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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2007 edited

    I'm looking for opinions or anecdotes if anyone has had to deal with neighbours regarding our wood burners?

    I have installed a lovely little super efficient Charnwood stove. (All building regs OK, twin wall flue etc). It has been a delight to use, burns cleanly and is amazingly efficient. Situation is semi-countryside, 1970's detatched estate, edge of enormous public parkland.

    In these days of fossil fuelled gas boilers, the scent of a little woodsmoke hanging the night air is a little unusual. (Our visitors say they like it!). So how to deal with the aforementioned neighbours who have been banging on my door grumbling that it is making them cough (I say rubbish), and coming indoors (well I say probably rubbish, and if this means not using it in certain wind directions OK, - but these sort of people don't even seem to comprehend what "wind direction" means!).

    I'm not in any special air quality area, this is a small 6KW stove burning only seasoned hardwood, and yes sometimes there is a "autumnal" smell in the air. Neighbourly relations are already frosty over one or two of their other dumb ideas (Which I won't bore you with).

    I can't be the only one who has experienced these sort of people. - Just what do we do?
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2007
    Why buy yourself into a neighbourhood where this sort of thing is bound to arise? Move.
    • CommentAuthorbiffvernon
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2007
    You'll have the last laugh when they get their next heating oil bill. Crude oil prices are now higher than ever.
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2007
    This is just the tip of the iceberg and things haven't even started yet.

    What if whole streets in cities and towns started to burn wood then what

    We would all be coughing and smog would return.
    Posted By: tonyWe would all be coughing and smog would return.

    This is exactly the problem we're facing in Montreal each winter now. Wood burning has increased in popularity over the past decade to such an extent that we get smog in winter. This is due to the particulates from the wood fires - even EPA "low emission" fireplaces emit significantly more hydrocarbons and particulates than, say, a gas fireplace.

    Admittedly, the smell of wood smoke does have a pleasant "Autumnal" flavour, but if everyone does it then it becomes a problem. It's funny how quickly people have forgotten the problems that fireplaces gave in the past - individually they may seem fine, but en masse, it's a whole other story.

    Paul in Montreal.
    Surely it is only when the flue is cold there is enough smoke to make the neighbours cough?

    Should be virtually no smoke when the flue has warmed?
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2007
    Where there is a wood burner there is smoke no way out of it.
    • CommentAuthorrae
    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2007
    Hi Justin,

    i can sympathise with what you are saying. I live in a rural area, conservation area to be exact, and have lived peacefully with my neighbours (2 of us with our wood burning fires) for the past 10 years.

    2 years ago one person in our row sold off his garden and now we have 4 executive houses built on there (conservation land my a***). Anyway, fast forward to this spring when, on one still, calm evening after 6pm we lit our once-a-year bonfire. We had one of the guys from a new house, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth no less, having a go at me for lighting a bonfire in my garden.

    I was very apologetic (humbly pointed out that we lived in the country and it was part of life around here) and even put it out :devil: I don't like to argue with people or cause trouble.

    Next thing I have is a letter from the council registering his complaint.

    And yes, I now have light pollution in my bedroom thanks to his security light on all night. Around here we can leave our front doors open and our keys in the ignition with no problems of theft, so I don't know what he is expecting.

    Anyway, I haven't answered your question one bit, but at least you know you are not alone :wink:
    We just keep on doing what we are doing, keep our heads down, don't antagonise people but stick to your choices. As long as you are using them responsibly and legally, then there is no problem. I find that people who complain over petty things are simply reflecting their inner lack of satisfaction in their lives. It's not about you at all; it's about them........

    Rae x
    • CommentAuthorRustychain
    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2007
    I'm an environmental health officer (currently deciding which wood burning stove to install) and have experience of the issues you raise.

    Justin - the local authority are the only body you have to 'consider' in this case. Before taking formal action, they would have to satisfy themselves that your WBS is causing a statutory nuisance (either prejudicial to health or a nuisance - I won't go into the lengthy legal definitions which are generally derived from case law).

    They can't take action for stat nuisance if you live in a smoke control area (in that scenario you would have to satisfy them that your appliance was approved for use in a smoke control area or you were using approved smokeless fuel).

    If the LA were inclined to serve an abatement notice on you for a stat nuisance, then you would have the defence of using best practicable means to prevent, or counteract the effects of the nuisance. In my opinion, if you have a modern, clean burn stove, with an insulated flue and burn fully seasoned wood, then you don't have a case to answer.

    I also agree with the other comments that if there was a large shift in the number of people burning wood, clean stoves or not, we can expect air quality problems in the future.

