Solid fuels such as coal and wood can be a very cost effective way of heating your home. Renewable fuels such as wood are a resourceful alternative to fossil fuels. Wood is considered to be a carbon neutral fuel as carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere as the wood grows and is released later when the wood is burnt.
Solid fuel, in particular coal, used to be the most popular form of heating for homes in the United Kingdom, but from the 1960s natural gas central heating grew in popularity and is now used by the majority of commercial and domestic users. However, in recent years solid fuels especially wood logs and pellets have been increasing in popularity, with many consumers going back to the delight of a solid fuel stove, even in modern, recently built homes.
Burning solid fuels can pollute the air and many cities used to suffer heavy, sooty smogs. In response to these problems the Government passed the first Clean Air Act in 1956, which regulated the use of household solid fuels. This followed the dreadful great smog of London of 1952, which claimed the lives of many. Many urban local authorities established Smoke Control Areas under the Clean Air Act 1968: these are areas where special provisions apply if people wish to burn solid fuels.
The simplest way to burn solid fuels is in an open fireplace. However, open fires are the least efficient mode of solid fuel combustion, because most of the heat is lost up the chimney and this method can potentially be the most polluting due to the lower temperatures involved. If you live in a Smoke Control Area you are restricted in the fuels you can burn, for example you cannot legally burn high sulphur coals or any form of wood in an open fireplace.
Stoves and boilers burn solid fuels far more efficiently than open fires. Stoves can provide heat for a single room, while boilers can heat several radiators and an entire home. If you live in a Smoke Control Area an exempt appliance allows you to legally burn dry fuels such as wood logs and pellets.
If you choose to heat your home with solid fuels, you must ensure that both your appliance and chimney are regularly maintained to keep the household safe. It is also important to make sure you stay within the law when a stove or solid fuel appliance is fitted, and comply with any conditions of the Clean Air Act that apply where you live.
The government has introduced new legislation that came into effect from 1st May 2021 with regard to solid fuels, detailing what can be used and in some cases, when that use will cease.
This legislation was introduced owing to a rise in the levels of air pollution that had been recorded. Evidence suggested that coal and wet wood was behind at least some of this pollution.
Choosing the right fuel for your heating appliance ensures excellent performance and economic usage. From an open fire, heating a single room, to a boiler providing central heating for an entire house, there is a solid fuel system and a fuel designed to meet your exact requirements. The sometimes bewildering array of heating appliances available on the market today have been developed to allow you to gain the full benefit from solid fuel.
Only registered coal merchants who are members of the Approved Coal Merchants scheme can legally sell traditional house coal in England from 1 May 2021 up to 30 April 2023.
Traditional house coal must be sold loose or in unsealed bags directly to the customer. It will be illegal to sell bagged coal.
Traditional house coal is not approved for use in smoke control areas in England unless it is used in an appropriate exempt appliance.
Don't forget that following the introduction of new legislation, sales of traditional house coal for use in homes will be illegal in England from 1 May 2023. Coal merchants should support and advise customers on how to switch to alternative fuels before then.
Manufactured solid fuels and wood sold for domestic use across all of England, including smoke control areas, must meet the new government requirements.
The rules for wood will depend on the amount of wood being sold. Wood sold in volumes under 2 cubic metres must be certified as ready to burn. It must also have the following information either attached to the packaging, alongside the wood on the shelf or next to the price:
This information must be clearly displayed to confirm that the fuel has a moisture content of twenty percent or less.
Small scale wood producers, who sell under six hundred cubic metres a year have until 1 May 2022 to comply with the new certification rules.
All suppliers who sell wood in volumes of 2 cubic metres or more in England must provide customers with a notice that explains how to dry, store and check the moisture of the wood before it is used.
All manufactured solid fuels must be certified for use to be legally sold.
The following information must be either attached to the packaging, alongside it on the shelf or next to the price:
The following manufactured solid fuels are exempt from the certification requirements:
So as you can see, the government has not banned solid fuel stoves as some people believed, they are simply tightening the rules regarding what solid fuels can be burnt in open fires and solid fuel stoves.
Buy your wood from a reputable source and ensure that it is dry before burning. At the point of purchase or collection, the wood may not be dry enough to burn legally, but by storing it correctly and for the requisite length of time, you will be able to burn it eventually. So buy enough way before you want to burn it, as this will ensure a good rotation of dry wood for the solid fuel stove, plus you are less likely to run out when the weather is at its coldest.
As long as you stay within the new guidelines, you will be able to continue to enjoy the cozy warmth from your solid fuel stove for many years to come and above all, you and your loved ones can continue to breath easy.
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