Wood Smoke....not great news

Disastrous for asthmatics.

Freezing to death isn’t really the issue. It is just highlighting the pollution caused by burning wood which people regard as a carbon-neutral and therefore environmentally friendly option. It is surprising at the air pollution and particles emitted, and unfortunately air pollution affects everyone.

People have mainly stopped burning coal (I never lived through it but the London smog in the 50s didn’t appear to be pleasant, and I imagine the air in the midlands “Black Country” wasn’t great either), and that cleaned up the air. Now we are burning wood, but this doesn’t appear to be a great option either with the fine particles released. Recently they discovered very small pollutant particles in the air may trigger lung cancer in people who have never smoked
Pollutant particles in the air trigger lung cancer in non-smokers.


Here is data for UK (London to be specific)

During the pandemic in SE London when most people stayed home the roads were much quieter my PM2.5 and PM1.0 meter measured 0 most of the time. If there was a reading it was very low. I will repeat the test in the same roads to see what the level is now. Vehicle polution especially from diesels in particulate terms far out weighs the few log burners. I will test friends wood burners and also my own.

The Burley Brampton is one of the best, cleanest burning stoves you can buy but I dont light it in summer so testing will have to wait on that one.

@PeterE OT ISTR you mentioned you’d optimise the angle of your solar panels for winter not summer. What angle(s) might achieve this please?

They say around 60 degrees. I am putting some on a wall i.e. vertically just because it is convenient and high enough to avoid tree shade with the low sun.

This site is very simple to use.

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I’m back in the UK for the winter - much as I like France, I find our patch intolerable in winter because of the wood smoke.

I have a wood burner here, and a pile of very dry ash, but I won’t burn it unless the gas and electricity fail this winter. I haven’t used the stove here for a couple of years. It’s one of those modern ‘clean burn’ types, where the smoke gets recycled through the flames for a second burn. It’s better than an old stove, and far better than an open fire. But I’ve read about how harmful they are - even in the UK, there is as much tiny particulates put into the air by wood stoves as by all the traffic on thew road. You can’t see the harmful particulates, nor of course the CO2 and the other gases released. Considering the amount of traffic, and the relatively few wood stoves there are in the country, that’s pretty damning. Here is an article from the guardian about it, but the data has been widely written about elsewhere .

What can be done? There’s no magic solution - many houses are too poorly insulated and have no other realistic option for heating. But there is another use for the wood - I own 10 hectares of woodland in France, and I’m cutting down some of that wood to build a passive house. The insulation will be wood fibre, deep enough that no heat source will be needed to keep the house warm.

I think the idea that wood burning is carbon neutral is specious. Burning anything puts bad stuff into the air and exacerbates climate change. I don’t think it matters much how long ago the carbon was captured - oil, gas, diesel, wood from your local forest. Wood captures carbon, and using it for construction locks away the carbon for a long time. Using it for insulation diminishes the need for the burning of any fuel.

I know, we’ve always done it, and I grew up toasting tea cakes in front of an open fire. I appreciate the attraction of wood burning, but I think it is no longer compatible with leaving behind a habitable planet.

Got your brick bats ready? I’m ducking! Might as well add I don’t think we should be flying for holidays either. :slight_smile:


@Pir8ped I couldn’t have put it better myself.


We haven’t flown for a holiday for many years, but are luckily able to afford to take trains. And pay for Eurostar rather than easy jet visiting UK - but price difference st peak times can be massive.

I am aiming on one more long haul flight in my life, but otherwise will aim to stick to places I can get to without flying. Easy to say, but might be hard to do!

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I’m finding that the more I économise - heating, food, meat consumption, travel - the easier and more natural it becomes.

And it’s all balance, isn’t it? I don’t envisage flying again, but if I had to, I’d expect my other economies and behaviours to balance it out (much as my lowered meat consumption goes some way towards “paying for” the obligate carnivore family member’s food!).

@PeterE @Badger Thank you

I can’t pledge to not fly, until there is a high-speed train to Singapore or somewhere like that and a fast boat to Oz with a high speed train to get from the north of Oz to Sydney! Wouldn’t that be an amazing trip??!!

I like slow travel! Just wish it was a touch cheaper.


Don’t worry they will be banned soon!
We like to use wood as it is a renewable source of fuel and is still cheaper than other fuel at present.
Not sure where to go next for heat.

Putting the cost to one side, which is not necessarily easy to do, the kind of heat produced by a wood burner is quite different from that produced by any other means. I was brought up in an era when everyone was stripping out their fireplaces and putting in electric fires and central heating. These all worked to stop people freezing but there wasn’t the sheer pleasure of getting warm near a woodburner. I think it might be something to do with the variability of the type of heat and is a real joy. To me, it’s a bit like food - you can get all the nutrients current science says are necessary for the body by taking pills and eating prepared mixes but a well-blanced meal beats the lot on so many levels.

Applying for planning permission for my new house - no wood burner would be allowed. The regulations were very much oriented to having so much insulation that the heat from the sun, the occupants, the cooking and heat from the fridge, freezer etc would be sufficient to keep the house warm. In the long term, insulation to the point of not needing extra heating is the cheapest option of all.


Yep, I totally recognise the pleasant heat from a wood burner. It’s radiant heat, and penetrates through and warms the bones! Background heat doesn’t have that welcoming pleasure. But how can we afford it if it is going to contribute so much to poisoning the air and making the planet much less habitable. Our kids and their kids will have to deal with crop failures, food shortages, migrations and mass deaths amongst the least resilient populations.

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How many BTUs do you think a burning politician gives off?

That’s what I do. I don’t like woodburners, inserts etc.

That depends if their wallets are included.