    Good luck!
    • CommentAuthorcaliwag
    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2007
    I like your approach Rae...you'll be the one sleeping easy at night, you are a relaxed bunny...been reading Barefoot doctor?
    • CommentTimeOct 19th 2007
    Hi again.

    Thanks for the comments. It's interesting to note that this is becoming a more widespread problem. I note your comments Rustyuchain also (thanks), what you say is indeed all true, but I am feeling a little more self concious than I used to. (unlike those who instead just pollute by stealth!)

    After a few days of looking carefully at this, I have some more sympathy for my aforementioned neighbours than I did.

    One irony is that back in the days when I owned an old house in a more rural village, and ran a hugely inefficient open wood fire, there was so much heat in the exhaust that the flue mostly shot straight up into the air and nobody knew about it. This delightful little stove with it's two stage combustion and dancing flame burning off the soot as I watch just has less oomph left at the top of the stack. On reflection, it probably is causing more local pollution than the hugely inefficient open fires burning 5 times as much fuel.

    I suspect your current neighbours are also just being over sensitive townies happy sucking the life out of our gas reserves!
    • CommentAuthorJohn11668
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2007
    Hi Justin
    A modern analyser will give you an indication of the toxic products I would expect your WB to be putting out.
    Why not get someone to do a Flue gas Analysis for you.
    This could give you some ammunition to defend your case to your neighbours but I suspect that it is more likely to demonstrate to you that your appliance is a poisonous nuisance in a built up area.

    I wonder if you already reallise this but are too conceited to admit it.

    Solid fuel stoves are not really suitably for a dormitory suburb even if you can see open country from your upstairs window
    I say, someones grumpy!
    • CommentAuthorfuncrusher
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2007
    Us OAPs brought up in northern towns and cities remember all too well the terrible smoke pollution of our childhoods. On calm days we can all look forward to a return to smogs, albeit with a nicer perfume, but in fact far more dangerous.

    I burn a fair amount of wood myself, but there is no doubt whatsoever that it is a thoroughly dangerous polluter as it produces a lot of carcinogens, just like cigarettes.

    A few miles from me there is a commercial sawmill where waste wood is used in micropower plant and firing seasoning kilns. Very often an acrid pall hangs over the village, but the inhabitants are slow to complain because -just as in my childhood- pollution is the result of employment.
    perhaps we need to face fact, too many people=too much fossil and or renewables burnt=carcenogens and our impending doom=mother nature taking care of the planet thinning the human race?!?
    • CommentAuthorEcoman
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2007
    The case for firing refined, energy packed, pellet fuel is very strong. Sophisticated electonically controlled (air supply)firing is much, much better than burning logs on a fire. Scandinavian homes and energy companies have been developing the pellet technique over many years. (and they are surounded by logs).
    Pellets with 10% moisture content, kg SO2/MWh = 0,04 (0,17kgs SO2/tonne).
    Peat = kgs SO2/MWh = 0,72 (2,3 kgs SO2/tonne)
    fuel oil = kgs SO2/MWh = 0,34 (4 kg SO2/tonne)
    Coal = kgs SO2/MWh = 1,7 (12 kgs SO2/tonne)
    Quoted from IPCC.
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2007
    So Ecoman, you're saying, contrary to what's been said here before, that top-notch individual-building size wood-pellet boilers can produce LESS non-CO2 pollutants than anything else that's customarily burnt for fuel? SO2 OK - but what about the other, carcinogenic pollutants?
    • CommentAuthorGwyrdd
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2007
    I live in an area much the same as Justin describes but here we suffer from those arrogantly selfish people are those who needlessly light bonfires and cause anxiety to those who live around them. Perhaps reluctantly I am inclined to sympathise with Justin's neighbours *if* they are genuinely having problems with smoke from his burner!

    We all have a right to clean air and no one should have to suffer the detectable results of other people's activities whether it be toxic pollution (as potentially from bonfire smoke) or only "a scent of woodsmoke" even if they are generated by responsible people who are doing their best to reduce their carbon footprint.

    I do not know how situations such as Justin's can be resolved but in all our activities we need to consider the impact of what we do on our environment and that includes the neighbours.
    • CommentAuthorjon
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2007
    Are woodburnmers sustainable? Or are they a fad? Looking at UK production, it seems to me that we would have to turn over the entire arable farmland of the UK (say assuming 4 tonnes per acre output) to produce enough pellets. It doesn't sound very sustainable to me although I suppose the lack of food would cut down the population. Does anyone else have better figures than the back of fag packet calcs above?
    Like I said too Many people on the planet. Too many people selling their gardens for building plots. Too many people with their heating on and windows open sniffing the "smoke".
    • CommentAuthorpixelwitch
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2007
    Is there very obvious smoke and smell with a woodburning stove then?

