Hot Tips for Cleaner Burning Stoves

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Master stove maker ESSE answers the key questions about the Government’s new restrictions on coal and ‘wet’ wood

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced new restrictions on the fuels you can burn on open fires and stoves in the UK from next year.

From 2021 sales of coal and unseasoned ‘wet’ wood for domestic use will begin to be phased out, giving the public and suppliers time to move to cleaner alternatives such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels.

These new standards do not aim to ban wood-burning stoves and existing owners will not be penalised for using their stoves, but the new measures effectively ban the use of coal and unseasoned or ‘wet’ wood.

The new restrictions compliment tighter emissions requirements on solid fuel stoves which come into effect in January 2022. Beyond 2022 only the cleanest-burning stoves complying with the new Ecodesign standard can be legally sold in the UK.

Sales of all bagged traditional house coal will be phased out by February 2021, and the sale of loose coal direct to customers via approved coal merchants by February 2023.

Similarly, sales of wet wood in units of under 2m3 will be restricted from sale from February 2021, allowing for existing stocks to be used up.

Announcing the changes, Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

“Cosy open fires and wood-burning stoves are at the heart of many homes up and down the country, but the use of certain fuels means that they are also the biggest source of the most harmful pollutant that is affecting people in the UK. By moving towards the use of cleaner fuels such as dry wood we can all play a part in improving the health of millions of people.”

ESSE is in the process of future-proofing its range of clean-burning wood-fired stoves and range cookers and the company has confirmed that all its products will meet the new emissions standards.

ESSE already manufactures some of the cleanest-burning solid fuel stoves in the world and the company’s twin catalytic combustion technology – which reburns any smoke particles it produces – has a British patent.

In August 2017, ESSE announced that all its stoves would meet the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) ‘Smoke Exempt’ emissions standards for use in designated smoke control zones.

ESSE engineers are now utilising their world-leading expertise in clean combustion technology to reduce particulate emissions still further, without compromising on performance and control.

The recently launched Bakeheart and Warmheart cooking stoves already comply with the new emissions standard and the remainder of ESSE’s wood-burning heating stoves and range cookers will be re-engineered to comply.

ESSE technical director Craig Nutter said:

“Today’s stoves and range cookers are built to much tighter tolerances than they were just a decade ago. Consequently, modern solid fuel appliances’ combustion is much cleaner. 

“We’ve been working towards meeting these new standards for some time now, but we don’t believe ‘quick fixes’ are appropriate to meeting this particular challenge.

 “All our bestselling stoves will meet the new standards before 2022 and we are committed to taking real world operating conditions into account. The quality of the installation of the stove and flue and the moisture content of the wood burned are also critical to achieving a sustainable long term solution.”


Q: Will it be illegal to burn wood and coal in my solid fuel stove from next year?

A: No, but you won’t be able to buy unseasoned or ‘wet’ wood or bags of coal from places like garage forecourts or garden centres. Sales of loose coal will also be phased out between 2021 and 2023. And from January 2022, only the cleanest burning stoves which meet lower emissions standards will be on sale in the UK.

Q: Are coal and wood burning major contributors to air pollution?

A: Transport, agriculture and industry are all emitters of PM 2.5s and the pollution statistics from the home heating sector include a large proportion of open fires, which do not reach the temperature at which some pollutants are burned off. According to Government figures, open fires account for 90 of harmful PM 2.5 emissions from home heating.

Q: How much air pollution do wood-burning stoves actually produce?

A: According to DEFRA’s new Clean Air Strategy, a DEFRA-approved Ecodesign wood-burning stove emits 335g of particulates per MWh. An open fire produces almost 10 times this amount of smoke. Burning wet wood (more than 20 per cent moisture content) produces more smoke but less heat.

Q: Are wood-burning stoves more efficient than open fires?

A: Yes. A modern wood-burning stove generates more heat and emits 90 per cent fewer emissions than an open fire. Anyone currently using an open fire may want to consider installing an efficient inset stove. An inset stove burns cleaner, with 80 per cent of the heat radiating into the room as opposed to an open fire where just 20 per cent of the heat radiates into the room.

Q: How can I tell the difference between wet and seasoned wood?

A: Ask your supplier how long they season their wood for and look out for the HETAS-approved ‘Woodsure’ logo. Find out more about the Woodsure assurance scheme at Moisture meters to check the water content of self-harvested logs are widely available.

Q: Dry wood burns too quickly – why can’t I use a mixture of seasoned and unseasoned wood?

A: Wet wood emits much more smoke and harmful particles than dry wood, but the most advanced modern stoves have precision air controls that allow you to slow the combustion right down to save fuel and reduce emissions.

Q: I live in the countryside: does it really matter what sort of wood-burning stove I use?

A: Yes. Although Smoke Control Zones are centred on towns and cities, the Government’s new Air Quality Strategy also covers rural areas.

Q: Can I burn logs I find in my local woods in my log burner?

A: Possibly, but strictly speaking, the wood you burn in your log burner should be properly dried and seasoned so that its moisture content is lower than 20 per cent.

Q: Can I read the Government’s Air Quality Strategy for myself?

A: Yes. Follow this link to download a copy.

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