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Burn Better - Changes to regulations when burning wood and coal.

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

As of the 1st May 2023 the sale of traditional house coal was banned in England. One month later, we look at the changes that have taken place and how you can prepare for the winter months.


Relaxing by fire


What’s been banned?

The UK Air Information Resource states that air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to public health and we need to take action to reduce the most damaging air pollutants. This is why legislation has changed in May 2023 to ban some of the worst polluting fuels.


This legislation change started in 2020, when the Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations outlawed the sale of wet wood and house coal. Approved Coal Merchants were given a two-year period ending on 30th April 2023 to continue to sell loose bituminous coal to customers. Now this period has come to an end and consumers will no longer be able to buy bituminous coal.


When using your wood burner at home, it is important to only use clean fuels. Burning wet wood or traditional house coal (also known as bituminous coal) releases fine particulate matter into the air. These tiny particles can damage your lungs, and harm the health of you and your family. To meet government objectives to lower national pollution, these fuels have been banned.


Houses with chimneys
Legislation is changing to reduce air pollution in England.


Can I burn wood?


Wood sold in volumes under 2㎥ and manufactured solid fuels, must be certified as ‘Ready to Burn’. This means that it has a moisture content of less than 20%. The drier wood is the better it burns and the less pollutants it releases. Not only does this guarantee you a roaring fire, but it is also better for the health of your household.


Ready to Burn wood can be used immediately after purchase. For purchases of wood larger than 2㎥ the supplier should provide information on how to properly season and check the fuel is dry to burn.


Ready to Burn is certified by Woodsure, a trusted non-profit organisation. They have independent experts who work alongside other national bodies, including industry and government representatives, to ensure that customers are provided with a supply of dried wood that is safe to burn.



Cut wood
Ready to Burn wood has a moisture content of less than 20%

Can I burn solid fuels?


A manufactured solid fuel means a fuel produced from coal, wood, plant-derived materials, waxes or petroleum products with other ingredients. These fuels have been produced with the intention that they will be burned in homes in England.


Types of coal including anthracite, semi-anthracite and low volatile steam coal continue to be available due to their inherently smokeless nature.


Manufactured solid fuels must meet certain standards to be listed as ‘Ready to Burn’. HETAS, a non-profit organisation, has been appointed by DEFRA to run its Ready to Burn certification scheme for manufactured solid fuels.


Manufactured solid fuels are available in a range of forms, such as briquettes and fire logs. If you are currently using coal you should consider switching to an alternative fuel, such as briquettes. Before using solid fuel, ensure that your stove is designed to burn them. By burning a solid fuel in a wood-only stove you can damage your stove and flue parts.



Ready to Burn Logo
Look out for the Ready to Burn logo when purchasing solid fuels.


Do I need to change my log burner?


In most cases there will be no need to change your log burner. Even if you currently own a multi-fuel stove it will continue to work very efficiently with Ready to Burn wood or soild fuels Open fires are still permitted in homes, however, you will find that a wood burning stove will burn more efficiently, thereby heating your room faster and for longer.


All new stoves must adhere to the 2022 Ecodesign legislation. From the 1st January 2022 all stove manufacturers must ensure that all solid fuel appliances are in full compliance with the required testing and performance requirements. HETAS have also designed the Cleaner Choice product approval scheme to identify to buyers the cleanest-burning appliances.


You may wish to purchase a new stove if the one in your home is considerably older than 2020. You may begin to notice smoke leaks and less efficient burns depending on how well your stove has been serviced and maintained throughout its lifetime.


It is important to stay on top of your yearly chimney sweeps and stove services. Not only does this maintain your stove warranty, but it also ensures that your stove can continue to burn in a clean way. By regularly sweeping your chimney you are protecting your home from a potential chimney fire by preventing the build up of debris and tar in the chimney.


Please note, it is an offence to produce smoke in a smokeless zone.



Emissions graphic
Emissions graphic produced by Capital Fireplaces.


Summary

One of the main takeaways from this change is that log burners have not been banned. It is still perfectly acceptable to purchase, own, and use a log burner in your home. However, it is now an offence to burn wet wood or coal (bituminous). When purchasing fuel for your home, always look out for the Ready to Burn logo. These cleaner alternatives such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels not only produce less smoke and pollution than wet wood or traditional house coal, but are also cheaper and more efficient to burn.


Additional rules apply in smoke control areas.



Clock Sudbury
Stay cosy by your log burner with safe to use Ready to Burn fuels.


Sources:

Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs, Burn Better: Making changes for cleaner air.

HETAS, Ban on Coal - here are the fuels you can use.

HETAS, Ecodesign 2022

HETAS, Ready to Burn - what consumers need to know.

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