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Wood burner frequently asked questions

How much does a wood burner cost to run?

It depends very much on use. The burners I install are all 'dry back' i.e. they do not provide water heating as well so they tend to be used less than 'wet back' burners. My personal use of a 5kW dry wood burner (a Broseley eVolution 5, 85.5% efficient) installed in my lounge is that £80 (or a ton bag sometimes described as a cubic meter) of logs usually sees me through the winter, however it is not my sole source of heating.

A cubic meter of hardwood logs contains about 1355 kWh of energy at 20% moisture. A softwood meter about 1030 kWh. Costing per kWh approximately 5.1-5.8 pence. Electricity is 12.6 pence per kWh. source: www.confusedaboutenergy.co.uk

The Brighton Log Centre in Stanmer Park are who I go to for logs. www.brightonlogcentre.co.uk 01273 620489 07795 821916. Prices are approximately £88 a cubic meter. For coal and smokeless fuels try www.corralls.co.uk near Hove station.

You should also expect to pay a chimney sweep annually or more frequently depending on the fuel and usage try Sean Wilson www.thebrightonchimneysweep.co.uk.

To put this in context the average (small) house is estimated to use about 10000 kWh of gas per annum. A medium house approximately 20500 kWh.

How much does it cost to buy and install a wood burner, open fire, inset burner etc.?

It can cost as much as you are willing to spend. The budget end of the spectrum is probably best represented by Machine Mart where £300 can buy a reasonable stove. Diligence International in contrast retail some items at over £20000.

Free installation quotes are available upon request, and inspection but a starting price of £350 is a reasonable expectation.

I'm really skint, who does really cheap burners that are worth having?

If your looking at super cheap but reputable quality, other than myself of course, supply and fit from £685, try:

www.astove.co.uk for a selection of Amesti (Chilean made contemporary styled), Sunrain (Chinese made traditional styled) and Oxford (presumably Chinese made).

www.fireglowstoves.co.uk Chinese made stoves with clean lines, I've fitted a couple and think they are exceptional for the price.

www.stovesareus.co.uk with something that looks very much like a copy of the rather elegant Aarrow Acorn called a Pennine.

www.machinemart.co.uk probably the king of cheap burners with nationwide showrooms and stock you can purchase on the day. Brighton's Branch is just off the Vogue Gyratory on Lewes road.

What about local suppliers?

Obviously we would rather you bought from us our new showroom in Hove is the biggest in Brighton and Hove.

Wood burner showroom
19a Cambridge Grove, Hove BN3 3ED
Open Saturday 10-3pm and by appointment

We supply Aduro, Broseley, Burley (via Sean Wilson the Brighton Chimney Sweep), Ekol, FDC Grey Metal, Juan Panadero, OER, Town and Country and Saltfire stoves

everyone else in rough geographical order from Brighton:

www.brightonwoodburners.co.uk
in 253 Ditchling Road Brighton BN1 6JG
Suppliers of: Carron, Chilli Penguin, Ecozoom, Mendip, Rais, Salamander (Hobbit) and Westfire stoves.

www.firestoresbrighton.com in 7 Dials, Brighton BN1 3JD
Suppliers of: Charnwood, Chesney, Esse ,Morso, Mendip and Pevex (Bohemia).

www.smokehouse7dials.com in 7 Dials, Brighton BN1 3TJ

www.bolneystoves.co.uk in Hassocks BN6 9LD
Suppliers of:
Aarrow, Contura, Chesney, Gazco, Jotul, Morso, Rika, Scan and Stovax stoves.

www.southdownstoves.co.uk in Plumpton Green BN7 3BX
Suppliers of: Heta Scanline, Parkray, Firebelly, Invicta and Hunter stoves.

www.gratefireplaces.co.uk in Portslade BN41 1DG
Suppliers of:  Capital Sirius, Percy Doughty (Firefox, Tiger), and Stovax stoves.

www.home-heat.net in Ringmer BN8 5RU
Suppliers of: Gazco, Morso ,Stovax and Yeoman stoves.

www.home-heat.net in Ringmer BN8 5RU
Suppliers of: Gazco, Morso ,Stovax and Yeoman stoves.

www.whsupplies.com in Arundel BN18 0BH
Suppliers of: Aga, Austro Flamm, Barbas, Chesney, Dovre, Rocal, Stovax and Yeoman stoves.

www.heatsolutions-sussex.co.uk in Plumpton BN7 3DF
Suppliers of: Clearview stoves.

www.woodburners.co.uk in Slinfold RH13 0RL
Suppliers of: Aga, Amesti, Pevex (Bohemia), Carron, Charnwood, Di Lusso, Dovre, Eco-Ideal, Firebelly, Franco Belge, Heta Scanline, Hunter, Invicta, Jetmaster, Jotul, Logfire, Mendip, Morsų, Rais, Newman Stoven, Nordpeis, Parkray, Saey, Salamander (Hobbit), Stovax, Stuv, Villager, Vermont Castings, Westfire, Woodwarm and Yeoman stoves.

