For some of us, wood is the only practical, affordable fuel | Letters

Readers respond to George Monbiot’s article on wood-burning stoves and the damage they do to the environment and health

I read with some dismay that I have committed the eco-crime of owning a wood-burning stove (My burning shame: I fitted my house with three wood-burning stoves, 27 December). When I moved into my small cob-and-thatch cottage 10 years ago, there were storage heaters (which I removed) and an open fire that filled the place with smoke due to a jackdaw nest in the chimney. I installed an air-source heat pump, and a small wood-burning stove for extra warmth in winter.

This is affordable, as the heat pump is cheap and efficient, and my supply of dry logs will last all winter for a few hundred pounds. Thick walls and low ceilings make it easy to heat the cottage. I find this solution economical and in keeping with my quaint dwelling and an old-fashioned lifestyle, which I had thought was ecological. I do have asthma, which is under control, but the stove may not help. Burning wood is not ideal. But I see no alternative here other than an electric stove, which would be much more expensive to run. My stove also gives a companionable glow on a winter night, which I would be sorry to lose.
David Cottam
Morchard Bishop, Devon

• George Monbiot berates himself for installing wood-burning stoves, without allowing for the range of building types in the UK. The predominantly stone-built houses in west Wales depend on a circulation of air in order to respect the unique way in which these buildings remain warm yet free of damp. They are not suitable for the modern Passivhaus style of high insulation matched with ground/air-source methods of heating.

Heating all of our homes with modern, eco-friendly solutions is an ideal goal but, realistically, it can only be achieved with new-builds.
Felicity McGowan
Cardigan, Ceredigion

• We moved into our 450-year-old cottage in 1991. It had an open fireplace. For years we burned wood in it for a warm cosy glow, oblivious to the damage it was doing to our health and the environment. Thanks to the Guardian raising awareness of the harm of wood-burning heaters, we did manage to convert ours into a hearth with an electric heater. The results are very pleasing. One day we hope to have a heat pump, but we will have to wait for the prices to come down.
Guru Singh
Shepshed, Leicestershire

• My terrier and I live on a narrowboat. The only heating that I have is a multi-fuel stove with a back boiler, which ensures the vessel is warm. Gas, oil and electricity are all prohibitively expensive. I usually burn smokeless fuel, as it’s convenient and stays alight more readily overnight. I appreciate that this isn’t ideal, but it’s the only heating system I can afford. I feel, overall, that my terrier and I tread more lightly than most.
Dave Bicker
Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire

• If you live in a remote house, sometimes wood burners and open fires are the difference between survival and non-survival. I care about the planet, but Scotland is a cruel environment in the winter. I am grateful not to be dependent on electricity for warmth and light. What happens when the power fails in all-electric households?
Felicity MacMillan
St Andrews, Fife

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