It’s no secret that suspended particulate poses a serious health problem in many cities across Europe. These tiny airborne particles stem from road traffic, non-clean burn wood combustion and long-range transboundary air pollution. Road traffic is the main culprit behind the suspended particles in many urban areas with both road particulate from tyre and road-surface wear and exhaust emissions.
In a number of urban areas, residential wood combustion in old stoves also raises the level of particle emissions to the air. Because with a non-clean burn stove, you are not only letting precious heat escape out of the chimney, but letting out all that harmful particulate too.
In recent decades, many countries across Europe have begun to focus on reducing air pollution, which has greatly improved urban air quality. However, not all countries have caught up with this positive trend, reports the European Environment Agency (EEA).
“The negative trend in space heating using emissions-hazardous, non-clean burn wood stoves is mainly seen in countries with weak economies,” explains senior researcher Susana Lopez-Aparicio of NILU (Norwegian Institute for Air Research).
Without access to hard facts and real evidence, many countries are considering introducing a total ban on residential wood combustion, at great detriment to people’s lives. We see this as very ill-advised given that the solution to the emissions problem lies in a combustion technology that already exists! This is why it’s important to spread the message about the benefits of using clean burn technology.
If you want to check the air quality in your location over the past two years and compare it with that in other cities across Europe, use the EEA’s air quality map view of European cities.
How can you help to reduce particle emissions?
With all these media reports, you might well get the idea that burning firewood is unwise. But don’t despair! There’s no reason to give up on, or feel bad about, your cosy wood burner. You can do the climate a big favour simply by switching to a modern fireplace with Clean burn Technology.
Enova (responsible for the net-zero emissions strategy in Norway) states that the proportion of particulate can be reduced by as much as 90 percent if you replace a non-clean burn wood burner with a clean burn stove. At the same time, 80 percent of the energy stored in the firewood will be given off as heat for your home.
As part of our climate focus at Scan A/S, and with the aid of the Scandinavian authorities, whose environmental requirements are more stringent than anywhere else in the world, we are investing resources in developing stoves and stove inserts that both keep particle emissions to an absolute minimum while providing optimum space heating.
What is clean burn and Clean burn Technology?
Clean burn Technology is Scan’s term for stoves that are more heat-efficient and reduce air pollution. Clean burn Technology basically means that the stoves have a double combustion chamber that also burns fine particulate material and converts up to 90% of firewood gases and particles into heat. In that way, it also maximises the energy value of the firewood. The fact that clean burn technology results in 30 percent more heat per log than older stoves is a great bonus!
Wood-burning is carbon neutral heating
This also means that anyone dreaming about installing a new, clean-burn wood stove or fireplace in their home can breathe a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that their wood burner will not be polluting the air at home or beyond. Firewood is also a renewable energy source, and defined as carbon neutral by organisations such as ENOVA and Norsk Varme, the industry association for eco-friendly wood stoves, fireplaces and chimneys in Norway. All CO2 emissions into the atmosphere have the same potential impact on the climate, regardless of the source. However, biofuels are regarded as carbon neutral because the CO2 from their combustion is zeroed by equivalent CO2 uptake by new forest growth. Friends of the Earth Norway (Norway's oldest environmental and nature protection organisation) also states that correct fire lighting and fire tending in a clean-burn stove offers many environmental benefits
How can we solve the particulate problem?
We know that part of the solution to the problem of suspended particulate is to replace old, non-clean burn stoves and fireplaces with new-generation appliances. But how do we achieve that?
One shining example of how that can be done comes from the Norwegian city of Bergen. After air quality measurements in the city glowed red repeatedly, indicating a “major health risk” outdoors, the city implemented a number of measures, which proved effective. Thanks to the trade-in incentive worth NOK 5,000 for old wood stoves and fireplaces, many home-owners in Bergen made the switch to clean burn technology. From early 2021, the city council actually prohibited the use of non-clean burn wood stoves and fireplaces: “If you have this type of stove in your home, you are not permitted to use it. It must either be replaced, removed or sealed or otherwise secured to prevent its use”, was the city of Bergen’s website notice to citizens. In practice, this means a city-wide ban on any use of the many outdated, non-clean burn wood stoves and fireplaces.
The wood stove industry also backed the initiative: “Both environmental organisations and the wood stove and fireplace industry are united in advocating a ban on old wood burners and getting consumers to replace them with new ones”.
The results of the measures introduced by Bergen are hugely encouraging. In a recent study from the European Environment Agency (EEA), Bergen was ranked fifth-best out of the 320 European cities in which air quality was surveyed.
In Norway, the Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association (NAAF) is aiming for more local authorities to obtain a mandate authorising them to introduce effective measures for combating air pollution.
Clean Burn Technology is the solution!
The conclusion is that old, outdated, non-clean burn wood stoves and fireplaces are a key contributory factor behind suspended particulate in urban areas across Europe on cold winter days. But also that new, clean burn stoves and fireplaces are the solution to the problem.
Wood-fired heating should not be phased out. This is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially compared with oil-fired heating, which has typically been the alternative. Wood-fired heating also reduces electricity consumption. But it is important to use clean burn stoves in order to reduce harmful emissions.
Lars Haltbrekken, former chairman of Friends of the Earth Norway
This is a very easy way of helping to do good for the climate, right?
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