Air Quality: Wood Burning and Solid Fuels
The most common ways in which we burn solid fuels in our home, is through the use of open fireplaces and wood burning / multifuel stoves.
This page gives information on purchasing, installing, and maintaining solid fuel appliances. It also provides information on burning different types of fuels.
Using this information will help to protect the health of you, your family and others in your community.
Health impacts of domestic burning
Burning solid fuels within the home is a major contributor to a type of pollutant called fine particulate matter.
The common name for this type of pollution is Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5), This consists of tiny particles or droplets in the air that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. This is about 3% of the diameter of a human hair and is not visible to the naked human eye, so even with the use of 'smokeless' fuels and appliances, this pollution may still be occurring within and outside the home.
PM2.5 has been identified by the World Health Organization as the most harmful type of pollution to human health. It has been shown to cause illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer, the current evidence suggests there is no safe level of PM2.5 in the environment.
How much of this PM2.5 is due to wood burning?
Government statistics show that domestic wood burning accounted for as much as 38 per cent of PM2.5 emissions in 2019. PM2.5 emissions from domestic wood burning have more than doubled between 2003 and 2019 (from 20 to 41 thousand tonnes). Domestic wood burning has become the single biggest source of small particle air pollution in the UK, producing three times more than road traffic.
A recent report from the European Environment Bureau showed that even Euro-certified 'Eco-stoves' produce 750 times more PM2.5 per unit of energy produced than a modern HGV.
Buying a solid fuel appliance for your home
The Ecodesign regulations came into force on 1st January 2022, from this date, only stoves that comply with Ecodesign standards can be sold.
These new efficiency and emission standards aim to improve the level of emissions caused by fuel appliances. An Ecodesign ready wood burner produces up to 90% less emissions than an open fire, and up to 80% less than a stove manufactured over 10 years ago. The Ecodesign also increases the burning efficiency (over 70%) of the fire, which creates more heat with less fuel.
You should select a solid fuel appliance that:
This will ensure that the appliance you choose is compliant with the requirements of the 2022 Ecodesign regulations. Some of these will also meet and exceed the standards for a DEFRA approved stove.
DEFRA Approved Stoves
There are no Smoke Control Areas (SCAs) in Southend On Sea. This means you do not have to purchase a DEFRA approved stove. However, using one will help to reduce the amount of smoke that your appliance produces.
The difference between a DEFRA approved and Ecodesign stove:
The Particulate Matter (PM) emission limit for Ecodesign stoves is 55% percent lower than the limit for DEFRA approved stoves.
This means Ecodesign stoves are better for your health and the environment.
Installing a solid fuel appliance
It is a legal duty to notify Building Control of your solid fuel appliance installation. This can be done by either:
- having your appliance installed by a HETAs registered installer
- applying for Building Regulation Approval.
You can make small changes such as:
- sourcing fuel which displays the 'Ready to Burn' logo
- using dry seasoned wood
- reducing how long you have your fire lit
Making these changes can provide benefits such as helping to:
- Improve the air we all breathe by reducing the amount of pollution produced
- Keep you and your family safe by reducing the risk of chimney fires
- Get the most out of your open fire or appliance so that it performs better. This will help you use less fuel to produce more heat.
One wet log can contain up to one pint of water! Burning wet wood doesn’t give off as much heat and produces lots of smoke and tar which can damage your appliance and harm your health.
All wood that is sold must be certified as 'Ready to Burn'. This demonstrates that the wood has a low moisture content.
Ensure any wood you source is stored in a dry area for at least 2 years before burning.
When is my wood ready to burn?
Check for signs your wood is ready to burn by completing the following checks:
- Weight – when comparing similar sized logs and the same species, if the log is heavier this can indicate it is still wet
- Sound – a hollow sound when tapping indicates dry logs
- Cracked ends – can indicate dry logs
- Bark – the looser the bark the drier the log
- Colour – dry wood can be lighter in colour
Always avoid burning treated material, such as wood which has been:
- chemically treated
(These may include old furniture, pallets and medium density fibreboard.) These release dangerous pollutants which could have a serious impact on your health.
Manufactured Solid Fuels
Manufactured solid fuels (MSF) are any solid fuels made from:
- plant-derived materials
- petroleum products.
All sales of traditional house / bituminous coal will be banned in England from 1st May 2023. (Currently, only coal merchants that are registered as a member of the Approved Coal Merchants Scheme are able to sell loose coal until the above date.)
Other types of coal will continue to be available as they produce less smoke. These include:
- semi anthracite
- low volatile steam coal
Maintenance of your solid fuel appliance
Solid fuel appliances such as wood burners and multifuel stoves should have an annual service. This should include cleaning the flue.
If you use an open fire, get your chimney swept regularly. It is advisable to get your chimney swept at least:
- twice a year when burning wood
- once a year when burning smokeless fuels
Garden bonfires produce smoke and smells. This can annoy neighbours and damage the environment. They can also damage your health through releasing harmful pollutants into the air.
There are no bylaws in Cornwall concerning domestic bonfires. There are no specific times of day when bonfires are prohibited. However, it is strongly recommended to avoid having bonfires and disposing your garden waste in other ways. For example:
- Composting your garden waste
- Take the waste to a household waste and recycling centre
- Request a Garden waste collection
Staying warm and well
At the current time, we recognize many of our residents are trying to stay warm and well. Southend on Sea City Council has brought together in one place all the support for residents struggling with the cost of living.
We have lots of advice and information about:
- staying warm and well
- how to apply for grants to improve the warmth of your home
for further advice please see the NHS guidance on Staying warm and Well
Guidance on domestic burning, saving energy and keeping warm
- If you use an open fire or stove, it’s important to know how to burn better.
- Watch this video to learn how to burn better and improve the air you breathe.
- Read DEFRA’s practical guide for open fires and wood burning stoves.
- Read the wood burning guide from the Solid Fuel Association.
More information on domestic burning
If you would like to receive more information or if you have any concerns around domestic burning, please email: