Which Fuels Can I burn in my stove from May 2021?
Under the government ban that came into force on May 1st 2021, owners of open fires, multi-fuel and wood-burning stoves will be limited as to the fuels they can burn.
This is one of the measures first announced in the government’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy which aims to
tackle all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy
It does not ban the use of wood-burning stoves, but prohibits the use of the following two fuels which are two of the most polluting fuels, they emit fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which is easily inhaled and absorbed by the body and can damage the lungs and other organs. These fuels can also damage your stove, produce large amounts of tar and are an inefficient way of heating.
Also called bituminous coal.
Burning this type of coal emits large amounts of carbon dioxide, particulates and impurities that are not burned. These produce corrosive exhaust gases, including sulphur which when combined with condensation makes sulphur dioxide which corrodes the flue, and contributes to acid rain.
From 1 May 2021 House coal can only be sold by members of the Approved coal merchants scheme in loose or in open bags directly to a consumer. Coal must not be bagged, and the sale of loose house coal direct to customers will end by 2023.
Retail outlets in England including supermarkets and garage forecourts are not allowed to sell traditional house coal.
Also called green wood or wet wood.
Unseasoned wood contains a lot of moisture (up to 80%) that prevents it from being burned efficiently, the heat generated in the stove has to boil away this excess water before the wood can burn, this creates more smoke and particulates than burning seasoned (dry) wood. It also causes excessive deposits in the flue which can lead to chimney fires.
Sales of unseasoned wood in small units (less than two cubic metres) was phased out in February 2021. Amounts over this quantity must carry the following notice:-
“This wood is not suitable for burning until it has been dried. You should not burn wood until it has a moisture content of 20% or less.
“Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burnt. As well as being harmful to your health and the environment, this can damage your stove and chimney and is an inefficient way to heat your home. Dry it in a sunny, well-aired space for at least two years, keeping rain off in the winter.
“Radial cracks and bark that comes off easily suggests wood that is ready for burning. Test the wood when you think it is ready for burning, ideally with a moisture meter. First calibrate the meter and then measure a freshly split surface to get the best reading.” Updated March 2021.
What can you burn?
This is dried wood with a moisture content of less than 20%. The most popular way to achieve this is by kiln drying as this is a quick process suited for commercial operations, most of the wood on sale as firewood will be kiln-dried.
Wood sold in small amounts (under two cubic metres) must have:-
- Less than 20% moisture content
- The approved ‘Ready to Burn’ logo
- The supplier’s company name
- A unique certification number
To season your own foraged or commercially bought unseasoned wood means stacking it outside for a minimum of two years to allow the moisture to evaporate naturally. See the wood handling section of our Wood Burning Stove Guide for details of how to do this.
To burn most efficiently wood must have 12% - 20% moisture content, if it is too dry it will burn quickly and aggressively, using large volumes of air and increased particulate emissions.
Manufactured smokeless fuels:
Processed solid fuels, usually marketed as smokeless, these low pollution emitting fuels include wood briquettes, (made from compressed dry sawdust or wood chips) and 'Smokeless coals' such as anthracite coal, semi-anthracite coal and low volatile steam coal. Makers of solid fuels will need to show they have met government smoke emissions and pollution standards before they can sell them.
Always check your local authority to see if you are in a smokeless zone (more stringent rules may apply) and they can give you a list of fuels you can legally use in your area.