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Ansell Chimneys

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Fines for Solid Fuel Stove Particulates

Every year, we receive many calls regarding solid fuel stoves, but recently, these enquiries have literally gone through the roof.

The reason for this sudden surge in enquiries for solid fuel stoves is directly linked to the cost-of-living crisis and how people are really struggling to heat their homes.

The prices of gas and electricity have spiralled out of control in recent months and so many people are being left with the dilemma of whether to heat their homes, or to feed their families, it really has become that serious.

With increasing numbers of people throughout the United Kingdom either limiting the time they run their central heating, or even not putting it on at all, illustrates that there is a serious issue unfolding.

Sales of duvets, blankets and even heated jackets have increased as people struggle to keep warm. Electric blanket sales have increased a little, although most people are scared to use them owing to the running costs. The use of duvets and blankets also creates another problem with the elderly, it forces them to remain sitting down for longer periods, making pressure sores a greater concern for them. At least the heated jackets, trousers, gloves and scarves permit the wearer to remain active whilst keeping warm. Unfortunately, with the exception of the heated clothing, no amount of blankets and duvets will help the elderly or infirm stay warm once their core temperature has dropped.

It really is a sad testament to our society that in the twenty first century, people in this country should be reduced to shivering in sub zero temperatures because they cannot afford their energy bills.

What is needed is a reliable source of heating that will keep the house at a safe and suitable temperature but won't cost a fortune to run like traditional gas or electric heating appliances. This is where the solid fuel stoves and log burners come into the picture.

Many would consider that solid fuel stoves are a thing of the past, but they have had a resurgence in their popularity thanks to the crippling cost of energy and the desire to have the unrivalled warmth that they provide. Lately however, there have been concerns raised over the emissions from some log burners, with some sources sensationally claiming that they were responsible for choking up the atmosphere with dangerous particulate matter and adversely effecting people's health. Some sources even went as far as to say that any type of stove, be it wood or other solid fuel, was to be outlawed imminently, although the reality is somewhat different.

Particulate concerns over log burning stoves

While it is certainly true that elevated levels of dangerous particulates can be emitted by solid fuel or log burning stoves, this only applies if the wrong types of fuel are burnt, so context is everything and the move to fine stove owners large sums of money will only apply to people who do burn the wrong fuel in their stoves.

In fact, households in England face fines of up to £300 and even the potential for a criminal record if they flout new log burner legislation.

There has been a strict tightening of emissions regulations that has reduced the amount of smoke new stoves can emit per hour from 5g to 3g.

This currently only applies to homes that are built in smoke control areas which cover most of England's towns and cities, far less so in remote areas of the countryside. Anyone found to be breaking the new measures could be issued with an on-the-spot fine.

These new rules form part of the government's new twenty-five-year environmental plan.

The Prime Minister stated that the new measures were part of the Conservative government's efforts to leave the environment in a better state than it was in prior to being elected to govern.

The government's stance has been reinforced following the findings of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who stated that log burners and coal fires were the largest source of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere. Essentially, this particulate matter is made up from small particles of air pollution, derived from burning wood, that can find their way into the body's lungs and blood. However, it should once again be stressed that wood burning stoves are not a problem if the correct type of fuel is burnt.

When you consider that well over a million homes in the United Kingdom use wood for fuel, it is easy to see why fine particulate matter could pose a public health issue if the wrong fuel is being burnt. Domestic open fires and stoves account for over one quarter of the United Kingdom's fine particulate emissions, the majority of which comes from burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves. Many people think that this simply applies to wood, but coal has featured heavily in this matter too and the government are planning radical changes to what can be burnt in open fires and solid fuel stoves.

What changed in 2021 regarding coal?

Owing to the pressure placed on the government to clean up the air we all breathe, they made a proposal to start phasing out burning of fuels such as coal, wet wood and some manufactured products that produce excess sulphur The government are attempting to encourage people to use fuels such as approved smokeless coal commonly referred to as anthracite, as house coal was withdrawn from sale last year. Anthracite is generally considered to be better than coal because it is cleaner burning and more efficient. Anthracite has a high carbon content and very few impurities, which means it burns far cleaner than softer, dirtier coals too. It also produces less smoke and pollutants when burnt, making it ideal for multi fuel stoves in the home.

Defra stated that they would enable local authorities to enforce smoke control areas more efficiently under new moves to clean up the air around us.

Under the new legislation, local authorities will be allowed to issue fines of up to £300 on households whose chimneys are emitting too much smoke, and even pursue a criminal case if they do not comply.

Wet wood and solid fuel stoves

The rules on burning wet wood changed on 1 May 2022 in England and will affect homeowners with multi-fuel and log burning stoves. Now, new wood burning stove regulations that came into force in 2022 will affect what type of log burner you can buy and what fuel you can burn in them.

It is well known and accepted that solid fuel stoves can provide warmth and character to any home, but when certain types of fuel are burnt on them, they can emit small particles of air pollution which can enter the body's lungs and blood, causing health concerns.

The new legislation had originally been intended to begin in February, but the government pushed the deadline back to ensure retailers could sell their stocks and to give homeowners more time to use up their existing stock.