What about antique burners?

Try:

www.antiquefrenchstove.com
www.happystoves.co.uk
www.britainsheritage.co.uk

Antique stove FAQ

Are wood burning stoves safe?

If they are installed and used properly. There are some significant dangers such as Carbon Monoxide, spitting and smoke. However the average wood burner is a much safer (and efficient) option than an open fire. If installed correctly and serviced regularly they are safe.

Can any house with a chimney have a wood burner fitted?

Yes, with a few provisos. The hearth has be suitable (or made so), the chimney has to suitable. An inspection can usually determine the matter quite quickly.

I have don't have chimney can I still have a burner?

Yes, many new build are built without chimneys and many older houses often have had their chimney stacks removed. In such cases it is often possible to utilise what remains of the stack or to build a sectional twin wall stainless steel chimney for the burner to use. See www.hanoverbuilder.co.uk/chimney.php for more detailed information.

How can burning wood be carbon neutral?

It isn't until you consider that if wood is replanted it becomes so until it is again harvested and burnt on something like a fifty year cycle. Trees left to rot also release carbon so wood burning is considered to be carbon neutral by Government, HETAS, the Solid Fuel Association and many environmentalists.

What permissions are needed before or after fitting?

All new solid fuel installations since 1 April 2002 should be passed off by either a HETAS certified engineer or with a notice from the council building control department. Brighton & Hove council notices currently cost £145.

Who are HETAS and what do they do?

HETAS are the organisation recognised by the government to approve solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and associated equipment and services, HETAS independently confirm by means of testing manufacturers claims of appliance performance, heat output and efficiency.

HETAS in conjunction with the Solid Fuel Association has introduced a competent person's registration scheme. The objective of this scheme is to ensure that any consumer wishing to have a new appliance installed or an existing appliance serviced can contact a competent engineer or company employing competent engineers. I am HETAS registered.

What is the significance of the kW rating of a stove?

In short it is the power of the appliance. The higher the kW the more heat the stove is capable of emitting should it be appropriately fuelled.

To produce a room temperature of around 21º/22º Celsius (70º Fahrenheit), when the outside temperature is at 0º, you will need about 1kW of heat for every 14 cubic metres of averagely insulated space. 1kW is the equivalent of 1 bar of an electric fire.

Most rooms work quite happily with a 4-5kW appliance although if a larger appliance is installed it can be used on a lower setting.

Stoves over 5kW also require clear air venting (usually achieved with airbrick). For stoves with outputs over 5kW the free area requirement of the vent is 550mm² per kW over and above 5kW. So an 8kW appliance would have a free air requirement of 1650mm².

To convert BTU (British Thermal Units) to kW multiply by 0.000293. To convert kW to BTU multiply by 3414.

Does the 'type' of stove make much of a difference to heat output?

Yes and no. Heat produced by 'dry back' stoves can percolate into the room via three methods, convection, conduction and radiation.

Convection is the quickest way you will feel the heat, however most stoves are not convector stoves. Radiation through the glass takes about 15 minutes before it is significant and conduction (air touching the stove casing and being warmed) will take a similar period of time.

If the stove is an inset burner it has less opportunity to conduct by virtue of it being embedded in masonry. However most inset stoves act like masonry heaters and often put out heat for a longer period of time due to storing energy in their surrounding brickwork.

So output is best measured by the stove's efficiency rating, however when you feel that output and for how long you will feel that output, is largely determined by the stove type.

How efficient are open fires, wood stoves, inset room heaters etc.?

HETAS and the Solid Fuel Association set minimum efficiency standards for all new appliances sold in the UK. Similar bodies operate across the EU. Open fires minimum is 37%, freestanding stoves minimum is 65%.

Old or antique appliances may have significantly lower efficiency. All new appliances should come with documentation that states their efficiency rating.

Inglenook fireplaces for all their popularity can actually have a negative effect on heating a room, this can be remedied with the installation of a stove. 'Dog basket' fires are estimated to have a 10-15% efficiency.

Approximate efficiencies
Solar panels 15%
Cars 25%
Power stations 40%
Gas condensing boilers  up to 80%
Wood stoves 65%-89.1%
Open fires 37%
Dog basket fires 10-15%
Inglenook fireplaces    negative overall effect
source: www.soliftec.com

The stove with the world's highest claimed efficiency is the Burley Debdale 9104 which has an 89.8% efficiency. It can be supplied in the Brighton & Hove area by Sean Wilson the Brighton Chimney Sweep and fitted by myself for under £995.

See the Wood burner efficiency page for more in-depth information.

