The Contribution Wood Burning Stoves Can Make To Carbon Reduction And Sustainable Energy

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Author – Oliver Beauchemin

The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) estimates that wood burning stoves could account for 10% of the UK Government’s carbon reduction targets by 2020; with the potential to produce 25% of the government’s domestic renewable heat energy target by 2020.1

Wood burning stoves have experienced a huge upsurge in popularity over the past decade. More than one million UK homes are already using wood burning stoves and fireplaces, and annual UK sales of more than 175,000 units2. There are also a significant number of UK houses that would be suitable for installation of a wood burning stove. 

Between this predicted demand and the expected supply of fuel, it is estimated that wood burning stoves offer a potential reduction in UK carbon emissions of over 2 million tonnes per year.

Modern wood burning stoves are virtually carbon neutral when using current burn technology. High-quality wood emits less CO2 when burned than it does with natural decay, so with correctly installed stoves producing emissions of only 0.008 kg CO2 per kWh – compared to 0.198kg for gas, and 0.517kg for electricity3 – wood provides an attractive alternative to gas and electricity for heating the home.

In fact, recent statistics from Kiwa GASTEC at CRE, the energy management and low carbon consultancy, training and product testing facility, confirm that replacing a decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove will reduce the carbon footprint of a house by 22%, a figure that rises to 36% when replacing an LPG decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove. The reduction in carbon, when replacing an open fire is 14%.

Design and technology has moved forward dramatically over the past ten years too, with the introduction of controlled secondary and tertiary combustion, improved baffle arrangements, provision of outside air and improved boiler design. This has resulted in;

– higher efficiencies, now typically greater than 70% 
– lower emissions, complying with DEFRA exemption for smoke control areas
– an increased percentage output to water in boiler stoves, making it possible to heat whole homes and provide hot water off the stove
– the capacity to link up technologies with other renewable energy sources

As a result, wood burning stoves are a practical way in which many householders could significantly reduce their carbon footprint, and with greater uptake encouraged, wood burning stoves offer a tangible solution to the government’s need to reduce UK carbon emissions and mitigate climate change.


1 This is based on a carbon reduction calculator (“CRC”), the result of a detailed survey of independent stove and fireplace retailers on how consumers actually use their stoves, and the fuel that they have replaced by using a wood burning stove. The CRC has been prepared and is submitted by the SIA in conjunction with HETAS and Gastec at CRE.
2 Based on SIA figures.
3 DECC SAP 2009 edition (incorporating RdSAP 2009) Table 12.

Reprinted with permission of the SIA.

~ Oliver Beauchemin

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