New rules on burning wet wood

The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 is the piece if legislation that came into force, as part of the Clean Air Strategy of the government. The intention is to phase out the sale of wet wood by 2022 and the sale of house coal by 2023.

People often get confused by the term 'wet wood', but it simply refers to wood that has a high moisture content, which can be anywhere from twenty to sixty percent depending on if the tree has been recently felled and whether it has been seasoned.

Retailers are now only able to sell wood in volumes of below two cubic metres when it has a moisture content of no more than twenty percent. This wood must include the Ready to Burn mark, identified in the regulations, which has now been made mandatory.

Under the new legislation, local authorities can issue fixed penalty notices to retailers who sell wood under this volume which doesn't comply with the above requirements.

Some people are concerned over the amount of wood one can purchase under the new legislation, but larger sales of wet wood over two cubic metres for domestic use can still be made from certain retailers, but the wood must be sold with the correct advice on drying and making it ready for burning.

The reason for the new legislation

Air pollution is a significant environmental risk to public health and burning at home is a major contributor to this.

Wet wood and traditional coal are two of the most polluting fuels and emit a type of pollutant called fine particulate matter, which is easily inhaled and absorbed by the body, and can damage your lungs and other organs.

House coal is also full of impurities that are not burned, and instead produce corrosive exhaust gases, including sulphur which when combined with condensation makes sulphur dioxide, which is an acid. This acid not only corrodes the flue of your solid fuel stove, but it also contributes to acid rain, making it a serious environmental issue as well as a health one.

One should also remember that both wet wood and house coal produce large amounts of tar. This quickly builds up in the flue, and greatly reduces the efficient running of any appliance and greatly increases the risk of chimney fires.

Is it time to upgrade your solid fuel stove?

The new legislation does not require homeowners to replace their current stove, although you may want to update older stoves to a more efficient model. Many of the newer solid fuel stoves are considerably more fuel efficient and when coupled with the correct type of fuels, produce less harmful emissions.

How to properly dry wet wood

The most efficient and environmentally friendly way to dry wood is to naturally season it. This means storing your wood to prevent it becoming damaged or wet, but also having it exposed to allow the sun's warmth and air to circulate around pre-split wood.

Depending on the density of the wood, it can take between one to three years to season it fully from when it was freshly cut.

You can tell if your wood is ready for burning as radial cracks and bark will come off easily. You can also purchase a moisture meter to test the wood quite cheaply.

You can still burn old fuel you have at home

Although you can still burn any remaining house coal, it would be better for the environment and the health and wellbeing of all if you transitioned to well-seasoned wood and other approved manufactured alternative solid fuels.

Clearly any leftover wood you own can simply be seasoned until it is ready to burn once the moisture level has reached twenty percent or below. Should you not have the extra space to season wood of your own, buying dry wood is often a better option.

Cleaner fuel other than wood

Homeowners will be encouraged to use cleaner alternatives to wood, such as manufactured solid fuels. These alternatives produce less smoke and pollution, and are more cost-effective to burn.

Wood briquettes that are made from compressed dry sawdust or wood chips, is one example of a manufactured solid fuel. Also, remember that if you do use wood, dry wood, meanwhile, is not only beneficial from an energy efficiency perspective, but it leads to less wear and tear to your log burner and your chimney.

If you are concerned about the particulate matter being given off when burning fuel, look for the Woodsure 'Ready to Burn' logo, which guarantees the moisture content of the wood fuel is less than 20% whether it has been kiln dried, or naturally seasoned.

Whatever you do use, just ensure that it is suitable for burning in your particular solid fuel stove and if it's wood, that it has 20% or less moisture content. There is nothing worse than smoke full of particulate matter spewing into the atmosphere, simply because someone is burning the wrong fuel. The particulates will adhere to neighbours brickwork, windows and cars, causing bad feeling within the neighbourhood, and that's just the particulates you can see, the microscopic particulates will cause more problems when they enter the respiratory tract of people who are exposed to them.

Don't panic! Solid fuel stoves are here to stay

Remember, the new rules surrounding the burning of solid fuels at home are part of the government's twenty-five-year plan. This plan will see a process of tightening the rules, rather than implementing a complete ban on burning fuels. There is no such ban planned, as some households rely on solid fuels to provide their heating and for cooking.

Interestingly enough, some of the things that have avoided the legislation are the ones that cause the most arguments amongst neighbours. Barbeques, fire pits and bonfires have not been included in the new rules as the government considered that doing so would be disproportionate.

Discover the authorised fuels for solid fuel stoves?

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have published a comprehensive list of around three hundred approved fuels that can be legally burnt in a solid fuel stove or log burner, so the scaremongering of late is unfounded.

The DEFRA website clearly details the name of the fuel, the manufacturer and even where it's authorised for use, such as England, Scotland and Wales, so you'll never be caught out.

So, now you know what's hot and what's not, you can continue to enjoy your solid fuel stove with confidence for many years to come.

Ask Ansell Chimneys about a new solid fuel stove as we are fully aware of all the necessary building regulations that govern their installation, and you can look forward to a cosy and cheaper winter this year.

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