    I have no experience with them at all, but I have been reading about them and was starting to think that its something I might quite like to have one in the future. It would probably be just for occasional use to heat one room - partly because I have read that they are nearer to carbon neutral than any other heat source I could consider, and partly as a sort of back-up, given that I expect gas prices to only go up, and well yeah... maybe partly for the sheer romance of it, I guess (obviously a naive statement that I'm making prior to trying to lift an axe to do all the necessary log splitting, of course).

    I've recently moved into a first floor maisonette in a smokeless zone - in the London suburbs, so I would have to get one of the ones that is approved as 'cleanburning', like a Clearview or a Hwam. It won't be any time soon, as my purse feels pretty empty, the cleanburning ones all seem pretty pricey, and the chimney would have to be attended to as well. And yes, I probably should look to insulating the attic before I do anything else. But if its actually likely to upset the neighbours perhaps I should scrub the stove from my longterm wishlist before I fall too in love with the idea? I didn't realise that use of them was so noticeable...
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2007
    Yes there is smell and smoke with all wood burning appliances.

    Is it carbon neutral anyway?? You will be adding carbon to the environment and it has a finite capacity to re absorb carbon -- why is your carbon special?

    Also it will produce carcinogens, unpleasant smoke and other pollutants like SO2 and organic compounds.

    If you live in an urban area may be greener not to have one.
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2007 edited
    Posted By: tonyYou will be adding carbon to the environment and it has a finite capacity to re absorb carbon
    Yes - by burning wood you're oxidising carbon back to CO2 - but what else would have happened to that wood? It would surely have oxidised one way or another soon enough, most usually by rotting. The only way to prevent that oxidisation is to put it somewhere it'll stay warm and dry indefinitely - how are you going to do that with firewood-grade timber? The EC Firewood Mountain, before long! If you can't prevent mass-oxidisation of scrap timber, then it makes no difference at all, how it's oxidised - so you might as well burn it. Furthermore, the timber you're burning to CO2 only exists because it's already taken precisely that much CO2 out of the atmosphere. Be clear - the burning itself of wood, or any biomass, is truly and exactly carbon-neutral. However, once the fossil fuel that went into production, harvesting and transporting firewood is dialled in, that's what makes it not so carbon-neutral. It's also true that burning timber produces other pollutants and carcinogens.
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2007
    The problem is with doing it now. Any delay will reduce CO2. And every little bit not sent up in smoke helps.
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2007
    That's true - but burning it now versus inevitable slow oxidation by rotting spread over the next 0-7yrs say, is to me really insignificant in the grand scale of the global CO2 cycle. It's the total end-result balance over 25yrs say - reoxidised versus sequestered - that would have a detectable effect on global CO2 levels.
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2007
    That's where we disagree then.
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2007
    You are inadvertently saying that it is OK to burn rainforests!
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2007
    On that giant scale the one-off sudden release of CO2 has a detectable effect on global CO2 levels - but that's nothing compared to the long-term continuing effect of removal of global CO2-capture ability. The grassland that replaces the forest produces new biomass at only a fraction of the prodigious rate that the forest did - so the new grassland absorbs atmospheric CO2 at a slower rate than previous - however when its biomass reoxidises (by burning, by rotting on the ground, or by being digested in cow's stomach) the new grassland also dumps less CO2 into the atmosphere. So longterm, the carbon cycle cannot help but return to precise balance - however the new equilibrium established will be at a higher level of global atmospheric CO2, resulting in higher global temperature. Both of which promote plant growth, so sooner or later, when it gets too hot and too CO2-rich for animal life, the plants will take over again, vast forests will grow, die and fall into the low-oxygen swamps, where they won't rot and re-release CO2, but will be compressed by more and more falling biomass. CO2 will thus be steadily drained out of the atmosphere, its carbon sequestered into the ground as unoxidised hydrocarbon (aka coal), its oxygen released into the atmosphere. Oxygen levels will rise, CO2 levels fall, temperatures will drop, it won't be so good for rampant plants but better for animals and ..... haven't we been here before?
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2007
    Are rain forests replaced by grassland? When I was in them they were replaced by secondary growth rain forests and palm oil plantations and woodland -- didn't see any grass.

    The oceans capture way and away more CO2 than anything else -- and all this nonsense about them not being able to dissolve as much CO2 when warmer -- well RHUBARB

    It is not about how much CO2 is dissolved -- that is finite and less for warmer water than cooler OK -- BUT it is the rate of metabolising that CO2 which is important and that is huge. And once metabolised it is being removed for ever effectively. Its a wonder there is any CO2 left arround in the atmosphere.
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