Britons turn to log burning to cut bills but how safe is this for domestic cats?

Cat in front of a wood burning stove
Cat in front of a wood burning stove. Image in the public domain on Pinterest.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The hot off the press news today is that Britons are turning to log burning stoves to heat their homes as a way to get around the high cost of energy due to Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

We are told that tradespeople installing clean logs stoves are working flat out to meet demand according to Hetas, a clean fuel organisation.

There are three main issues for me:

  • Is it cheaper in the long term to install and run a wood-burning stove over conventional gas central heating?
  • The environmental issues.
  • The internal pollution issues (I focus in this).

Are wood burners cheaper?

If you’ve got to install a wood-burning stove the overall costs might be in the region of £3,500 or even more. These are high upfront costs and they include fitting a flue for the exhaust gases.

Wood as a heating fuel is the cheapest you can buy after kerosene.

Wood-burning to heat your home might be cheaper in the very long term after you have got over the initial installation costs. It depends on for how long the high energy costs subsist in the UK.

There is no clear cut answer which must be a negative when you factor in the issues I mention below.

Environmental issues

Wood burners rely on chopping down trees. Is the wood that you buy from a supplier sustainable? Where does it come from? That’s the first negative. There is already enough deforestation in the world. Far too much actually which is very damaging to the planet and wildlife.

Secondly, wood-burning is old technology. You’re going backwards and polluting the environment with carbon dioxide which is something you don’t want to do if you have any concern for global warming.

Home pollution issues

This is one of the most important aspects for me. Although manufacturers of wood-burning stoves would deny it, scientists say that wood burners triple the level of harmful particles inside homes.

It’s so bad that they say that wood burners should be sold with a health warning. This is despite the fact that there are numerous regulations around the use of wood burners. New wood burners have to meet green eco-design criteria which are quite extensive.

But they don’t apply to existing wood burners. The type of wood you buy is important. The wood should have a moisture content less than 20%. Wet wood creates more pollution. Another complication is that there are smoke control areas in the UK.

But I’m digressing because I’m talking about the pollution inside the home. You’ve got to open the door of the wood burner to put the wood in. When you do that tiny particles flood into the room. These particles are harmful to people and pets.

Cats like to sleep in front of the wood burner. They are likely to get a face-full with the person loading up the wood burner.

If the burner is loaded twice or more in an evening the pollution spikes are 2 to 4 times higher than those who refuel once or not at all. These peak moments of indoor pollution take an hour or two to dissipate.

The particles travel through the lungs into the body. They can cause a wide range of health issues particularly in younger and older people (and pets?).

The study assessed wood burners which were certified by the government as “smoke exempt appliances”. They produce less smoke. Both these designs and the new eco-design standard only assess outdoor pollution.

Also, in the study they only assessed people using dry seasoned wood. Apparently about 16% of people living in the south-east of England use wood fuel.

Rohit Chakraborty of the University of Sheffield who conducted the study said that the results were concerning. He also said that: “It is recommended that people living with those particularly susceptible to air pollution, such as children, the elderly or vulnerable, avoid using wood-burning stoves. If people want to use them, we recommend minimising the time the stove is open during lighting or refuelling.”

He failed to mention companion dogs and cats. He should have. They are part of the family. They are just as important. My recommendation is not to buy wood burners or use them for the reasons stated.

Open fires are even worse. No doubt, however, many people will feel compelled to use wood burners if they already have one because they feel that they have no other choice due to the high cost of conventional heating.

Below are some more articles on hazards for the domestic cat. There are many more which you can read by clicking on the tags ‘hazards’ or ‘cat hazards’ or ‘toxic to cats’ below the links.

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