I have an antique appliance how do you prove efficiency and certificate that?

These can be a significant problem particularly if the provenance is unknown. If your home is in a conservation area some leeway on the regulations is permitted and usually a route can be found.

What is the best fuel to burn?

It depends on your criteria. If sustainability is your motivator, wood is sustainable and carbon neutral. If kW per kg is all important not much is better than Ecoal or Phurnacite. If cost is your criteria coal prices are now below that of mains gas.

Fuel kW/kg  
Hardwoods
@ 20% moisture
up to 4.5 (approx)
Ash 4.1
Beech 4.3
Oak 4.5
Softwoods
@ 20% moisture
up to 2.5 (approx)
Anthracite coal 9 upwards
Coke 8.2
House coal 7.5 (approx)
Turf or peat 4.0
Smokeless fuels kW/kg Made by
Ancit 8.97 CPL Industries Ltd.
Cosycoke 8.72 Monckton Coke & Chemical Co Ltd.
Ecoal 9.16 CPL Industries Ltd.
Homefire 8.96 CPL Industries Ltd.
Homefire Ovals 8.91 CPL Industries Ltd.
Phurnacite 9.11 CPL Industries Ltd.
Taybrite 8.4 CPL Industries Ltd.
Stoveheat Premium 9.11 CPL Industries Ltd.

It is important to burn the appropriate fuel for your appliance. For more on smokeless fuels click here. For more on fire woods click here.

What is a 'smoke test'?

There are two 'smoke tests' commonly performed during and after installation of new burners and servicing of old appliances. The first test has a smoke pellet lit in the firebox of the appliance and more correctly should be termed the 'smoke draw test' to verify the draw of the appliance is sufficient to evacuate the smoke from the firebox. The second test is the 'balloon' test, in which a pellet is ignited and the chimney is sealed in order to verify the chimney's ability to hold the smoke for a period of time.

My glass fronted wood burner doesn't stay clean why is this?

It is probably because combustible materials are falling in front of the 'fire dogs' (the metal bar(s) intended to keep the fire from touching the glass), and overwhelming the 'hot air curtain' that most burners use to keep the glass free from soot. Build your fire more conservatively and further back and this should not be a problem.

My glass still soots up how do I get it clean?

When cold, use Mr Muscle or other foaming oven cleaner for about 20 minutes, then wipe clean with warm water and leave to dry before running the fire. If some tar like deposits are resistant repeat the process.

What is a DEFRA approved wood burner and why would I need one?

DEFRA (the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs), certificate specific wood burning appliances for use in smoke control areas. These appliances burn hotter and hence produce less smoke. DEFRA approved appliances are generally significantly more expensive than non DEFRA approved.

What are 'smoke control areas' and am I in one?

Smoke control areas were part of the Clean Air act of 1993 which replaced previous Clean Air acts passed to deal with the post war smogs. Local Authorities may declare part or whole districts to be within a smoke control area and prohibit smoke emissions from residential or commercial buildings.

Nationally click here to check for Brighton and Hove click here to check. Click here for a street by street breakdown of Brighton.

For DEFRA guidance click here.

I'm not in a smoke control area, what can I burn?

Wood, coal (and coal derivatives) and smokeless fuels. In short all fuels that the manufacturer of the stove, states as suitable.

I am in a smoke control area, what can I burn?

If your burner is DEFRA approved you can burn all fuels. If not you are restricted to the smokeless fuels. HETAS currently list the following as suitable:

