The government announced the ban on the sale of wet wood and coal but Katy Kiteley from Stova chimney services explains that it’s been badly reported. 

Wood burners and multi-fuel stoves have become very popular. A recent government announcement restricting the types of fuels they can burn in them has caused owners much confusion, partly due to inaccurate press coverage. 

Foremost, it is important to know there is absolutely no ban on using wood burners, multi-fuel stoves or open fires – you may continue to enjoy them. However, as of next year, there will be a ban on the sale of house coal and wet logs in nets. You will still be able to legally buy low-sulphur, smokeless coal and nets of dry logs. Wet log buyers who then season the wood themselves may purchase logs only in quantities of two metres and above. Wet wood, sometimes referred to as green wood, is unseasoned, cut within the last year and has a high moisture content. Seasoning wood depending on variety takes at least 18-24 months. Wood with more than 20% moisture content shouldn’t be burned.

The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) worked with the government to develop regulations allowing solid fuel or wood burning appliances to meet the Europe-wide, Eco design directive by 2022. These rules ensure ALL newly manufactured wood burning or solid fuel stoves comply with new particulate emission standards; which prompted manufacturers to develop innovative, technologically advanced stoves for the future. Such eco-friendly stoves are already on the market, and being fitted in people’s homes: look for the ‘Eco Design Ready’ label when you buy.

As a professional chimney sweep and a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, I promote the national campaign ‘Burnright’ to help people understand how to use appliances correctly and properly season wood. I know from experience that even dry wood can be polluting if not burnt properly in wood stoves, and this is typically down to misuse of the stove’s controls – education is key. Of course, an open fire has no controls, so it is important the fuel they burn is of a type and quality to reduce particle emissions and improve air quality.

The news was not well-received by fuel suppliers; there is a concern that this move will hit smaller wood fuel producers in this very competitive market, and help the larger ones gain an even bigger market share. There’s concern the ban may lead to higher sales of kiln-dried wood, which requires more energy to produce and often comes from Europe in lorries that also harm the environment. 

It appears the Government’s decision, although positive, is potentially flawed. In Nordic countries, wood burning stoves are commonplace and used as a primary heating source throughout the long winter season. The Eco Design Directive has had little impact on day-to-day use of wood-burning appliances there, as governments have long promoted good burning practices, responsible fuel management and regular maintenance. 

Nobody quite knows whether these new restrictions on fuel will actually yield the results the Government is hoping for: to reduce emissions. As a local, professional sweep, I’ll be advising customers to regularly sweep their chimney, service appliances, buy locally-sourced, seasoned wood and burn it at the correct temperature to ensure the air we breathe is as clean as possible.

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