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Leading garden chain Wyevale is to stop selling patio heaters following concerns about the impact that these products have on climate change. A Friends of the Earth survey of DIY stores and garden centres today [1] shows that Wyevale is taking a lead on this issue.

Wyevale's move has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth which is calling on other stores to follow suit, and on consumers to avoid buying these products. The Easter weekend is one of the busiest periods for DIY stores and garden centres in the year.

The move by Wyevale represents the latest example of companies boosting their green credentials by removing polluting products from sale. The electrical store Currys recently announced it was phasing out the sale of incandescent light bulbs [2].

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Craig Bennett said:

"We're delighted that Wyevale has decided to stop selling patio heaters, and urge other retailers to follow suit. Using a patio heater for just one hour can waste enough energy to make 400 cups of tea. Climate change is the biggest threat the planet faces and the responsible thing for companies to do is to stop selling the most polluting products".

"Thousands of people will be visiting DIY stores and garden centres over the Easter weekend. We want people to enjoy sitting outside, but hopefully they can do this without buying a patio heater."

Patio heaters have been described as "environmental obscenities" by former energy minister Malcolm Wickes [3], while, former Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Norman Baker [4], called them "an absurd invention" saying that "It is ludicrous that people are trying to heat the open air".

Last week the Government released its latest provisional UK carbon dioxide emissions data, which showed that UK emissions are rising and are at their highest level since Labour came to power [5].

Estimates of the impact that patio heaters have on climate change vary. The Energy Savings Trust has estimated that a propane patio heater with a heat output of 12.5kW will produce around 34.9kg of CO2 before the fuel runs out (after approximately 13 hours). This is equivalent to the energy required to produce approximately 5,200 cups of tea (or 400 cups for every hour of operation) [6].

A recent report by the Market Transformation Programme (MTP) - which supports Government policy on sustainable products - estimates that there are between 3,000 and 12,500 patio heaters in the hospitality sector (pubs and restaurants), and 630,00 in the domestic sector [7].

It is difficult, however, to estimate the overall contribution that this "population" of patio heaters is making to climate change because it depends on how much each heater is used.

Based on liquid propane gas sales for 2005 (so electric patio heaters are not included), the MTP calculates that LPG patio heaters produce 22,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year [7].

However, a modelling exercise by MTP on the energy use of the 630,000 UK domestic patio heaters calculated that they could produce a total of 140,000 tones of carbon dioxide per annum. This is roughly equivalent to the co2 emissions from all the homes in Bath

Friends of the Earth is calling on:

  • Retailers to stop selling patio heaters, and to do more to reduce the impact of their activities and the products that they sell.
  • Consumers to avoid buying these products.

Friends of the Earth's The Big Ask climate campaign is calling for a new climate change law requiring annual cuts in UK carbon dioxide emissions of at least 3 per cent. The Government has agreed to introduce a new law and is currently consulting on the details:

1. Friends of the Earth received answers to its survey from B&Q, Focus, Homebase, Wyevale, and Nottcutts. Wyevale was the only store that indicated that it was ending the sale of patio heaters.




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7. MTP briefing: ¬

Parliamentary Answer: 6 June 2006

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust