Coal and wet wood ban: what the Government’s proposals mean for wood-burning stoves and our customers

You could be forgiven for wondering whether your wood-burning stove is about to be rendered useless given some of the headlines that have appeared in the days since the Government announced its plans to phase out the sale of house coal and wet wood.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that sales of wet wood and house coal in England will be restricted from next year, ahead of a total ban by 2023, as part of efforts to tackle tiny particle pollutants known as PM2.5.

So, what effect will the ban have on wood-burning stove owners?

Hopefully, none whatsoever.

As we regularly advise, wet wood and household coal should never be burned on a woodburner. Burning wet logs does create more smoke and pollution. It also damages your stove and flue, increases the risk of chimney fires and wastes money.

Some of the media reports have suggested that the ban will have a particularly detrimental effect on low-income families. We tend to disagree because:

  1. While wet/green/unseasoned logs are cheaper to buy, burning them is a false economy. Most of the energy generated is wasted on evaporating water rather than heating your home, so you end up burning more logs and getting less bang for your buck than you would with well seasoned or kiln-dried stoves.
  2. Wet wood can be collected or bought, then allowed to dry and season so that the moisture content drops to an acceptable level (below 20%).

So, the new legislation only enshrines in law what we have always advised our customers.

It’s a similar story with house coal. Regular household coal should not be burned on a woodburner. We have for years recommended that house coal should not be used by our customers. Again, there are multiple reasons for this. Yes, the Government’s pollution fears have merit, but house coal is also very bad for a stove. It’s a very volatile fuel and, within the confines of a stove’s firebox, the mini-explosions it creates can cause damage to the stove glass and internal parts.

Smokeless fuels have long been the better option, and this will remain the case after the new ban comes into effect.

What do I need to do?

Assuming you’ve always been following our best practice guidance, you shouldn’t really have to change anything about the way you are using your appliance.

If you’ve been known to burn the occasional wet log, now’s the perfect chance to change those habits. If seasoned or kiln-dried logs are unaffordable (we’ve explained above that they will save money despite the greater outlay), with the burning season coming to an end, you could continue to buy wet logs through the warmer weather and allow them to air, dry and season. Use a moisture meter to check when they’re ready to burn.

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