What you need to know about the new rules on log burners, wood-burning stoves and open fires

The new guidelines on the use of log burners and open fires have led to all manner of rumour and speculation, from restrictions on use to a nationwide ban. That's not what is happening, however, as Annunciata Elwes explains.

The changing rules on woodburners and open fires have bred all sorts of misinformation — hot air and smoke, you might say — and even Country Life’s leader article writer of November 17 fell foul of the confusing state of affairs, by writing that ‘in the country, woodburners and fires are being phased out’.

This may have alarmed some readers and we apologise for our error — what should have been said is that old woodburning stoves and open fires may be discouraged and eventually replaced, given the Government’s efforts to clean up our air. But at the moment, what’s most important is using the correct fuel.

‘Burning at home, particularly with traditional house coal or wet wood, is a major source of the pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles which can enter the bloodstream and lodge in lungs and other organs,’ explains a Defra statement. ‘PM2.5 has been identified by the World Health Organisation as the most serious air pollutant for human health.’

If winter nights are warmed by log burners or open fires, that’s still fine, but new regulations in force since May insist that cleaner, alternative fuels are used — such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels — which produce less smoke, burn more efficiently and are labelled as ‘ready to burn’. For example, the reduction in emissions using dry wood over wet is up to 50%.

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From January 1, 2022, all new woodburners must meet strict Ecodesign efficiency and emissions limits. Furthermore, look out for various levels of clearSkies certification marks, which distinguish solid-fuel stoves that both meet and go beyond Ecodesign requirements.

‘A stove that is compliant with the requirements of Ecodesign will emit up to 90% fewer emissions than an open fire and up to 80% less than a stove that is 10 or more years old, plus they are much more efficient, so there are clear benefits for those households in a position to upgrade,’ explains Erica Malkin of Stove Industry Alliance — a membership organisation representing stove suppliers and makers in the UK.

However, she continues, ‘in homes operating open fires and older stoves, there is no requirement to remove them or stop using them, and the good practice of having your chimney regularly swept, together with using good quality wood fuel (such as ready to burn) is highly recommended’.