Solid Fuel Stove Emissions And Narrowboats – Our Views

Today I’m going to wade in on a debate which has been burning over for a little while now, the great big stove debate. The Government, rightly so, are attempting to crack down on air based pollutants, the current target is your trusty Solid Fuel Stove. It seems to be getting a lot more coverage and traction recently.

Like probably 80% of narrowboats out there (It’s impossible to find any actual figures folks), we rely entirely on our stove for heat throughout the boat.  The research fuelling (Going wild for the puns today) this potential crack down is, it would seem, flawed. Listening to the statistics show on Radio 4 a couple of weeks of go the research group behind the data were themselves suggesting that the figures could be out, by as much a thirty-odd percent (Entirely from memory so do correct me if I’m wrong). Despite this acknowledgement from the researchers themselves stoves still seem to be lining up to take the bullet.


Stepping away from boats for a minute there has been a huge rise in popular culture for a wood burner, it’s ‘cosy’ and straight out of a movie scene, never do you see the sheer problem of getting the things to produce any decent heat. Anyway, the entrance of the stove into interior design essentials has seen them being installed all over the place. To generalise here I would say a lot of the places where they have been put in, they are not being relied upon as the main source of heat. I imagine they are secondary to a lovely heating system ticking over.

Wherever we can, I make the effort to make eco friendly choices. The majority of our electricity is supplied through our solar panels where this fails we rely on the engine. The engine, of course, is much less environmentally conscious, relying on diesel combustion. There are times where our solar panels or engine give up the ghost and are just unable to put out the power needed for day to day life. However, if we were to switch to relying on alternative heating methods through our solar panels or general electric to the boat I would worry about the ability to consistently provide heat. I don’t wish to be dramatic here but you hear of cases every year of boater dying aboard their boats due to the cold, often a result of being unable to afford the solid fuel required for their burners. If you were left relying on a patchy electrical source the stakes become much higher. Of course there are systems which rely on other fuels, such as diesel or gas central heating systems, however I don’t see that the fuel burnt in their process is any less detrimental.

I struggle to entertain anyone who refuses to recognise the impact of emissions, and as such find myself in quite a conundrum. It is not sufficient for us as boaters to stick our heels in and say this is the way it has always been this is the way it shall remain. But how do we possibly tackle the potential clamp down to come?

I really struggle to see how this can be policed or monitored, one possibility I can easily imagine is a tax hike for solid fuels, such as coal. But this solution punishes all, rather than the Grand Design ideologists. What I can see as becoming more practical is a seatbelt type ruling, the stoves in place prior to 2020, remain, with the option to replace upon producing the previous stove for replacement. Those who are having a new boat constructed, can in my opinion, afford for an environmentally friendly (In the governments eyes) heating option to be included.

Of course it will ruffle feathers, but I don’t think as boaters we will do ourselves any favours by saying it is all the fault of house owners. They can make a choice the same as we do. Whilst as I highlight above with boats previously produced the stoves may be installed and working, those going through new production don’t really have the excuse of needing a stove, there seems to be a few different options for a boat in current production.


It is not sufficient for us to sit on our boats with arms folded saying this is the way it has always been, it’s tradition. I mean by that reckoning we should still be sitting in bars smoking cigarettes watching a live bear fight. I don’t think it’s really appropriate to fly in the face of evidence, should the evidence eventually be proved credible that is, currently we don’t know this to be the case.

Weighing up the reliance on a solid fuel stove against the impact they have, is terribly difficult. I absolutely do not envy those who end up having to look at this. I really struggle to see a solution, and any solution is guaranteed to not be to everyone’s tastes.

It’s such a difficult one, and my understanding is that the relevant boaters parties have already begun to highlight the issue of a potential clamp down on boaters. I hope at the moment it is a case of what I like to call Daily Mail fear, where ridiculous scare mongering headlines are used to boost readership. The official feedback on it currently seems to suggest that.

James & Kirsty

A diary of live aboard life

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