Log Burners, DEFRA and Smokeless Fires: Your Questions Answered

Log Burners, DEFRA and Smokeless Fires: Your Questions Answered

If you are thinking of having a log burning fitted or replaced in your home, you may have caught stories in the news over the last 18 months or so about log burner installation and where it stands within the law.

At the time of writing (4/12/19), no laws have been put in place, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation - the Clean Air Strategy was proposed in January 2019, so the law could change at any time. 

Here, we take the opportunity to answer some questions on where you might stand with your wood burner.

Why are they thinking about changing the law?

The government deems that wood burners, fire pits and chimineas can emit harmful emissions into the atmosphere. However, the production of environmentally-friendly stoves allows you to keep warm by purchasing a green appliance that will fit in nicely with any potential legislation changes. 

If you’re wondering ‘are log burners legal?’ nothing is set in stone as of yet. It would be wise, however, to get a stove installed that’s approved by DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), as they do not release an excessive amount of emissions at any stage of use.

Do I need a DEFRA-approved stove? 

In short, it depends. If you live in a smoke-controlled area, we strongly recommend you getting one, as they will become a legal requirement, should the Clean Air Strategy become law.

DEFRA-approved stoves (also known as Exempt Stoves) prevent harmful smoke from leaving chimneys in already built-up areas such as city centres and busy towns. 

If your stove was bought in the last 10 years, it is very likely that it is DEFRA-approved, but you can check via their website: https://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/appliances.php

We should also point out that open fires are deemed to be one of the worst offenders in the eyes of the government, with them being responsible for much more particulates emitting into the atmosphere than other stoves and appliances. 

As well as the dangerous pollutants that could be released into your home, open fires are potentially harmful for the environment, with regards to Smoke Free Zone guidelines.

With the aim of drastically reducing the amount of harmful pollution that’s released into the air we breathe and cut down on potential chimney fires, Smoke Free Zones are also in place to control the use of unauthorised fuel.

Do I live in a Smoke Free Zone?

A smoke control zone is an area where only approved solid fuels or DEFRA-approved appliances, such as wood burning stoves, can be used within private or public buildings. 

There are several around the UK and the best way to find out if you live in one is to get in touch with your local council.

There are several websites that can provide you with conflicting information on this topic, so to get in touch with your local authorities would be the wisest step.

Failure to comply with this law can result in a fine of £1,000 and possible nuisance complaints from neighbours, which can also result in lawsuits.

Can I burn wood in a smoke control area?

Many DEFRA-approved appliances allow you to burn wood inside a smoke controlled area, so long as wood - and this includes Lekto Night Briquettes and Heat Logs - appear on your stove’s exemption list.

Charcoal can create an amount of carbon monoxide. We strongly recommend that you avoid using it to warm your home, as it is not only potentially harmful for the environment, but it can also be extremely dangerous for those who live in and visit your home.

Is wood a smokeless fuel?

No and this is where the confusion can begin. Many people think that because smoke is created while the wood burns that this automatically makes it illegal to use while residing in smoke free zones.

With the use of exempt stoves, firewood logs can be used safely to keep your living room warm while still obeying the law.

As with any stove, the drier the wood, the better.

So, while seasoned logs (20% or more moisture) are good, your flames would be burning more through the moisture than the actual wood. The same goes with kiln-dried wood (which often includes 10-20% moisture), while wood briquettes are the most effective. Both Lekto’s Heat Logs and Night Briquettes contains less than 9% moisture, making a cleaner burn. They also produce less smoke and ash than traditional firewood.

Lekto’s products are not smokeless. There is no such thing as a smokeless fire, in reality. However, both our wood briquettes and hardwood logs can be used in DEFRA-approved log burners, ensuring that you are kept warm this winter while staying in line with the law.

Is it important to clean your chimney?

As well as using dry wood, such as Hardwood Logs, cleaning a log burner is crucial in the battle against emissions by ensuring your chimney is cleaned regularly. 

Many professional chimney sweeps recommend (at least) one clean a year.

For more information, read our blog on what to look for when hiring a chimney sweep here.

The message from the Government is for you to use the right fuel in the right appliance. In short, however, here’s a handy list of what you need to consider when warming up this winter:

  1. The area you live in - Is it a smoke free zone? If you’re not sure, contact your local council, rather than searching on the web - some sites provide conflicting and out-of-date information.
  2. The appliance you have in your home - Is it DEFRA-approved? If it’s not, consider replacing your current model with an exempt stove. Any potential changes to the law will more than likely consider this certification to be the authority on log burning stoves and how green they are.
  3. The fuel you use to keep warm - Use dry wood, rather than charcoal or traditional firewood. It creates less smoke than other heat fuels and is more in line with the Clean Air Strategy that is currently being proposed.
  4. Ensure your chimney or log burner flue is sufficiently cleaned and that any creosote or soot is disposed of. This significantly reduces the risk of chimney fires and allows your log burner to be much more effective during use.

For a very high heat output, buy your Hardwood Heat Logs here

For a very low amount of smoke and ash during the night, buy your Night Briquettes here