. Simple steps include:-
Consider burning less – many people use an open fire or a wood-burning stove as an aesthetically pleasing addition to their normal heating. If your house is already warm, then consider not lighting the fire, which will reduce both costs and airborne particulate emission.
Only burn dry (seasoned) wood - burning wet or unseasoned/green wood is inefficient as it takes a lot of heat to boil off the water before the appliance can emit heat into the room. In turn, this creates a lot of smoke, tar and particulates which can damage your chimney and appliance as well as contribute to air pollution.
Buy “Ready to Burn” fuel – look for wood marked as “Ready to Burn” sold by a Woodsure Certified Supplier. Wood displaying the Ready to Burn logo has a 20% moisture content or less and can be burnt straight away. These logs burn more efficiently than unseasoned/green wood and reduce environmental impact. More information on the scheme can be found at: www.readytoburn.org
Do not burn treated waste wood (e.g. old furniture or pallets) or household rubbish – wood which has been treated with paint or preservatives can emit harmful fumes and household rubbish may include plastics that can release harmful pollutants into your home when burnt and may affect the health of you and your family.
Consider using an approved smokeless fuel – Please see the following List of approved smokeless fuels.
If you are buying a new stove, choose carefully – check that it is DEFRA-approved and “Ecodesign Ready” and have it installed by a suitably qualified person. DEFRA-approved “exempt appliances” are deemed to be more efficient and less polluting – see https://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk
Check how to operate your appliance efficiently - always operate your stove in line with the manufacturer’s guidance. By controlling the air supply correctly, you will improve efficiency, thus both saving you money and reducing emissions.
Regularly maintain and service your stove – servicing your stove annually means it will work better and you will generate more heat from what you burn.
Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year) - during use, particulates build up in the chimney, reducing efficiency and increasing the risk of chimney fires. It is better to use a qualified chimney sweep who will also be able to advise you on good burning practices for your open fire or stove.
Make sure you are using the correct fuel for your stove and flue – some stoves are specific to the type of fuel to be burnt. Some are wood-only and others are multi-fuel. Burning the wrong fuel could damage your equipment and/or flue, which may not be covered by home insurance.
A practical guide entitled "Open fires and wood-burning stoves" has been produced by DEFRA which sets out simple steps to reduce environmental and health impacts.
Further advice is also available in the following guidance documents:-
- "We all breathe the same air" which provides clear advice on procedures to follow when lighting a stove to minimise smoke emissions; an
- The DEFRA document “How to get the most from your stove or open fire - a guide to buying, storing and seasoning wood”
If you feel that a property near you emits unreasonable amounts of smoke from a flue or chimney, then please complain to us online via our report it section, by telephone on 01453 766321 or by letter to Environmental Protection, Stroud District Council, Ebley Mill, Ebley Wharf, Stroud, Glos, GL5 4UB.
It would be helpful if your complaint included:-
- Your name, address and contact details – I am afraid we cannot action anonymous complaints;
- The address where the smoke is coming from;
- When and for how long the smoke occurs (it will help if you have kept a written record of the times and dates when the problem has occurred); and
- anything you have done to try to deal with the problem (for example, speaking to the person making the smoke)
In dealing with your complaint, we will keep your name and address in the strictest confidence. However, please do be aware that the person about who you have complained may correctly guess who has complained and potentially approach you.