Wood-burning stoves have become a practical and good-looking home accessory, and it’s easy to see why. In our TV-free sitting rooms, we’ve returned to the primordial comfort of a flickering fire, albeit one that conveniently emits smoke straight out of a flue and glows gently behind sealed glass. It’s the centrepiece of our hygge winter décor, accompanied by a cosy stacked wall of logs.
But the regulations around what we can and can’t burn in smokeless London need to be addressed. According to the mayor’s office, 95 per cent of Londoners breathe air that’s 50 per cent in excess of the World Health Organisation guidelines for air quality. In January 2017 the highest levels of pollution were recorded in London since 2011, and City Hall said wood burning was “a major contributor”. No-one wants their hygge to be harmful, so let’s get to the facts.
Two issues exist. First, if you’re going to buy a new burner, then you need to choose one that’s Defra-approved to burn wood efficiently. Chesneys, for example, only sells stoves that meet this standard (pictured above) and also the Ecodesign standard, which all burners sold in the UK must comply with by 2022.
Ecodesign is a Europe-wide fuel-burning efficiency standard supported by the Stove Industry Alliance and by Hetas, the national solid fuel safety organisation, which has a list of Ecodesign manufacturers on its website. Ecodesign stoves emit 55 per cent less particulate matter than the current Defra standards outline. The wood you buy for your Defra-approved burner also needs to have been properly seasoned in order to be fuel efficient. Wood Sure is one certified supplier (woodsure.co.uk).
Some stoves could be banned from burning wood
But there is also the tricky issue of what to burn in a stove you have already – perhaps one you had installed years ago or which was already in a property you bought. For starters, Hetas recommends you have it safety checked and certified. Over the years you might have got used to buying logs in bulk online, supplementing your stash with a cheap source of smokeless coal. But what are the rules for Londoners?
“If you have an old wood-burning stove that’s not Defra-exempt, then you can only burn authorised fuels,” says Vicky Powell, a spokesperson for Hetas. The crux is that logs (even top quality kiln-dried logs) are not an authorised fuel for wood burners that are not Defra-approved. “If someone lives in a smoke control area and they have a wood burning stove that is not a Defra exempt appliance, they are not permitted to burn wood in it,”
Powell says. “Some wood-burning stoves can have a conversion kit fitted which makes them suitable for burning other fuels, in which case you would be able to burn Defra-approved fuels from the list, and some stoves are designed as multi-fuel. It is best to contact the manufacturer for advice on this. If you’re not sure who the manufacturer is or how to contact them, you can try the Hetas advice line.”
The Hetas advice line is on 01684 278 170. Find Ecodesign-ready stove manufacturers and installers at hetas.co.uk. Find the list of authorised fuels for non-Defra-registered burners at gov.uk/smoke-control-area-rules