Burning wood and barbecuing sensibly

Burning wood and charcoal is a major source of small particle air pollution. For example, when using a fireplace, fire basket or barbecue. Ultrafine dust is harmful to your health and the health of your neighbours. If you would like to burn wood, do it as cleanly as possible.

Burning wood in a fireplace or woodburning stove can lead to health risks such as asthma and a heart condition. Would you still like to burn wood? Then these tips will help to limit the nuisance to you and your neighbours.

Tips for burning wood in a fireplace or woodburning stove

Would you like to buy a fireplace or a woodburning stove? Pay attention to how much heat the stove produces. And to the size of the room where it will be placed. Make sure the stove is not unnecessarily big. Ask for advice from the company where you are buying the stove.

It is better not to burn wood when there is no wind or in misty conditions. The smoke and vapor will continue to linger in and around your house. This is harmful to your health.

Dry wood burns better and involves fewer health risks than wet wood. You can recognise dry wood by the cracks in the wood and loose bark. You can also use a moisture meter. Burning wet wood is harmful to your health and to the environment. It also produces less heat as well as more soot (creosote) in your chimney. Burning painted, varnished or preserved wood and waste timber, plywood or chipboard is prohibited by law. These types of wood can emit (extremely) harmful substances.

A good woodburning stove has a damper to regulate the air supply. When you use the stove, open the damper to the chimney as well as the sliding door of the stove. Is the fire getting too hot? Put less wood on the fire but do not shut off the air supply. Otherwise the wood will not burn completely and more harmful substances will be emitted. Make sure to ventilate the space where you are burning wood. A woodfire uses a lot of oxygen. Always crack open a window or door to ensure there is enough fresh air.

Light blocks in the woodburning stove or fireplace from above. This causes less smoke.

You can check whether you are burning the wood correctly. Look at the colour of the smoke coming out of your chimney. If you do not see a colour, then the fire is burning well. If you see white, grey, black or blue smoke, your wood is burning badly. The colour of the flame in the woodburning stove is also important. Bright yellow is good. The stove window will also stay clean this way. An orange, uneven flame indicates that the wood is burning poorly. You can improve the burning process by increasing the supply of air.

Let the fire burn out naturally. If you try to extinguish a wood fire by decreasing the air supply, the wood will no longer burn completely. It will then emit more harmful substances. Let the fire burn out while leaving the air vent of the stove open.

A clean chimney will properly remove the smoke to the exterior of your home. Have your chimney cleaned at least 1 time a year by a professional chimney sweep. For more information go to the website Begin external link: chimney cap deflector(External link), end external link..

Lighting a fire

Watch in these videos how you can light the woodburning stove safely and sensibly.

Woodburning alerts

Smoke lingers longer if there is little wind or mist. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) will then issue a woodburning alert. It will call on people not to burn wood.

You can sign up for this alert at Begin external link: rivm.nl/stookalert(External link), end external link..

Other ways to heat your home

Would you like to buy a fireplace or a woodburning stove? Look first at alternative ways to heat your home or keep it warm. For example:

  • air source heat pumps (warmepomp)
  • solar panels
  • infrared heating panels
  • pellet stove
A pellet stove is much cleaner than a woodburning stove or fireplace. However, it does emit more fine dust than gas or electric heating. Make sure the stove is installed and maintained properly. And pay attention that it has good smoke removal and a sufficient air supply. Use only approved pellets. This is the way to use your pellet stove as cleanly as possible.

Read more on the Begin external link: website of Milieu Centraal(External link), end external link..

Tips for using a barbecue or fire basket

An electric barbecue produces much less pollution. This is better for your health and for the people around you. 

Check the direction of the wind before you light the fire. And warn the neighbours that there could be smoke (if it blows their way). They can then close their windows in time.

Use dry firewood for the fire basket. This produces less smoke and fewer health risks. You can recognise dry wood from the loose bark and cracks in the wood. You can also check it using a moisture meter.

Coconut charcoal is a sustainable alternative to normal briquettes. The coconut briquettes burn longer than wood charcoal, produce hardly any smoke and do not stink. They are made from the shells of old coconuts. This is a product left over after the coconuts are dried and fired. No trees have to be cut down to make them.

Light blocks in the fire basket or outdoor fireplace from above. This causes less smoke.

Would you like to barbecue and do you live in a densely-populated area? Or is your garden part of an enclosed garden? Go to a public barbecuing spot. You can find more information on the page Begin link: Barbecuing rules in The Hague, end link. .

Report nuisance

Are you bothered by the smoke from the fireplace, barbecue or woodburning stove of your neighbours? Try to talk to them about this. If you are not able to work out a solution, you can ask the housing association or the municipality to help. Look for more information under Begin link: Report domestic nuisance, end link. .

Health risks

Read more about the health risks of burning wood on the Begin external link: website of the GGD(External link), end external link..

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