It seems like wood burning stoves are back in the headlines this week as the government puts its plans into action to phase out the sale of the most polluting fuels from 2021 to 2023.
So, what does this mean for those of us who use log burners in our homes?
- Firstly, log burners are not going to be banned
- Rather, the burning of dry seasoned wood is now highlighted as the cleanest and most efficient fuel available
- The sale of coal and wet wood will be phased out as they produce the highest level of air pollution and are least efficient
Here at Direct Stoves, we think this is a huge step in the right direction for improving the way we heat our homes.
Many of the moves being legislated are actually here to help by improving the quality of fuel we burn in our homes. By encouraging the use of dry and seasoned wood, we are ensuring we are using the cleanest possible fuel to power our stoves.
By working with the government on this issue, the stove industry is ensuring that we can continue to burn solid fuel in a way that is sustainable, efficient and doesn’t pollute the air we breathe.
What Are The Benefits of Burning Dry Wood?
Even before the government announced their plans to phase out coal and wet wood, the Stove Industry Alliance has been promoting the use of seasoned wood.
If you aren’t sure, seasoned wood is wood that has been dried out, often in a kiln, to reduce the moisture content to a maximum of 20%.
Seasoned wood is significantly cleaner and more efficient to burn on your stove than wet wood. When you try to burn unseasoned wood, the moisture inside the wood creates a high level of smoke and smouldering. Not only is this bad for the air we breathe by producing particulate matter, but it can also damage your chimney and stove beyond repair with soot, tar and creosote.
By burning seasoned wood, you are choosing one of the cleanest and most efficient solid fuels available. As it has a much lower moisture content, the amount of smoke it creates is drastically reduced. It also means that your fuel will provide more heat for you, as less energy is lost by boiling off the water inside the wood.
In fact, dried logs can produce as much as 4.5kW/h of heat, while the same amount of wet wood can only provide you with 1.0kW/h.
Better still, burning seasoned wood can be a carbon neutral process. When burnt in a modern Ecodesign stove, the amount of carbon produced by burning the wood is offset by the amount of oxygen converted by the tree in its lifetime. You may or may not also know that when wood is left to rot, it actually releases more carbon into the air than if it was burnt efficiently.
Many dried wood suppliers also make the commitment to replant every tree they cut down, ensuring the process remains sustainable.
So, Exactly What Fuels Are Being Put Under Fire?
There are only two types of fuel that are being phased out under the new legislation. These are house coal and wet wood – this is different to dry or ‘seasoned’ wood.
Coal and wet – or ‘unseasoned’ – wood are the most polluting fuels you can burn in your stove. They release a high level of smoke into the air, which is the main source of PM2.5 – the tiny particles created by combustion which can damage our lungs if breathed in.
The changes will mean:
- Sales of bagged traditional house coal will be phased out by February 2021, and the sale of loose coal direct to customers will end by 2023
- Sales of wet wood in small units (less than 2m3) will be phased out from February 2021. Wet wood in volumes greater than 2m3 will also have to be sold with advice on how to dry it before burning
- Makers of solid fuels will also need to show they have a very low sulphur content and only emit a small amount of smoke.
By phasing out the sale of these two types of fuel, we are moving towards cleaner and more efficient alternatives, including dry seasoned wood and low-sulphur smokeless fuels.
We would also point out another issue – the burning of processed wood. This includes any wood not intended for burning, such as old furniture, pallets and fencing. As these items are often treated with chemicals such as varnish or paint, toxic fumes are released when set on fire.
What Should You Do Now?
If you already have a wood burner…
If you are using house coal, find an alternative manufactured smokeless fuel to burn instead.
If you are using unseasoned wood – or, worse still, old furniture, pallets or fence panels – start to make the change to suitable seasoned firewood. The Woodsure Ready to Burn Scheme can help you find a supplier.
Alternatively, you can season fresh wood yourself. We have a great guide available on how to stack, store and season firewood here.
If you are looking for a new wood burner…
Whether you are looking to buy a stove for the first time or want to replace an older model, take into consideration how clean burning and efficient your options are.
The best way to ensure your stove is producing minimal emissions is to invest in an Ecodesign stove. These actually already exceed the current European directive on how much air pollution wood burning stoves can make by up to 75%.
You can find out more about the benefits of Ecodesign stoves here.
We also have a stove scrappage scheme which allows you to earn 10% off a new Ecodesign stove if you recycle your older model.
Find more resources on the Direct Stoves blog…