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Firewood - Its about getting the right balance

Owners of wood burners, stoves and open fires will no longer be able to buy house coal or wet wood, under a ban to be rolled out from next year.

Sales of the two most polluting fuels will be phased out in England to help cut air pollution, the government says.

Should solid fuel stove owners be worried?

In a word, no. The government is not banning wood burning stoves, simply the types of fuel that we shouldn't be burning in the first place.

We should only be burning well seasoned wood in our wood burning stoves, anything else will release too much smoke laden with damaging particulates into the atmosphere.

How to tell when firewood is seasoned

If you heat your home with wood, you probably spend a lot of time preparing for those cold long winter months. It often involves a years worth of preparation that nedn't be a chore if planned for correctly. This is because firewood requires anywhere from six months to two years to dry out properly, this is referred to as seasoning the wood.

Late winter and early spring are the ideal times to cut and store wood for the following years use. It allows wood to dry over the summer months, seasoning in time for the colder weather.

However, if you happen to be new to burning wood in order to heat your home, you may not have planned so far in advance. Whether you're forced to purchase wood from someone else or are planning to cut your own for future use, it is very important to properly season wood before burning it.

Burning green wood can be dangerous. It creates a lot of smoke and may cause a dangerous creosote buildup over time. It releases lung damaging particulates and the build up of creosote in your chimney may cause chimney fires if not regularly cleaned out. Learn to tell when wood is seasoned. It will help you properly heat your home and keep you safe at the same time.

How to tell if wood is seasoned

  • Hardness of the wood. Drying wood becomes harder, making it more difficult to split or dent. Dry wood is more compressed and stronger than green wood.
  • Invest in a moisture meter. If you are not sure whether or not wood is dry enough to burn, you can purchase a moisture meter to test the wood. When inserted into dry wood, your meter reading should be below 20 percent, ideally between 10 and 20 percent. Some DIY stores and woodworking suppliers sell moisture meters.
  • Colour of the wood. The wood colour will fade over time. Seasoned wood is less vibrant than green wood.
  • Size of the pieces of wood. Splitting wood will speed up the drying process. If you need wood to burn in the near future, you are better off buying wood that has been split. Split wood will also dry out faster than logs in a stack. Logs and unsplit firewood that is touching the ground or near the center of the firewood pile will dry out very little if at all.
  • Cracking. You may notice cracks on dry pieces of wood, extending from the center of the log and reaching out towards the edges. But don't just use this as your only gauge to the woods suitability for burning. Some dry logs may not crack and some cracked logs may still be too green to burn.
  • Weight of the firewood. As wood dries, it loses its moisture content and becomes considerably lighter. Softwoods have a very high moisture content when they are green, so the weight difference will be more noticeable than hardwood varieties.
  • Smell of the wood you intend to burn. Green wood has a stronger smell. The smell will depend on the type of tree. As the wood dries, the sappy scent will fade to a light woody smell.
  • Split test the firewood. Apart from being harder to split, dry pieces of wood will be dry on the inside too. You can check the moisture level of a piece of wood by splitting it open to see if it feels dry to the touch.
  • Flammability of the firewood. You can also test moisture level by burning test pieces of wood outside. Green wood will be difficult to light. It will smoulder and create a lot of smoke. It is always best practice to do this before burning indoors.
  • Sound of the firewood. Wet wood produces a dull thud when struck against another piece of wood. Dry wood on the other hand will make a hollow sound when two pieces are hit together, a good indicator that it is dry.
  • Bark on firewood. The bark on dry wood is very loose. You may notice bare spots on dry logs. Any existing bark can be removed easily.

The change from gas central heating to solid fuel stoves

Over recent years, many peoplehave invested in wood burning stoves to replace their gas central heating. Wood burning stoves are carbon neutral and let's be honest, what is better than a real flame to keep you warm? The mere sight of a fire is enough to make us feel warmer on those cold winter days.

As wood burning solid fuel stoves don't contribute to climate change, why are local authorities and the government apparently attacking their use under their pollution rules? Well, as stated above, it isn't the stove itself, but the type of fuel used. If you stick to well seasoned wood, you will be good to go.

Households in Clean Air zones are banned by law from emitting dense smoke. Strangely enough, bonfires in the garden are not covered by this legislation, although you could still end up in hot water if you repeatedly had smoky bonfires and they were deemed to be a local nuisance.

Some are concerned that by only being allowed to burn thoroughly dried wood, this may put up the cost of the fuel. This is why it is so vital to construct a good shelter for the wood where it can be left to season properly.

A wood shelter can be purchased, but with a little DIY no how, one can be built quite cheaply. You simply want an area that will be protected from direct contact with rain and the wet floor and it must also have a good air flow throughout to facilitate the seasoning process.

If your wood is getting mould spores on it in storage, it is likely to be that too much moisture is being allowed to linger on the wood. The extra air flow will put a stop to this quickly.

We all need to do our bit for our health and the environment

There are certain problems with the impending ban on wet wood sales for wood burning stoves. It is pretty unlikely that local authorities will have the manpower to conduct inspections of garage forecourts and corner shops where the offending wet wood is often sold.

Also, many people will continue to burn tree cuttings they have collected and not bothered to season them properly. As there are no powers to inspect homes for the wrong type of fuel, any rules on the use of wet wood will be very difficult to enforce.

However, responsible people should do everything they can to collect the right type of wood, dry it correctly and this is why collecting, storing properly and rotating your firewood stock is so important. So above all, do the right thing and continue to enjoy your solid fuel stove and stay warm and cosy.

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Why not call Ansell Chimneys now for a free quote

If you would like to know more or are interested in a quote we would be happy to help. Phone us on 01923 661 614, email us at info@ansellchimneys.co.uk or fill in our enquiry form and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Ansell Chimneys

t. 01923 661 614 | m. 07941 282 325 | m. 07976 318 160 | Email us

t. 01923 661 614
m. 07941 282 325
m. 07976 318 160
Email us

Watford | St Albans | Bushey | Rickmansworth | Bricket Wood | Hemel Hempstead | South Oxhey

Watford | St Albans | Bushey
Rickmansworth | Bricket Wood
Hemel Hempstead | South Oxhey