The use of wood-burning stoves had grown significantly over the past several years, becoming the primary source of heat for some people and a secondary source for many others. When compared to fossil fuels like natural gas, propane, and coal, burning wood can be relatively carbon neutral and sustainable, and wood burning stoves are cosey and efficient (typically three times more than an open fire). More people than ever are relying on wood-burning stoves because so many people are concerned about how they’re going to pay their energy bills given the skyrocketing rates of gas and electricity.
There are an estimated 1.5 million traditional log burning stoves in British homes, and some families are using them as an alternative to turning on the heating this winter because the costs are so high.
Average home energy costs are double what they were a year ago, putting a tremendous burden on budgets at a time of double-digit inflation and wage stagnation, even after Ofgem’s energy price cap was frozen at £2,500 in September.
Although such devices are initially costly to install and need a consistent supply of dry fuel, their popularity as a stylish lifestyle accessory has only grown in recent years. They are frequently promoted by glossy magazines and interior design programmes, assuring comfort and a more pleasant environment, with about 150,000 sold each year. However, as part of an effort to reduce air pollution, burners designated “Smoke Control Area” – most towns and cities – will now only be allowed to emit 3g (grams) of smoke per hour, down from 5g, under the government’s new Environmental Improvement Plan 2023.
Anyone discovered to be in violation may now be subject to an immediate fine of up to £300 and, if they refuse to reduce their chimney smoke, even criminal prosecution.
If you already possess a wood-burning stove or are considering purchasing one, it’s vital to be informed about the new laws for wood-burning stoves that affect the type of log burner you may buy and the fuel you can burn.
New regulations that required all newly produced wood-burning stoves, multi-fuel stoves, and fireplaces to adhere to new standards known as “Ecodesign” went into effect in January 2022. Additionally, the government forbade the burning of home coal and wet wood and advised residents to transition to cleaner alternatives. If households use unapproved fuel, they risk a £1,000 fine.
The Ecodesign logo indicates that the cooker has undergone independent testing by an authorised laboratory and satisfies standards for particles and air quality. A year’s worth of testing is done on a stove’s seasonal efficiency as well as its ability to burn fuel efficiently while producing low amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and organic gaseous compounds. A properly fitted and maintained Ecodesign stove that burns good quality dry wood is a low carbon heating technique that employs a sustainable and renewable fuel.
Log burners and coal fires, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), are one of the main causes of fine particular matter (or PM.25) in the air, which can cause lung cancer, heart damage, strokes, and asthma.
The British Lung Foundation has previously urged legislators to take further action to raise public awareness of the risks associated with breathing in poisonous air by launching a nationwide ad campaign.
The UK government estimates that domestic fireplaces and stoves provide 38% of PM.25 to the atmosphere, compared to 16% from industry and 14% from road transportation, while the stove sector disputed those percentages.
So what does this mean?
The government has no intention of outright banning wood burners, as stated in Defra’s new 262-page plan describing its approach for halting and then reversing the loss in nature accordingly.
Secretary of state for Defra, Thérèse Coffey stated that the government acknowledges that some homes depend on solid fuel burning as their main source of heating, hot water, and cooking, thus it is not attempting to outlaw burning. A prohibition on household outdoor burning (barbecues, firepits, bonfires etc.) would also be deemed unreasonable.