Wood burners: your questions answered
Burning wood is the most primitive way to keep warm but fashionable log burners have elevated the humble fire into a home must-have. Their cosy credentials coupled with an impressive heat output has prompted a rise in wood burner sales but the downside – increased air pollution – has sparked a flurry of new rules and regulations.
We are frequently asked what is and isn’t allowed in respect to wood burners, so we’ve answered the most commonly-asked questions here.
Q. Will a wood burner save me money on my heating bill?
A. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a wood-burner can cut a home’s heating bill by 10%. That saving does, however, depend on the price of gas and the demand for seasoned logs or kiln-dried wood. Supply and demand has seen the price of wood rise significantly in the last few months. In fact, data from Skuuudle revealed the price of kiln-dried logs had risen by up to 50% in the 12 months to September 2022.
Q. Are they banning wood burners in the UK?
A. Wood burners have been in the news as the Government is worried about the amount of indoor pollution they create. Although there is no blanket ban on wood burners in the UK, rules around their use are tightening.
Q. What rules already exist?
A. Smoke controlled zones already exist in places where the air is most polluted. There are restrictions on how much smoke can be emitted from a chimney and what fuels can be burnt in these designated areas. In February 2023, it was announced that breaches of regulations in smoke controlled zones would be punished more harshly. Local councils are being encouraged to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £300, with those who persistently break air pollution rules facing penalties of up to £5,000.
Additionally, owners of wood burners, stoves and open fires were banned from burning wet wood and house coal in May 2021 – a move to reduce pollution.
An extra set of rules are to be introduced in London. New planning guidance sets very strict air quality standards and by default, installing a wood burner or stove in the capital will automatically breach the guidelines. The new rules will only apply to new buildings and residential refurbishment/extension projects that need planning permission. People living in existing properties will still be able to install a wood burner. It is not known whether other cities and local authorities will follow suit.
Q. How do I find out if I’m in a smoke control zone?
A. Your local council’s environmental department will tell you if where you live now – or where you’d like to move to – is in a smoke controlled zone.
Q. What fuels can I burn in a smoke control zone?
A. You can only burn authorised fuels in a smoke control zone. These include smokeless fuels, some types of briquettes and certain fire logs. If in doubt, consult this list of authorised fuels for smoke control areas.
Q. Are there restrictions on what type of wood burner I can buy?
A. Although there is no blanket ban on buying wood burners, there are restrictions on the type you can purchase. Legislation is in place so all wood burning stoves now sold in the UK comply with ECO2022 Ecodesign standards.
Q. What alternatives are there to wood burning stoves?
A. The popularity of wood burning stoves has prompted manufacturers to make a number of look-alike alternatives. You can get cast iron stoves that are powered by mains or LPG gas – the latter of which does not require a chimney or a flue. Both have real flickering flames and produce enough heat to reduce reliance on central heating.
Fires that run on bioethanol also produce a real flame but their heat output is pretty negligible, making them a good option if you just want the aesthetic of a real fire. Finally, there are plug-in electric burners that use a combination of an ultra-fine water mist, illumination and faux logs to create a flame effect.
If you are looking for a new home with a wood burner, a gas stove or simply a super-efficient central heating system, get in touch today.
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