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UPDATE: Wood-burning stove emissions rule changes

There are said to be over a million British houses using wood burning stoves. Some of these are in rental properties and owners and tenants will want to be aware of the law changes on wood burning which were introduced this year.

You could be penalised if you own or buy a wood-burning stove which is not compliant with the Government's 2022 Clean Air Strategy and/or you use the wrong type of fuel. Read on to find the key changes you should be aware of to avoid buying a prohibited appliance.

Emissions regulations

Emissions from domestic fossil fuel burning, especially coal, have significantly reduced since the 1950s, but there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity or wood burning stoves and the use of open fires. The cost of living crisis and the surging cost of energy is only going to accelerate the trend, but this becomes a problem for the Government's environmental targets as these heat sources have become the single biggest factor in particulate matter emissions.

The Government's target is to reduce particulate matter air pollution by 30 percent by 2030, so with wood and coal-burning stoves producing up to 40% of this particulate matter pollution, it's not surprising that they have become a key target for Government regulation.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published its Clean Air Strategy in 2019. This stated that the new Ecodesign regulations would come into force in 2022, which now mean that all new stoves will need to meet agreed emissions standards, regardless of where they are used in the country.

The Clean Air Act enables local councils to declare certain regions and districts as smoke control areas. In these zones, using an appliance that emits smoke through a chimney (such as a wood burner) is not allowed unless you're burning an authorised fuel or using a DEFRA exempt product. Fines of up to �1,000 can be imposed for breaches of these regulations.

Do the regulations include banning wood burning stoves?

There are currently no plans to ban wood burning stoves says the Government. But significantly, one study - Clean Air in London - published the results of its findings for the Climate Change Committee (CCC), concluding that the use of wood burners should be phased out over time.

What is to be banned now are certain types of the most polluting fuels used in wood burners or multi-fuel burners, and only those types of fossil fuel burners which comply with certain design specifications can be sold and used from January 2022.

It means that if you own a wood burning stove, or you are planning to have one fitted, then you must ensure that it complies with the prescribed specifications. As from 1 January 2022 all new wood burning and multi-fuel stoves and fireplaces will have to be manufactured in-line with the strict new guidelines known as Ecodesign.

These new stoves will now carry something called a SIA (Stove Industry Alliance) approved Ecodesign Ready Stove quality assurance tag. As well as it being compulsory for a stove to have the correct specification from 1st January 2022, all wood burning and multi-fuel stoves and fireplaces that are manufactured will have to adhere to the strict new guidelines known as Ecodesign. The clearSkies moniker is a guide and the highest kitemark given to a stove in the domestic fire industry, a design which must be used in smoke control areas.

Stoves and fireplaces with the clearSkies certification produce significantly lower levels of emissions compared to open fires and older stoves. Independent tests have shown a clearSkies stove produces up to 90% less emissions than an open fire and 80% less emissions than the average 10-year-old stove.

If a stove or fireplace is clearSkies certified you can be assured that it meets all the criteria needed to be legally installed and meets the latest environmental standards. You don't need to look for any other certification.

Appliances conforming to the previous requirements and marketed before January 1, 2022, can still be sold legally and if you have an older stove you can continue to use it. The new legislation will not affect existing appliances that are already installed.

Types of fuels

Wet wood used in wood burners or open fires leads to an increase in smoke and particulate emissions. It produces significantly less heat because you are simply burning water, and it leads to the blackening of the stove glass front with a faster build-up of soot in the chimney.

Wood fuels should have a moisture content below 20%. Legislation introduced in February 2020 banned the sale of wet wood fuel with a moisture content higher than 20% in volumes under 2 cubic meters, with effect from 2021.

It can take between 12 and 36 months, depending on the storage conditions and the species of freshly cut wood, to season (dry out) sufficiently to be legally burned. Freshly cut wood can have a water content as high as 60% to 80%. You can test the moisture content using an approved moisture meter or ensure your wood is ready to burn. Check with the Woodsure website if you are purchasing wood fuel.

In a smoke control area you can only burn fuel on the list of authorised fuels. These depend on the locality in the UK but tend to include: anthracite, semi-anthracite, gas and low volatile steam coal. You can check if you live in a smoke control area with your local authority.

Fitting and maintenance

Wood burners and multi-fuel burners must be fitted and certified by a qualified installer to ensure the stove works efficiently, with minimal emissions. Chimneys and flues must be swept and checked regularly.

Regular maintenance (at least annually) is particularly important in rental properties and landlords must supply a Carbon Monoxide monitor in all rooms where there is a solid fuel appliance.

Regular maintenance includes safety checks to ensure the stove is safe to use including checking the firebox for cracks, that the glass is not cracked, the rope seals are working effectively, the baffle and grate systems are in good working order and all the vents, are supply and airways are clear and working correctly.

Landlords should ensure that their tenants are made aware of the regulations governing the burning of solid fuels where a wood or multi solid fuel burning stove or open fire is provided.


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