January 2022 marks the end of a transition period – new Ecodesign rules are coming into effect regarding wood-burning stoves emission levels and efficiency.
A wood-burning stove certainly makes a room look cosy, but studies suggest wood burnt in stoves and fireplaces can be incredibly dangerous to human health.
From January 2022, new Ecodesign regulations are coming into force. Only stoves that have been independently tested to meet the new requirements can be sold and installed legally in the UK.
Read on to find out more. Or jump straight to our guide on wood-burning stoves and pollution.
What are the Ecodesign requirements?
Ecodesign stoves must adhere to strict criteria around emissions and efficiency.
The emission limits relate to Particulate Matter (PM), Organic Gaseous Compounds (OGC), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).
Combustion (the process of burning wood or coal) produces tiny particulate matter (PM).
Appliances that burn fuel, such as wood-burning stove, gas cookers and gas boilers, also emit carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).
Currently, solid fuel appliances made for sale in the UK are required to meet minimum efficiency limits of 65%, when operated at the appliance’s nominal heat output, as prescribed within the current UK Building Regulation requirements.
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What does efficiency mean?
Ecodesign compliant stoves must have a minimum seasonal efficiency of 65%. This is a calculation which takes into account the energy requirements across the year which can vary to meet the demands as temperature changes.
There is also the Ecolabel – with rating from A++ to G. This relates to the amount of energy used to generate heat, higher efficiency ratings mean that they can product the same amount of heat but by using less fuel. It is a simple and visual way to display the appliance’s efficiency, in line with what is common for any other appliance.
The wood-burning stove efficiency plays an important role in the amount of wood required. Significantly fewer logs are required for an Ecodesign Ready stove. To produce the same output, an Ecodesign Ready stove will require significantly fewer logs than an older stove.
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What is a DEFRA-exempt stove?
If you live in a smoke-control area, you are only allowed to burn smokeless fuel – such as anthracite coal (a natural or manufactured coal which is considered more eco-friendly than house coal). If you want to burn wood, you’ll have to buy a Defra-exempt stove (also called Defra-approved).
Unlike the requirements for Defra Exemption, which only applies to smokeless zones, the Ecodesign regulations apply to the whole country.
Ecodesign legislation will not replace the requirements of smoke control areas, so remember to check with your Local Authority to find out if you’re in an smoke-control area.
Defra has a list of approved fuels for smoke-control areasWill new Ecodesign legislation apply to older stoves?
The new legislation only covers room heater appliances that are placed on the market after 2022.
If you have an older stove, you can continue to use it.
However, if it’s over ten years old, you should consider replacing it with a more efficient one. More efficient models use less fuel for the same energy output so fuel costs is reduced and they also produce fewer emissions. Or, if you’re not reliant on burning wood and it’s more of a lifestyle choice, consider switching to a different heating system.
What’s the problem with wood-burning stoves?
Despite these new regulations, some scientists remain extremely concerned about the impact of particulate matter on air quality.
Defra’s Clean Air Strategy states that wood-burning stove emmissions are now the biggest source of PM pollution in the UK, making up 38% of UK air pollution.
HETAS and the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) claim that this figure is an overestimate and that it includes other types of unregulated burning.
In 2021, a report from the European Environmental Bureau, state that even Ecodesign stoves produce a high level of fine particulate matter pollution, which is dangerous for human health.
Three key things to bear in mind if buying a wood-burning stove in 2022
1. Efficient appliances
As mentioned above, if you need to buy a new log burner or multi-fuel stove, look for the Eco Label and choose one that has an energy efficiency of 80% or higher.
Consider buying one that has a Defra exemption permitting its use in smoke control areas, or one of the most efficient stoves.
2. Burn approved fuels only
The fuel you burn has a great impact on emissions.
Burning wet logs and house coal produces far more particulate matter than burning dry logs and low-sulphur solid fuel, such as anthracite coal. House coal also produces high levels of sulphur which is bad for your health.
To help reduce potentially harmful emissions from your stove, only burn wood with 20% or less moisture content, or smokeless coal. Burning dry wood is more efficient than burning wet wood, as energy won’t be wasted having to burn off the water first. So the heat output will be higher.
3. Get your stove and chimney serviced regularly
Having your chimney swept regularly – at least once a year – is vital for ensuring it doesn’t get overloaded with sooty deposits. Any obstructions could become a fire hazard and will prevent smoke escaping from your home properly.
Make sure you also examine your stove for any cracks, distortions or other problems and get them checked by a stove installer or chimney sweep. Any faults could mean harmful pollutants are making their way into your home.
Find out more about chimney sweepers or service your stove today with a reliable local engineer through Which? Trusted Traders
If you are considering a wood-burning stove, remember to have your needs assessed by an independent professional. The are several factors that affect the output you need, such as the size and layout of the room (you’ll need to measure the height, width and length), the size of the windows and whether you have double glazing, if the room has insulation or the age of the property.
Find out more about wood-burning stoves and pollution.
Or read more about how gas, electric and wood-burning stoves compare.