Homeowners who own a log burner or wood-burning stove are facing huge fines and even a criminal record if they flout new laws.

New laws introduced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have made it a criminal offence to release emissions exceeding 3g per hour. The old law allowed 5g per hour, but a recent change has lowered that level, affecting some of the estimated 1.5 million households in the UK that use wood burning or coal fires.

How Much Smoke Does A Wood Burning Stove Emit?

The smoke is not the issue but the particulate matter (PM2.5)  What is Particulate Matter? | SCDHEC that is counted when talking about emissions, and a wood-burner can emit more particulate matter per hour than a diesel lorry.

This has been an issue in climate change discussions for some years. Along with treaties recently signed by the UK government, it has now come to the point that we have to reduce our daily output of harmful material into the environment. 

How Will It Be Enforced?

Fines and criminal records can be enforced on Brighton R residents

The government is implementing a 25-year plan to enable local authorities to expand and enforce the existing Smoke Control Areas. Your local council will monitor these after consultation with Defra. Households can obtain information if they own a wood burner or coal-powered fire, but this is dependent on local councils at this moment in time.

Councils and local authorities have previously complained that smoke control areas can be hard to enforce.

Others who have a wood-burning stove as their only heat source need clarification on how this will affect them. A spokesperson at Defra advised that they, too, need clarification on how this will affect those homeowners.

However, they recommended that people buy Defra-exempt stoves and have them installed properly and regularly maintained. It also recommended that households get their chimney swept up to twice a year.

Is My House In A Smoke Control Area?

If you have a wood-burning stove or log burner or are just thinking about installing one to reduce your energy bills, you will need to know whether this new law affects you.

The easiest way to check if you come under these guidelines is through the Defra website Smoke Control Area Interactive Map (defra.gov.uk) where you can enter your postcode to see if the smoke control area affects your home.

Is Brighton Include In This New Plan?

Yes, it is, and the website offered by the local authority Smoke control areas map (brighton-hove.gov.uk)will allow you to see your postcode and how this will affect you. Alternatively, the local authority has a site dedicated to smoke control areas in Brighton and surrounding areas.

How Do We Reduce Harmful Emissions From A Wood Burner?

One of the easiest ways to make your stove burn cleaner is to use dry wood. Since May 1, 2021, firewood suppliers have been banned from selling logs with more than 20% moisture content. Dry wood will have lower carbon monoxide levels and less particulate emissions.

When starting the fire, you should avoid newspaper and try to use bark, woodchips and kindling as a preference to reduce emissions and, ultimately, pollution.

Can You Still Buy A Wood Burning Stove?

Yes is the simple answer to that. If you are contemplating buying a log burner or wood-burning stove, then there is a number that Defra has recommended. Your supplier will be able to advise you which of the wood-burning stoves have been approved and which ones have the lowest emission rates.

Are Wood-Burning Stoves Cheaper Than Gas?

A wood-burning stove can cost around a third of the price of electric central heating. At the same time, it’s about 13% cheaper than gas central heating, under the current energy price cap, according to the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA).

With the average cost of buying and installing a wood-burning stove between £1000-£3500, they have become prevalent since the energy prices have gone through the roof, and it is cost-effective to have one. Still, with new regulations and potential fines in place, it may discourage homeowners from seeking different options to heat their houses.

Is My Barbecue Safe?

A barbecue

Barbecues are not part of the smoke control area legislation

There are currently no plans to include barbecues, fire pits and open fires in this new legislation, but the existing rules for using these still apply.

The confusion is that each local authority can have different rules regarding wood burning outside your home.

Help With Energy Bills

If you are having increasing difficulty in covering the rising cost of energy, then there are a number of places to seek help and advice.

The local authority here in Brighton has an online presence Get emergency help with food, energy bills and other essentials (brighton-hove.gov.uk)  that can help residents through this ongoing energy crisis.