You will no longer be able to burn coal on wood burners, stoves and open fires from next year - here’s what you can burn instead

Friday, 21st February 2020, 2:10 pm
Updated Friday, 21st February 2020, 2:11 pm

Homes with open fires and wood burning stoves will no longer be able to burn wet wood and coal, under new government rules.

Sales of wet wood and coal - the two most polluting fuels - will be phased out in England from February 2021 to help lower air pollution.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced the ban in 2018, but has now confirmed that action will be taken, saying people in England need to find “cleaner alternatives”.

“The most harmful pollutant”

"Cosy open fires and wood-burning stoves are at the heart of many homes up and down the country," said Environment Secretary George Eustice.

"But the use of certain fuels means that they are also the biggest source of the most harmful pollutant that is affecting people in the UK."

The phasing out period will allow suppliers to use up their remaining stock of wet wood and coal, the government said.

Wet wood

Wet wood is a cheap form of solid fuel often sold at petrol stations and supermarkets. Also known as “unseasoned” wood, it has not been left in storage to dry out fully, meaning that it has a moisture content of 21 per cent or higher.

Wet wood creates more smoke and contains more harmful air pollutants than dry wood.

Dry wood, which has often been kiln-dried, is an environmentally cleaner and more efficient fuel, and contains 20 per cent moisture or lower.

What the changes mean

Beginning in February 2021, sales of bagged house coal and loose coal for domestic use will be phased out. Wood and coal burning stoves are not being phased out.

Sales of wet wood in small amounts (less than 2 cubic metres) will also be phased out from February next year, and larger amounts will be sold with advice on how to dry it out before it is used.

Government rules also mean that solid fuel producers will also need to prove their products have very low levels of sulphur and emit low levels of smoke.

Alternative fuel sources

While coal and wet wood are some of the dirtiest fuels used for domestic heating, alternatives like low-sulphur manufactured fuels are growing in popularity.

Alternatives include:

Wood pellets - unlike firewood, these do not contain bark or dirt, and the low moisture levels mean they often reach nearly total combustion, making them very efficient.Hog fuel - made up of dried waste wood material from forestry, these large chips contain around 11 per cent moisture, making them a very effective burning fuel.Briquettes - these log-shaped bricks are made from recycled waste wood which are much hotter, cleaner, and longer burning than traditional timber fuels.

If you wish to keep burning wood, initiatives like Woodsure’s “Ready To Burn” certificate can help you identify the best sources of fuel.

Wood with the certificate burns much more efficiently than other sources of fuel, and does not need to be dried out. In turn, this means customers’ stoves emit fewer pollutants and require less maintenance.