How to reduce air pollution and save money by keeping your stove-handling skills bright and shiny

Though wood and coal are time-honoured materials for fires, they can still cause pollution by creating small particles in the air, but this can be minimised.

Three common practices increase pollution: burning wood with too much moisture; not burning at a high enough temperature by turning down the air flow or damping down the stove for long periods; a build-up of creosote in the stove and chimney which reduces efficiency.

Wood should ideally not have more than 20% moisture content and you can get a gizmo that will tell you how dry your wood is. Keeping it piled up by the stove, as we’ve learned to do from interiors magazines, looks artistic but, of course, is highly dangerous.

All stoves have their own settings which you can find out from the manual or from a chimney sweep; however the main ingredients for best practice are:
• Use plenty of kindling, open air controls to the maximum, close the door.
• After 10-15 minutes it should reach a good temperature and you can re-fuel with larger logs.
• Once these are burning well you can add larger logs (5“ diameter max) and set the air controls in accordance with instructions for the stove.
• You can then limit the air flow without closing it off completely. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, then there is not enough air getting to the stove!

Other useful tools are a fan to help circulate the heat and a flue pipe thermometer.

Hastings is not yet a smoke-free zone, but don’t mix smokeless fuel and wood and never burn plastic waste or treated wood, both of which give off toxic fumes.

If you clean your chimney yourself or don’t get it swept regularly, creosote and soot build up quickly. While soot is normal, it still needs to be removed annually and creosote is a direct result of bad burning. That rushing you can hear may not be a healthy blaze but your chimney on fire and destroying your lining!

Creosote can expand 6 times when it burns. If this results in closing a flue completely, the build up of trapped gases is very dangerous, it can even cause explosions.

The chairman of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, Lawson Wright has been the driving force behind the burnright campaign.

Further information can be found at or

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