Some of the common queries, concerns and areas of misinformation surrounding air quality and domestic solid fuel burning.
Incorrect! The restrictions on new stoves are changing, all this means is that any new stoves will emit less harmful substances when burning fuel, it will not affect the stoves which are already in your home. The government is now restricting the sale of wet logs and traditional household coal. As of February 2021, unseasoned wood will only be sold in quantities larger than 2m3, this is to encourage stove users to either buy pre-seasoned wood or to buy a large quantity of wet logs and season the logs themselves to save money. Bagged house coal will no longer be for sale as of February 2021 and will only be available to be brought loose from a coal merchant until February 2023. This means that the fuels being burnt will be more efficient.
False! Recent studies have shown that smokeless fuels and dried wood produce more heat when burnt than wet wood and traditional coal. As such it is cheaper to heat your home with these more environmentally friendly fuels than the more polluting traditional coals and wet wood.
Definitely! They should be serviced and chimneys swept at least once a year (depending on fuel), often the chimney sweep will do both in one visit.
Some parts of your stove are can be maintained by yourself at regular intervals. Parts which you can care for yourself include cleaning the glass, emptying the ash pan and checking all seals around the door - all when the stove is cold. Your manual should demonstrate how for your model or your chimney sweep will generally be happy to show you.
Usually! Even if you previously had an open fire without a flue liner, significantly less smoke and heat is being sent up the chimney with a stove than with an open fire. The flue liner helps to improve the draw and stops gases from stagnating and condensing in a cold chimney where they would settle on top of the register plate or on the sides of the chimney. This residue would be flammable and so any spark in the chimney could cause a fire. It is also simpler than confirming the structural integrity of a chimney as any weakness can cause smoke and particulate matter to enter other rooms of the house. If your installer is satisfied, then the chimney does not need to be lined but it is always recommended.
Incorrect! Fresh “wet” wood produces a less intense flame than seasoned wood. 1 kg of wet wood can contain up to a pint of water. When wood is wet, some energy is used to burn this water off, this lowers the “calorific value” which means that the same number of logs provides less heat! Not seasoning fresh wood is also dangerous as it can cause creosote to build up in the chimney, this can cause a chimney fire and over time this could block carbon monoxide from leaving and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Incorrect! Old furniture, MDF, driftwood and pressure treated timber CANNOT be burnt in a stove, they can give off toxic fumes when burnt so dispose of these correctly at your local recycling centre and stick to properly seasoned logs for your stove! Even the type of tree can have an impact – hardwood burns for longer than softwood but both types have their own benefits.
Yes but… Anybody can physically install a log burner but it always needs to comply with building regulations and so after installation building control will charge you to complete a visit and sign off the stove as meeting regulations, if the stove does not meet regulations then you will be required to make the alterations and pay for another visit. It is often just as cheap but a lot easier to originally hire a competent person to install the stove, they will then sign off on their own work meaning you do not need to pay and wait in for building control at a cost of £170+VAT on top of any materials brought or non-competent persons workers hired. The most popular solid fuel competent persons scheme is HETAS, more details are available at www.hetas.co.uk
Yes! Open fires are approximately 20% efficient whereas a newer stove can be over 80%! New stoves are more efficient than old stoves and when buying a new stove, ecodesign ready and DEFRA exempt are the most efficient. As of 2022 all new stoves available for sale will be ecodesign ready.
Definitely! Using a newer appliance is one of the easiest ways to reduce the particulate matter than your stove is emitting due to the new technology included. It is important to still use an efficient fuel as well.
Current research suggests that burning solid fuels currently releases up to 38% of the UK’s particulate matter air pollution versus 12% originating from traffic. This covers all solid fuels though and there is a wide variety, burning coal in an old stove is significantly more polluting than burning dry or seasoned wood in a new stove. To reduce your effect on air pollution always ensure that wood is dry before being burnt and that you are using an efficient stove, we recommend ecodesign ready as an ideal but if not then a DEFRA exempt stove is the next best alternative.
Wood should have a moisture content of below 20% when it is ready for burning. You can buy kiln dried or seasoned wood which should already meet this target. If buying wet wood to season yourself then a moisture meter is an important piece of equipment. If you are buying wood, then schemes such as Woodsure’s ready to burn can assure you that the wood is suitably cut and dried.
No! Wood burns differently depending on which tree it comes from, hardwoods are denser than softwoods. This means that hardwoods burn hotter and for longer, however they are more expensive.
Yes, so long as they just contain dry wood with no contaminants. Contaminants can increase pollution levels and over time, damage your appliance.
Yes! Current regulations, which can be read in approved document J, require all stoves installed to be installed with a carbon monoxide alarm in an appropriate location. If your stove was installed before these regulations or you have an open fire then it is heavily advised that you get a carbon monoxide alarm fitted, carbon monoxide is colourless and scentless and so a problem is often not noticed until it is too late and carbon monoxide can kill.
If your stove is rated under 5KW when the room ventilation should be sufficient, and a competent installer will confirm this. If the stove is over 5KW then you will need a permanent ventilation such as an air brick.
Head over to the "about" section of this website and click through to the "Smoke Control Areas" page. You can insert your postcode and find out!
You can only burn authorised solid or ' smokeless' fuels unless using an exempt appliance in which case you can also burn wood. Exempt appliances have been rigorously tested to ensure they do not emit high levels of smoke when burning an unauthorised fuel.
You can be fined up to £1000 for each non-compliance.