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A fire burning in a wood burner

Wood burning at home

Is your cosy fire doing more harm than you think?

Ealing Council is part of a new campaign to encourage residents with real coal fires or wood burning appliances, only to use them where they have no alternative source of heating this winter, to help reduce dangerous air pollution in their homes and in the borough.

The campaign is also advising residents not to invest in wood burning stoves in the first place, due to tiny smoke particles that can harm health and cause 284 avoidable deaths in London every year.

Cost of wood burning

According to a recent research, wood burners are more expensive than both gas boilers and air source heat pumps.

Even when a wood burner is pre-existing in a home (meaning that both the buying and installation fees are excluded), the annual cost of burning wood is 15% higher than a gas boiler, at around £2,000 per year.

Using a new wood burner for 20% of heat in a home will cost you 24% more than a gas boiler, at up to £2,200 per year.

And installing two wood burners and using them for 80% of your heat at home is almost 50% more expensive than using an existing gas boiler, at around £2,500 per year.

Silent killer

The small particles released by wood burning can stay in the air and can travel long distances. When inhaled, these particles can increase the risk of stroke, asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Around 4,000 premature deaths occur each year in London because of long-term exposure to air pollution, and about 284 of these are connected to domestic wood burning. Each of those 284 deaths could have been avoided. Learn more about the health impacts of domestic wood burning.

An illustration of a house with a wood burner with a large dark cloud of pollution in the air.
Wood burning causes dangerous air pollution

Bonfires and barbecues

The council is also encouraging residents to think carefully before having bonfires and barbecues because of their impact on air pollution. However, if you are still planning on one you are advised to only burn dry wood and to avoid times when the weather can make the air quality worse. For example, if there is very little wind the smoke can hang around for longer. If you create a lot of smoke, you could be causing a statutory nuisance and even face a fine of £5,000 (£20,000 for industrial, trade or business premises).

Burning rubbish – even if it’s ‘just’ garden waste – is extremely damaging, so please use a composter or sign up for Ealing Council to collect your garden waste.

Better air quality for all

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, deputy leader and cabinet member for climate action said: “As part of our air quality action plan, we are determined to tackle air pollution in our borough.

“We want to make residents aware of the link between solid fuel burning and air pollution, and the risk for public health. We urge people to try to avoid burning any wood, coal, or other solid fuels during the winter months at home, if they have alternative ways of keeping warm. Help us in reducing pollution and protecting everyone’s health.

“And if you need any help with the cost-of-living crisis, including paying your energy bill, check council’s website.”

The London Wood Burning project is a campaign to improve public awareness of the health impacts of domestic wood burning. Ealing Council, together with 17 other London councils, is part of it.

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