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How can you burn wood without creating too much pollution?

Last updated on 18 December 2018

Singled out as polluting and harmful, wood-burning stoves are nevertheless still good auxiliary heating appliances, provided that you follow these good practices.

Burning logs gives off carbon monoxide (CO), carcinogenic substances and fine particles. Some towns and cities, like Montreal, have also banned the most polluting wood burners.

In our city, there are no bans on the cards (yet) for domestic wood-stove heating appliances, but Belgian and European standards are becoming more and more strict. Fortunately, the stoves on the market have become more efficient and less polluting as the years have passed.

Here are some tips for creating as little pollution as possible when burning wood.

Choose your wood-burning stove properly 

  • Go for a recent model: they are twice as efficient as older stoves and they create less pollution. Models equipped with an electrofilter can give off up to 90% fewer particles.
  • Make sure that your stove complies with regulations: your stove must have an EC label. In addition, in Belgium, regulations on efficiency and reducing fine-particle and CO emissions have become stricter since 2010. Check the list of appliances withdrawn from sale.
  • Choose a stove which suits your needs: the stove must be proportionate to your room. Get a professional to install it.

Burn the wood properly

Familiarise yourself with your appliance

Read the technical manual for your wood-burning stove in order to master how to use it.

Choose a suitable wood

You need dry (a humidity level of less than 15%) and clean wood for clean burning. Never use varnished, painted, impregnated or pressed wood because they produce toxic fumes. Hardwoods are preferable to softwoods: they burn for longer and will clog up your system less.

Learn how to light your stove properly

To ensure that your stove does not produce too much smoke and does not clog up your chimney, light it at the top, which is the opposite of what you were taught at Scouts!

Place your big logs in staggered rows, followed by the small logs on top of them and then firelighters at the top (preferably natural ones and never paper).

Avoid contact between the wood and the stove walls. Don't overload the stove. Instead, regularly add wood to keep it going. You will use less wood and get more heat. 

Maintain your system

Have your chimney cleaned every year.

Keep a look out for pollution-peak alerts

If there is major pollution, wood-stove heating appliances are banned in Brussels (unless they are the only way of heating a home). Subscribe to alerts via the Belgian Interregional Environment Agency website or via the Brussels Air app.

See also the leaflet on Brussels' pollution peaks (in French).

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