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The original form of low carbon heating

Jul 1, 2021

The original form of low carbon heating

If you’re thinking of investing in a wood burning stove, then you’ve made a wise choice. Modern wood burners offer a very low carbon, renewable and highly sustainable way to heat your home, with the added security of still being able to heat your home in the event of power cuts and/or extreme temperatures. But you may find yourself confused about what’s involved with owning and maintaining a stove. This article is here to help by giving homeowners expert insight and answering some of the common questions about wood burning.  

This article was written for the Yorkshire Press and was featured on their website in June. You can read it online here.

I’m keen to do my bit for the environment and am mindful of air quality, is a wood burning stove right for me? 

A modern Ecodesign ready wood burning stove will produce up to 90% less emissions than an open fire and up to 80% less than an average stove manufactured over 10 years ago making them an environmentally conscious choice that can help lower particulate emissions and improve air quality.

Wood fuel is sustainable, renewable and is very low carbon – in fact it emits just one tenth of the amount of carbon of gas and electric heating. 

I’ve heard that there is new legislation for stoves coming into force soon, what does this mean?

Ecodesign Regulations for wood burning stoves comes into force on 1st January 2022. This means that from that date manufacturers will only be able to produce appliances that comply with the Regulations.

Ecodesign sets new requirements for a stove’s efficiency and its emission levels. This is good news for homeowners as it means Ecodesign appliances will be more cost-effective to run and produce much lower levels of pollutants.

Manufacturers achieve this by using the very latest fireboxes that have been specifically designed for more complete combustion and which employ secondary and tertiary air systems and precision baffle arrangements to burn off excess hydrocarbons.

How do I know which appliances meet the Regulations?

The easiest way to identify these latest appliances is to look for the clearSkies certification mark. clearSkies is an independent emissions and energy performance certification mark for solid fuel stoves and fireplaces. All appliances certified under clearSkies meet the requirements of Ecodesign and, in many cases, go significantly beyond. What’s even more convenient is that all appliances at clearSkies Level 3 and above are also Defra exempt which means they can be used in a Smoke Control Area.

You can find the full product listing and learn more about clearSkies at www.clearskiesmark.org

What is a Smoke Control Area?

If you live in a Smoke Control Area you cannot emit smoke from a chimney unless you are burning authorised fuel or using an exempt appliance. Many parts of the UK fall within a Smoke Control Area (the environmental services department of your local council will be able to advise if it applies to you) and you can be fined up to £1,000 if you break the rules.

You can learn more at www.gov.uk/smoke-control-area-rules but you may find it easier to refer to the clearSkies product listing and look for a Level 3 or above appliance. These appliances have had their Defra exemption verified as part of their clearSkies certification.

There’s so much choice in terms of style and materials, where do I start?

The SIA recommends visiting your local independent stove and fireplace retailer for the very latest advice. It’s important to understand what appliance output you will need early on. This is determined by several factors including the size of the room the stove will be installed in. Your local retailer will be able to do this for you.

There are over 64 showrooms across the UK that are members of the SIA Retail Group. Not only will these retailers have a well-stocked showroom giving you the opportunity to see your chosen design up close and, very often, in operation, but they will also be able to provide the right pre-sales advice on both the right appliance for you and your specific installation and after-sales support and spare parts.

There is a huge choice of wood burners available on the market today from numerous manufacturers. Gone are the days of the choice being limited to a little black box, virtually every interior style can be catered for from modern Scandi style to country living chic.

When it comes to stove body materials you will most likely be choosing between cast iron or steel. Cast iron will be hard wearing and offers longer heat retention whilst a steel stove will have different advantages, such as heating up more quickly, cost and offering different design possibilities.

Looking at features such as material thickness, engineering design and operation characteristics will give you the best guide to what is a well-made appliance.

I’ve read that to meet the government’s low carbon objectives, electric forms of heating, such as heat pumps, will become the norm?

Heat pumps are a great example of low carbon heating and, with much of the UK’s electricity now renewably generated, they fit well with the drive towards zero carbon. It’s important to bear in mind though that heat pumps are steady state, low temperature emitters and they can struggle to deal with sudden fluctuations in temperature. A wood burning stove used as secondary heating in conjunction with a heat pump gets round this problem while also using renewable and not fossil fuels. They also offer welcome and speedy top-up heating for key living spaces on colder days, or in milder months when full-house heating is not required. For us to reach net zero the energy mix of the future will need to consider all low carbon heating solutions and sustainably managed woodlands will also help restore biodiversity.

How do I go about having the stove installed?

Installing a wood burning stove is a skilled task and it is best to leave this to the professionals. An installer should be registered with a recognised competent person’s scheme (e.g. HETAS, OFTEC etc.) and they will provide you with a certificate once the installation is complete to confirm that it complies with Building Regulations. If you are a competent DIYer it is possible to tackle the job yourself, but you will then need to arrange for your local planning officer to see the installation and sign it off.

All SIA Retail Group showrooms offer a full, no-obligation quotation and/or survey that will detail the cost of the appliance, any flue/chimney materials needed and the cost of installation and commissioning your new stove.

What do I need to think about in terms of maintenance and fuel?

Once you have your beautiful new stove installed you are going to want to look after it. Make sure you have your chimney swept at least once a year and that you regularly check that the stove consumables, such as the sealant rope and stove glass, are free from damage. This simple but regular approach to stove maintenance is the key to many years of trouble-free operation.

Fundamental to your new stove’s performance is the fuel you use. Modern wood burning stoves are designed to run on good quality and well-seasoned wood. Your logs should have a moisture content of less than 20% to ensure maximum efficiency and minimum emissions.  It’s easy to check for this, simply look for the Woodsure Ready to Burn logo when you buy your fuel.

If you buy your wood logs in large quantities an outdoor storage space is useful. This should be covered to prevent rain making the wood wet, but with open sides to allow good air flow.

I read that there are concerns about wood burning stoves’ emissions and their impact the outdoors and indoors. Should I be worried?

Domestic combustion, just like many other of our day-to-day activities such as driving, cooking, hoovering and burning candles, produces what are known as particulate matter emissions (PMs). It’s important to understand that some of the statistics that you may have read in the media relating to wood burning stoves and their contribution to the UK’s PMs are not quite what they seem. The numbers quoted are based on unreliable data and model uncertainty. They also include many other sources of PMs such as bonfires, pizza ovens, incinerators, wildfires and unregulated outdoor burning.

Based on independently verified data, the SIA estimates that domestic wood burning accounts for less than a third of what is currently suggested within the Clean Air Strategy and quoted in the media. Furthermore, the wood burning stove industry has been Ecodesign ready for some time so you can rest assured that in buying a modern Ecodesign compliant wood burner you are investing in low carbon, low emission, sustainable and future proof heating for you and your family.

Further information:

Stove Industry Alliance: www.stoveindustryalliance.com

Smoke Control Areas:  smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/appliances.php

Ready to Burn:  woodsure.co.uk

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