Date posted: 22.02.21

Recently there have been some very misleading reports in the media that disproportionately attribute PM2.5 emissions to domestic burning.

This misinformation includes false statements, such as:

  • Burning wood accounts for 38% of PM2.5 emissions, compared with 12% from road transport.
  • Emissions of fine particles from domestic wood burning more than doubled between 2003 and 2019, from 20,000 to 41,000 tonnes.

The Real Facts – The SIA state that the figure of 38% of PM2.5 in the UK being caused by domestic wood burning is greatly exaggerated because it is based on an incorrect assumption of the amount of wood fuel used. This figure comes from a government survey in 2015, which incorrectly estimated that 6 million tonnes of wood are burnt each year.

The latest figures published by Defra show that in fact 1.75 million tonnes of wood fuel is burnt indoors each year. This number is much more closely aligned with the SIA’s own research, which gives a figure of 1.85 million tonnes. If Defra’s latest wood fuel volume figures were combined with the correct emission factors, the real percentage of PM2.5 attributable to domestic wood burning would be less than 10%.

These misconceptions have been based on misinformation being freely and liberally broadcasted by the media, and a lack of differentiation given between inefficient old stoves and open fires (the higher polluters) and clean, high-efficiency Ecodesign Ready wood-burning stoves, which are driving the way in clean, sustainable heating.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare a 40-year-old gas-guzzling car with the latest, cleanest hybrid model, and then say all cars are terribly inefficient and polluting. So why do this with stoves and burning wood?

The SIA (Stove Industry Alliance) has very recently launched some much-needed information around misconceptions around wood-burning stoves.

Here is their video:

Misconception 1:

Wood burning stoves are the largest cause of small particulate matter in the UK:

This is incorrect.

It comes from an inaccurate government survey undertaken back in 2014, which wrongly estimated the number of fireplaces and the amount of wood being burnt in the UK. A much larger survey in 2019 showed that only around 13% of domestic combustion came from burning wood and not the 38% they originally thought. The 2014 survey also failed to factor in that a new Ecodesign Ready stove produces less than a third of these estimated emissions. Furthermore, the 2014 survey also included outside fire sources such as bonfires, garden incinerators, outdoor pizza ovens and wildfires!

Misconception 2:

Wood burning stoves create the same emissions as 18 diesel cars.

This is incorrect.

This comes from an interpretation of air quality test results by the Air Quality Expert Group. Firstly the tests were compared with a diesel car travelling at just 21 mph, compared with a stove at a full nominal rate at 5kW. Secondly, the comparison only compared emissions from the car’s exhaust, where a large amount of the small particulate emissions come from the car’s brakes and tyres as they wear. Thirdly the comparisons didn’t factor in the disbursement of emissions. A car emits at a height, which can easily be breathed in, while a stove emits emissions up a chimney into the atmosphere, safely well away from where it can be directly inhaled.

Misconception 3

All wood burners are harmful.

This is incorrect.

Modern Ecodesign Ready stoves are 90% more efficient than an open fire and 80% more efficient than a 10-year-old stove. Modern stoves also produce 66% fewer emissions than what has been estimated by Defra. Ecodesign stoves are very low carbon and burning wood is a sustainable heating source. These two points alone are enough to position an Ecodesign Ready wood burning stove as a heating source for now and the future.

Visit the Stove Industry Alliance at

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