Keeping the home fires burning

Keeping the home fires burning

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Are you up to date with the latest regulations?

Sadly, many people regard wood burning as something only the more affluent people have and generally only used for aesthetics! But this is simply just not true. Now, more and more people use stoves to heat their homes.

For those of you who have a wood burner installed, you will no doubt appreciate how popular they are, but are you up to date on the latest regulations and aware of the best way to look after your stove?

Wood burner

The latest regulations for wood burners

If you are looking to purchase a new wood burner, then it is important to make sure it is of the latest Ecodesign type, or even better, make sure it is approved under the new clearSkies accreditation scheme. This will ensure you are right up to date with the most efficient of stoves and not only will you have peace of mind that emissions will be minimal, but you will also find that they will use far less fuel. If you have a stove that is over 10 years old, you may wish to consider upgrading it at some point because you will be amazed at the difference.

Just one thing to bear in mind, although perhaps a little way off, is that open fires are likely to come under pressure to be banned at some point, and whilst lovely, they are desperately inefficient and certainly not so good when it comes to emissions. Modern Ecodesign appliances produce 90% fewer emissions than an open fire, 80% less than a 10-year-old stove and 66% less than the emissions from the wood-burning stoves used in Defra’s Clean Air Strategy.

The most important thing that you need to be aware of in the short term is that as of May 2021, the government are banning the sale of coal and wet wood and this is purely to help improve air quality and reduce emissions. How often have you seen smoke pouring out of chimney pots and wondered why? It will almost certainly be because the logs being burnt are not properly dried, thus producing a lot of smoke. Another little giveaway that your logs are not dry enough is if the stove glass goes black. It is vital that your logs are dried to below 20% moisture content, and as of May 21, the wood you buy must be purchased from an approved log supplier, registered under the new ‘Ready to burn' scheme.

You should also be aware of ‘smoke control zones’ – are you in one? This will generally be just larger cities where this is relevant, but interestingly these areas are not at all clear. Basically, if you are in one of these zones, you are only permitted to burn smokeless fuels unless your appliance is Defra Exempt which means it meets higher emission standards, in which case you can happily burn firewood, but it must be Ready to Burn approved and below 20% moisture content.

Covered under building regulations now anyway but do make sure you have a carbon monoxide monitor fitted.

basket of logs

Maintenance of your wood-burning stove

All too often, it is assumed that stoves are just metal boxes that need no maintenance. The stove and the chimney, like everything else, do need looking after. It is of paramount importance that you have the chimney swept once a year as a minimum and make sure you use an approved chimney sweep. There are several accreditation schemes, but they have recently all got together under one umbrella to hopefully keep one consistent message:  The Federation of British Chimney Sweeps

In addition, and perhaps something that is often neglected, is to make sure that your stove is serviced - this can be done by the same person. They need to check for any leaks around the flue pipe and door seals. This is not a regulation, but it is likely to be something that insurance companies would like to have sight of an annual inspection certificate.

wood store

Firewood storage

There aren't any specific regulations regarding firewood storage, these are just some useful tips for you to consider:

  • Always store your logs undercover, off the ground, and with plenty of airflows
  • When considering the location for storage, don’t just consider its proximity to the house. Perhaps more importantly, consider having it easily accessible for a wood delivery – the closer to your store, the easier it is to stack away.
  • If you intend on cutting, splitting, and storing your own logs (which of course you can still do, and who is going to stop you!), you will really need enough storage space to store at least three years’ worth of logs. This is the only way you are going to be able to give fresh wood the time it needs to ‘season’ properly – i.e. dry it down to below 20% moisture content.
  • If you are drying your own, do make sure it’s cut and split into small logs – this makes drying much easier and faster.

Finally, if you are buying your logs online, or even locally, just ask the question as to where the logs come from and of course make sure the supplier is approved under the ‘Ready to Burn’ scheme. You will be amazed how much firewood is imported from Latvia and Lithuania and whilst much of it is good quality and dry, it will have obviously travelled a long way, and is often of the species silver birch which will burn about 25% faster than species such as oak, beech or ash. If the logs are supplied in wooden crates, this is a sure sign that they are imported – just something to consider.

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This is a guest blog written by one of our new cottage owners, whose business Certainly Wood is the largest specialist producer of British kiln dried logs.

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