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Major research begins into ‘non-ideal’ operation of wood burners

Researchers have started a six week study to measure emissions from domestic wood burning stoves, using a dedicated laboratory-based test facility in Manchester.

Because the current estimates of how much wood burners contribute to air pollution are based around their use in optimal condition, the researchers want to examine their performance under ‘non-ideal’ operational conditions which will include ignition, reloading, maloperation and use of unconventional fuels, which they suggest are a large and unaccounted for source of particulate pollution in the UK. 

This is what gives the project its name: CLARISE (CondensabLe AeRosol from non Ideal Stove Emissions)

Scientists from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the University of Manchester, and the University of York – variously experts in biomass burning experiments, emissions monitoring, atmospheric complexity analysis and regional modelling – are working in a state-of-the-art test facility, in a Manchester-based laboratory.

By using a wood burner in a controlled environment alongside specialised pollution monitoring equipment, researchers are replicating a range of conditions and real-life scenarios.

The high-resolution data they are collecting will be used to predict the relative amounts of secondary particulate that can be expected from both ideal and non-ideal operation, allowing them to assess the relative importance of non-ideal emissions and their estimated contribution to PM2.5 in the UK and beyond

Dr James Allan, a research scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the University of Manchester. said: ‘Currently emissions predictions assume that wood burners are operated correctly and the appropriate fuels are used. However, we suspect that many wood burners are not used correctly, with people likely to overstack fuel or burn unseasoned woods.’

‘Our laboratory experiments will investigate the effects of gas emissions that condense in the air and form particulate matter after they are emitted.’

Dr Marvin Shaw, research scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the University of York said: ‘Recent studies of combustion in household woodburners suggest that operational conditions, such as ignition, reloading, maloperation and use of unconventional fuels are a large and unaccounted for source of pollution in the UK. This project brings together national expertise in order to understand how the operation of these wood burners affects the emissions of gas and particulate pollutants.’

 

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chris
chris
10 days ago

Has anyone heard how they are getting on?

Jes Sig I Andersen
Jes Sig I Andersen
2 months ago

Great news, it’s certainly needed to get more knowledge about the influence of operation conditions.
Which emission factors are you using for national and any European emission inventories for Air Quality measures and National Emission Ceilings? The lab test EFs from the type test or an assumed or measured Field Emission factor?

breathecleanair
breathecleanair
3 months ago

The article states: ‘Currently emissions predictions assume that wood burners are operated correctly and the appropriate fuels are used….’ Aren’t emission estimates based on what industry says their stoves achieve which many studies show is a gross underestimate? For example, no start up smoke is ever included yet those emissions are huge even in the “ideally” operated stove. And who actually burns according to factory testing protocols?

We hear from people who defending wood heat (and decision-makers) that ‘others’ just need to “learn how to burn better and use dry wood.” They believe they are ‘ideal’ burners who pollute minimally. I am concerned that the focus on “non-ideal” burning will just reaffirm their belief that they are not part of the problem — it is just the bad burners that need to be controlled.

Perhaps one study should invite a selection of people who identify themselves as good burners in to do the actual test, without instruction on when or how to load. Hell, even get them to bring in their own fuel. Then measure these “ideal” burners’ emissions and show them how far off they likely are from a stove’s rating.

chris
chris
2 months ago

Good points, thank you, esp. last paragraph- what good idea. Let’s hope the researchers take you on this. Can you write to them? Please do.

chris
chris
3 months ago

This is music to my ears! Excellent that the emisisons are to be measured in this careful way. But, speaking from personal realworld experience, what about log burner emissions coming into your home from neighbouring houses? It is so very hard to keep that out. Yes, the researchers can, and should, find out about what happens to the wood smoke particles ansd gases in the home where the burning happens – by all means. But most of the smoke still goes up the chimney and ends up elsewhere. If you have several nrighbours all burnign wood, then the outside air is heavy with it all winter and it seeps in. I’d like to know just how bad the wood smoke in my home can get when it comes from next door and is not from anything we are doing. I expect the present study will conclude that wood burning doesn’t make all that much air pollution in the home where the stove is, provided the wood is dry and the stove is used correctly etc. This will be joy to stove retailers. But maybe the air next door is not so good?

Peter PC1
Peter PC1
3 months ago
Reply to  chris

I couldnt agree more. Many people live in houses that dont have a wood-burning stove but their home is physically attached to one or more that do (eg semi-detached or terrace). It would surely be a simple experiment to not only measure the external air quality around the houses, but also inside neighbouring premises which dont use wood, especially those attached onto the wood burning house. I strongly suspect that some pollution seeps through the walls into the attached property, which would never be measured if you only look at external air. Many walls are cavity, rather than purely solid brick.

Regarding this article, Im actually quite surprised that this ‘real life’ study is only now being done!

CleanAirFan
CleanAirFan
3 months ago
Reply to  chris

I agree Chris. My son is surrounded by wood burners too. All windows are always closed. He has an MVHR system so he’s spent a good deal of cash on filtering systems to clean the air. Filters are checked and replaced every few months.

Another misnomer is that this issue affects mainly urban and city dwellers. I live in a small rural village in Yorkshire surrounded by 7 burners. It stinks round here most winter evenings – there’s always a misguided clown stoking up somewhere!

It will be interesting to see the findings from this research.

chris
chris
2 months ago
Reply to  CleanAirFan

Exactly, I too am tired of hearing that it’s only the wood burners in cities that are making all this pollution. I’m sure plenty are but a village street full of smoke can be very unhealthy too.

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