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UK Air quality improvements 1

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UK Air quality improvements 1
by Sune Nightingale
14 January 2019

Comparing the emissions of open fires and old stoves with modern stoves.

I welcome the plans which have been announced today to improve air quality nationwide. Air quality has been steadily improving in the UK for many years now, but so has our understanding of the impacts of particulates so this is an even more important issue to tackle and the stove industry definitely has its part to play. The UK has not been meeting its current air quality targets for many years now. It is almost certainly due to the fact that fines were about to be levied against the UK by the EU that a strong response is now being taken. This makes me somewhat concerned about what will happen once we leave the EU. In the short term it seems likely we will adopt EU environmental (and other) policies, but I wonder what the future holds long-term: much of the rhetoric about leaving the UK focussed on not being subject to annoying EU regulations and red tape some of which are regulations covering air quality.

EU Ecodesign regulations already mean that only the cleanest wood stoves will be available to buy from 2022, with many manufacturers adopting these regs ahead of time so that their stoves are Ecodesign-Ready, and plans in the industry to go several steps further to boot.

The government have then announced that they will ban the sale of wet wood, probably adopting the rather good WoodSure quality standard managed by a switched on lady called Helen Bentley-Fox. They will also phase out the sale of house coal. This is a good move as burning wet wood is a sure way to produce a lot of particulates and house coal is a dirty fuel, and high-carbon.

I still think that the plans should go further. Concerning those particulates produced by burning wood and coal: it is the use of existing open fires, and then older stoves which will cause the lion's share of these. Mandating dry wood will certainly help the situation, but I would go further:

Use of open fires to burn wood in Smoke Controlled Areas is already banned, but these rules are flouted as there is no enforcement. The scale of the problem is uncertain because there are no stats to work with. Open fires not only produce a LOT more airbourne particulates than stoves but are also a really inefficient way to burn fuel. Often an open fire may make you warm when sat in front of it, but overall it can actually be making the house colder: an open chimney will lose around 20-25lts per second of nice warm air and suck in the same amount of cold air to replace it. A stove on the other hand has a tiny opening to the chimney and so only sucks out a tiny fraction of air compared to an open fire.

Part 2 here

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