If you've been reading the news recently, you might have seen some concerning headlines about the latest emissions regulations.

Chances are, you have many questions.

Can you be fined £300 for using a wood burner? Can you get a criminal record for heating your home with a stove? What are these new regulations, exactly? Should you still go ahead if you're planning to buy a stove? What fuels can you burn in it?

The good news is: Not every stove owner needs to worry. If you're considering installing a wood-burning stove in your home, there's no reason to cancel your plans. Similarly, if you already have a wood burner that you've had installed recently, there's no need to panic.

In this post, we'll debunk some of the myths around the regulations and fines, explain Smoke Control Areas in the UK, and explore the different kinds of fuel you can burn in your wood burner. 

Who can be fined £300 for using a wood burner?

Most households in England now fall under a Smoke Control Area, also known as a ‘smokeless zone’.

According to DEFRA, a Smoke Control Area is a legally defined area where a substantial amount of smoke cannot be emitted from a chimney.

In these areas, additional restrictions on domestic burning apply, including through issuing financial penalties under a civil regime. Persistent offenders may be pursued under a criminal regime.

If you live in such an area, you may face a fine for using a wood burner that does not meet regulations.

This fine is enforceable to help local authorities implement pollution control in Smoke Control Areas.

Do you need clarification on whether you live in a Smoke Control Area? In that case, you can contact your local council for more information.

Here, you can also find a list of Smoke Control Areas provided exclusively to LeicesterLive by DEFRA.

You can also use DEFRA's interactive map here.

What stove should you use if you live in a Smoke Control Area?

  • The myth is that using a wood burner can get you a fine of £300 and a criminal record.
  • The truth is that you may pay a fine and get a criminal record, but only if you use a wood burner that does not meet the restrictions in place. Modern, Ecodesign-compliant, and DEFRA-approved stoves meet restrictions.

The current limit on the amount of smoke your chimney can produce in a Smoke Control Area is 5g per hour, plus 0.5g for each kW of your stove's heat output. However, there are plans to reduce this limit to 3g per hour, although when this will happen is not yet confirmed.

These rules mean that only some people with a wood-burning stove or open fire will pay a fine for using it. Most modern wood burners available are DEFRA-approved, so many stove owners do not need to worry.

What is the fine for?

Smoke coming from chimneys

You may have to pay a fine of £300 if too much smoke is being released from your chimney under Section 19A of the Clean Air Act 1993.

If you want to upgrade an older wood burner that emits a lot of smoke or are considering installing a wood burner in your home for the first time, get an appliance that DEFRA has approved for use in Smoke Control Areas. A wood burner with this seal of approval is designed and tested to operate within the restrictions.

See a list of our DEFRA-approved stoves here.

What fuels can you burn in a Smoke Control Area?

You should be aware of restrictions on what you can burn if you live in a Smoke Control Area. If you have an older wood-burning stove that is not DEFRA-approved, you can still use it, providing smoke emissions are within limits and only if you are burning approved smokeless coal.

To burn wood in a Smoke Control Zone, you must purchase and use a DEFRA-approved appliance. You should only burn wood with a moisture content below 20%. Otherwise, you are risking a fine and a criminal record.

While it might seem cheaper to burn waste wood, pallets, fence panels, or treated unwanted wood, it’s not advisable. It will contribute to air pollution and produces more smoke than kiln-dried or correctly seasoned wood.

The following steps will help reduce chimney smoke emissions:

  • Burn dry wood
  • Use a top-down lighting method
  • Avoid long periods of slumbering to keep the fire alight
  • Keep the chimney clean
  • Use an EcoDesign-compliant appliance

How often are fines handed out?

According to the Telegraph, a study conducted by criminologist James Heydon at the University of Nottingham found that local councils in the UK have only issued two fines in six years for using unauthorised fuels. Local councils say that they rarely escalate complaints as, most of the time, people are not breaking the rules with their wood burners. So, the chances of being fined are very low.

If you already have a modern stove approved for use in Smoke Control Areas and only burn dry seasoned wood, there’s nothing to worry about. You’re not breaking any laws, and you won’t be fined for using it.

Modern wood burners meet the new regulations

The new regulations are in place to reduce air pollution and keep the UK a healthier country.

Last month, we wrote an article on the Stove Industry Alliance's Response to Professor Chris Whitty's report on air pollution.

  • The myth is that all wood burning stoves break air pollution rules.
  • The truth is that all new stoves must meet new Ecodesign regulations. As long as your wood burner is EcoDesign-compliant, DEFRA-approved, and only used to burn approved suitable fuels, it’s legal to use it anywhere.

The UK was producing stoves that met and exceeded the Ecodesign standards for several years before it became mandatory to do so.

Suppose you have purchased and installed a wood burner in the last few years. In that case, it is likely Ecodesign-compliant and DEFRA-approved, and you don't have to worry about risking a fine.

Your manufacturer's handbook should provide further information if you already have a stove and need clarification on whether it meets the regulations.

Upgrading an older stove to meet regulations






If you have an older stove that does not meet the new regulations, upgrading it to a DEFRA-approved appliance is necessary if you want to burn wood in a Smoke Control Area.

Moreover, a modern appliance will likely have a much higher efficiency rating than an older stove. Therefore, you can save money on heating in the process.

Wrapping up

If you have had a wood burner installed recently, it’s unlikely you will be fined for using it. Similarly, if you're thinking of getting a wood burner for your home, you won't need to worry about fines if you purchase a DEFRA-approved, Ecodesign-compliant appliance (which is most of them these days!).

If you live in a Smoke Control Area, you won’t be fined for using your stove if it produces less than the maximum allowed amount of smoke from the chimney, which is the case with most modern stoves.

With a modern, DEFRA-approved stove that operates within the legal limits of Smoke Control Areas, you can burn wood and other authorised fuels without risking a fine.

Any questions? Our friendly customer service team is always happy to help. Contact them at [email protected] or call on 0161 516 3698.

Shop DEFRA-approved stoves at Direct Stoves today

For more stove buying guides, information and advice, explore the Direct Stoves blog

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