Article first published May 2021, updated Sep 2023.
A few years ago, DEFRA started implementing changes from their Clean Air Strategy and since then, we've been bombarded with sensational headlines from tabloid newspapers declaring that log burners 'might' be banned and that owners are going to receive huge fines for burning the wrong fuel.
We're taking a step back from dramatic clickbait and giving you the facts and what the changes actually mean to you.
Are log burners going to be banned?
No, log burners aren't being banned and there are no plans to ban them in the future.
DEFRA's Environmental Plan, published in February 2023 very clearly states:
"We are not considering a ban on domestic burning in England. The UK government recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning as a primary source for heating, hot water and cooking, with this in mind government is not seeking to ban burning. A ban on domestic outdoor burning (bonfires, barbecues, firepits etc.) would also be considered disproportionate"
Who is DEFRA and what is the Clean Air Strategy?
DEFRA stands for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and it's the UK government department responsible for safeguarding our natural environment.
In 2019, DEFRA published their Clean Air Strategy to list how they plan to tackle air pollution, and specifically to cut down on the amount of harmful particulate matter in the air we breathe.
Why is the DEFRA Clean Air Strategy necessary?
Particulate matter can cause health problems like asthma and heart disease so it’s important to keep levels low. Smoke caused by burning wood contains PM and in general, the more smoke your fire emits, the higher the levels of PM.
The latest government figures suggest that 38% of the PM in our atmosphere is from domestic wood burning. This figure is disputed by the industry as it’s based on questionable data, but whatever the real number, if we’re burning wood, we should be trying to reduce the amount of particulate matter we’re sending into the atmosphere.
Are log burners dangerous to health?
Not if you use them properly and burn the right wood!
A properly fitted Ecodesign Ready stove can halve the PM emissions compared to an inefficient, older stove.
Burning kiln-dried wood with less than 20% moisture, typically emits around half of the PM when compared to wet wood.
It goes without saying, but burning anything that has been treated (like old furniture or fence panels) is a massive no-no. Not only do they burn badly, but they can emit toxic pollutants into your home and the environment. Just don’t do it.
What do the DEFRA changes mean for log burner owners?
If you already owned a log burner or open fireplace and bought properly dried wood, not much!
There are regulations in Smoke Controlled Areas which say that wood can only be burnt in DEFRA Smoke Control Exempt Appliances. These are log burners which have an internal mechanism to prevent the flow of air to the fire being stopped completely, which prevents the fire smouldering and producing too much smoke. If you already have a DEFRA Exempt appliance - good news, you can keep burning kiln-dried wood.
Since 2022, all new stoves sold in England have to meet these same standards, which is great for anyone thinking about buying one. They’re less smoky and your fuel burns more efficiently so you use less of it. Don’t worry if you already owned a log burner or open fireplace though, there aren’t any plans to force you to upgrade or change your model.
If your appliance is not exempt and you live in a Smoke Controlled Area, you'll need to switch to a 'smokeless fuel' like our Broken British Briquettes.
There have also been changes to the type of wood that can be sold, in the hope of preventing the most polluting fuels from being burned. We talk a lot about why you should only burn properly dry wood, so if you want more detail check out our blog post here. If that looks like too much reading, here’s a handy infographic from the DEFRA report.
Since May 2021, wet wood can't be sold in quantities smaller than 2 cubic metres. Previously, plenty of garden centres sold bags of wet wood which needed to be seasoned for 1-2 years before use. The reality is that most people didn't do that and burned (or attempted to burn) the wet wood. Wet wood doesn’t burn well and emits a lot of smoke and therefore a lot of PM.
Customers with lots of space who want to buy more than 2 cubic metres to season at home can still do so.
If you’re already buying kiln-dried or properly seasoned wood with less than 20% moisture content, you’re doing a great job – keep it up!
Do I live in a Smoke Control Area?
Find out using the governments interactive map here
What is the best wood to burn in my log burner?
The best wood to burn in your log burner to minimise smoke and maximise heat is hardwood which has been kiln-dried to below 20% moisture.
We deliver manageable quantities of British kiln-dried logs everywhere in the UK and it's free to most postcodes when you spend over £25.
If you want to learn more you can read the complete DEFRA Clean Air Strategy here