Wood Stoves - use efficiently and reduce pollution

There are pros and cons, from an environmental standpoint, of using wood burning stoves. Here, with thanks to our Energy group member Francesca, we've republished guides on their efficient use and steps to minimise any pollution. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Obvious but important, stoves from different manufacturers operate slightly differently, especially when it comes to lighting them, so follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. YouTube also has demonstration videos.

  • Place a CO (carbon monoxide) alarm 1.5m above floor level in the same room as the stove. (This is required under current legislation. Alarms are available at a small cost from ironmongers.


  • This is the most important thing to get right when burning wood. Otherwise tarring of chimney/flue and chimney fire is a risk. Freshly cut logs, as a minimum, will need at least two summers to dry properly in Britain (more is even better). Always split them to accelerate seasoning.

  • Stacking the wood around the stove if you have room will warm it and help it to burn better. NB Don’t let the logs actually touch the stove because they can catch light and cause a house fire.

  • If you are buying logs check they have all been split; logs with their bark still on take a lot longer to season. Invest in a moisture meter – logs should register 20 or under. If they are mostly 25--30 or more send them back or ask for a lower price and season them further.

  • Be aware that some woods burn better than others: ash, beech, oak, apple are good; pine, fir and other conifers contain a lot of resin and will make the chimney sticky so it will need extra sweeping if you are not to have a chimney fire.


  • Don’t leave the stove door open, unless instructed to by the manual (for example, when lighting the fire).

  • Never completely close the secondary air vent.

  • A brisk burn is the cleanest, most efficient way of running the stove. You can buy a magnetic thermometer to attach to the stove pipe which will let you know how hot the fire is burning.

  • Put more than one log on at a time, more surface area gives more turbulence in the stove and better burning. Best also to use smaller logs. Don’t try and keep the fire in overnight by closing the air intake down. This creates an inefficient slow burning fire which causes pollution. Open the air intake before going to bed, the fast burn will reduce soot on the stove window. The stove is often still hot enough to relight easily with the addition of kindling in the morning.


  • It’s a good plan to go outside and take a look at the smoke from the chimney, from time to time. Dense, black smoke is a sign that the combustion is not optimal, usually because the fire is not hot enough. When the wood stove burns optimally, only a bit of steam and some light, odour-free smoke escapes from the chimney.

  • Keep the stove free of soot and have the chimney swept every six months, if you are using the stove every day through the winter, to avoid chimney fires. Ensure air vent seals are working efficiently. Most sweeps can tell you if you are not using the stove correctly and suggest improvements.

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