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Sustainable wood-burning heat with a Clean Burn fireplace

In recent years, suspended particulate from residential wood combustion has made headlines in Europe, yet despite this, experts generally agree that the solution to the problem is simply to replace old wood-burning stoves with new, state-of-the-art clean burn appliances. This is good news for the climate and air quality!

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 are the primary source of suspended particles in many cities, caused by tire and surface wear, as well as exhaust fumes.

In many cities, burning wood in outdated stoves increases the amount of particles in the atmosphere. A non-clean burn stove wastes heat and also releases hazardous particulates up the chimney.

European challenge

Recently, numerous European countries have made efforts to reduce air pollution in cities, though the European Environment Agency (EEA) has noted that not all have kept pace.

“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 data and proof, numerous nations are thinking about enforcing a complete prohibition on burning wood in homes, which would be a great detriment to people’s lives. This is not a wise decision, as the solution to emissions already exists in combustion technology and by lighting the fireplace right! This is why it’s important to spread the message about the benefits of using clean burn technology.

To compare air quality of your area with cities in Europe over the last two years, use the EEA's air quality map of European cities.

Old polluting wood-burning stove with flames and open doors

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) claims that replacing an non-clean burn wood burner with a clean burn stove, fireplace or fireplace insert can reduce particulate levels by up to 80%. At the same time, 80% of the firewood's energy is released as warmth for your house.

Scan Stoves are investing in creating woodburning stoves and fireplaces that minimize particle emissions while maximizing heating.

What is clean burn and Clean burn Technology?

Clean burn Technology is Scan’s term for fireplaces that are more heat-efficient and reduce air pollution. Clean Burn Technology features a double combustion chamber that incinerates fine particles, transforming nearly 90% of firewood gases into heat. In that way, it also optimises the energy value of the firewood. Clean burn technology, along with tending your fire correctly, produces 40% more heat per log than traditional fireplaces or inserts, an awesome benefit!

Tree trunk rotting in a water in the forest

Is wood-burning carbon neutral heating?

Wood is a renewable resource and does not increase the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, it is therefore considered a sustainable heat source according to Enova (Enova SF is owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment). The wood naturally consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, a little nitrogen, and traces of sulphur, chlorine and ash elements (SINTEF one of Europe’s largest independent research organisations) and it is important to note that emissions of these substances are therefore inevitable, since they are naturally stored in the wood.

When you burn the wood, the energy stored in the wood is converted into heat. Modern, clean-burning wood stoves use a significantly more efficient combustion method compared to older, non-clean-burning models, and as much as 80% of the energy from the wood goes to heat the room. By replacing your old wood-burning stove with a newer variant and using the correct wood-burning method, emissions will therefore be reduced considerably.

How can we solve the particulate problem?

Replacing outdated wood-burning appliances with new clean-burn models is part of the solution to reducing suspended particulates. But how do we achieve that?

One shining example of how that can be done comes from the Norwegian city of Bergen. The city reacted after air quality readings showed a "significant danger to health" and their actions were effective. Thanks to the trade-in incentive worth NOK 5,000 for old log burners and fireplaces, many home-owners in Bergen made the switch to clean burn technology.

Starting in 2021, the city council banned the use of non-clean burn fireplaces: “No use of these stoves is allowed. 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. This means no burning of non-clean burn woodburning stoves and fireplaces allowed in the city.

Environmental groups and the wood stove industry both support prohibiting old, polluting log burners and encouraging consumers to switch to newer ones.

Scan 5004 large fireplace insert with lifting door in a white living room with a purple wall

The results of the measures introduced by Bergen are hugely encouraging. In a recent study from the European Environment Agency (EEA), Bergen ranked fifth out of 320 European cities for air quality.

Clean Burn Technology is the solution!

The conclusion is that old, outdated, non-clean burn wood burners 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 wood burning stoves and modern fireplaces, together with proper tending of the fire, reduce this considerably.

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?