Name Comments Made by
Ancit For multi-fuel stoves and closed appliances. High heat output, low ash, consistent quality. CPL Industries Ltd.
Briteheat For cookers and other closed appliances, not for open fires. Exceptionally long burning, has a high heat output and recovers quickly after hours of slumbering. CPL Industries Ltd.
Briteflame Smokeless fuel suitable for open fires, multi-fuel stoves and Rayburns & AGAs. Maxibrite Ltd.
Cosycoke Contains petroleum coke, should only be used if recommended by your appliance manufacturer. Very efficient burning, very hot with little ash, for both multi-fuel stoves and open fires. Monckton Coke & Chemical Co Ltd.
Cosycoke Briquettes A blend of fuels, good all round performance. For both multi-fuel stoves and open fires. Maxibrite Ltd.
Coalite Newflame Medium sized pillow shaped ovoids, for use on open fires and multi-fuel stoves. East to light, lively flame with high heat output. Maxibrite Ltd.
Coalite Ovals Large (140mm) pillow shaped ovoids, for use on open fires and multi-fuel stoves. Easy to light, lively flame with high heat output. Maxibrite Ltd.
Ecoal Made from 30% renewable materials, emits 25% less CO2 than house coal and one fifth of the smoke, suitable for both open fires and multi-fuel stoves. CPL Industries Ltd.
Ecobrite For cookers and other closed appliances. Low ash, high heat, consistent quality. Arigna Fuels Ltd.
Excel Coal for open fires but not for closed appliances. Burns bright and long. Oxbow Carbon & Minerals UK Ltd.
Homefire Market leader for open fires, slow burning 25% less CO2 than coal, long refuelling intervals, attractive flame very little ash. CPL Industries Ltd.
Homefire Ovals Cost-effective, clean-burning smokeless fuel that will pack together tightly. Maximum heat output and minimum waste, can burn for up to 9 hours for both open fires and multi-fuel stoves. CPL Industries Ltd.
Maxibrite Not for use with open fires, easy to light, high heat output, low ash and good value for money. Odour free. Maxibrite Ltd.
Multiheat For use in open fires and multi-fuel stoves. CPL Industries Ltd.
Newflame For use in open fires and multi-fuel stoves, low ash, easy to light with lively flame. Maxibrite Ltd.
Onllwyn GP Nuts For multi-fuel stoves and not open fires. Celtic Energy Ltd.
Phurnacite Britain's most popular smokeless fuel for multi-fuel stoves, slow burning, can be banked for up to an 18 hour 'slumber', low CO2 emissions, leaves dense ash, ideal if used for water heating, Rayburns and AGAs. CPL Industries Ltd.
Pureheat For use in open fires and multi-fuel stoves briquette fuel, ovoid in shape. Oxbow Carbon & Minerals UK Ltd.
Sunbrite Doubles For multi-fuel stoves but not open fires. Coke product which outperforms most other fuels, can be difficult to light. Monckton Coke & Chemical Co Ltd.
Supacite Anthracite ovoids for all bar open fires, low ash easy to light with high heat output and odour free. Manufactured in South Wales. Maxibrite Ltd.
Supertherm II For open fires only. Difficult to light but very high heat output and very long burn time. Looks like a large black duck egg. CPL Industries Ltd.
Taybrite Multi-purpose smokeless fuel for multi-fuel stoves, boilers etc. but not for open fires. Easy to light, burns cleanly and provides long lasting controllable heat with low CO2 emissions. CPL Industries Ltd.
Therma For multi-fuel stoves but not open fires. Manufactured in South Wales. Maxibrite Ltd.

Can I burn wet wood?

You can but it is better not to. Wet wood will increase tar and creosote deposits in your chimney (or liner) which will decrease liner life and can contribute towards chimney fires. The exception is Ash, which can be burnt green.

HETAS recommend burning wood with less than 20% moisture content. 12-15% is usually the lowest moisture content of wood stored outside. Wood burnt with a 30% moisture content will give off approximately half of the heat of the same wood burnt with a 20% moisture content. Wood is usually seasoned for two years before sale.

How do I measure moisture content of wood?

With a timber moisture meter. I can supply a digital meter for £16.00. Click here for more details.

What type of wood is best to burn?

The most appropriate wood is seasoned, cleaved hardwood. It is not appropriate to use the following as fuel: wet, tarred, treated or painted wood; sawdust or wood shavings; fine coal, paper or cardboard (except when lighting).

Burning wood. Wood should be cut, split and then stored under cover with sides open to the air for at least a year. (It takes two years for some hardwoods to season fully.) Store it inside the house for a few days, or in the warm log store for a few hours before it is actually used in the wood burner.

When refuelling, place wood towards the back of the stove where it will burn hotter and more efficiently. Try to place logs length ways so that any spitting from the end grain does not go onto the glass window.

Types and characteristics of wood. The quality of firewood is based upon various characteristics such as its speed of burn, heat given off, tendency to spark (spit), ease of splitting, time required to season, etc.

Type Comments Grade

Alder

A low quality firewood.

poor

Apple

Needs to be seasoned well. Burns well with a pleasant smell and without spitting.

good

Ash

Considered to be one of the best woods for firewood. It has a low water content (approx. 50%) and can be split very easily with an axe. It can be burned green but like all wood is best when seasoned. Burns at a steady rate and not too fast.

high

Beech

Beech has a high water content (approx. 90%) so only burns well when seasoned.

good

Birch

Birch is an excellent firewood and will burn unseasoned. However, it does burn very fast so is best mixed with slower burning wood such as Elm or Oak.

good-high

Cedar

A good firewood which burns well with a pleasant smell. Gives off a good, lasting heat. Doesn't spit too much and small pieces can be burned unseasoned.

low

Cherry

Needs to be seasoned well. Burns well with a pleasant smell and without spitting.

low-good

Elder Supposed to bring death to the household burning it and it's also a poor firewood poor

Elm

A good firewood but due to its high water content of approximately 140% (more water than wood!) it must be seasoned very well. It may need assistance from another faster burning wood such as Birch to keep it burning well. However it gives off a good, lasting heat and burns very slowly. Dutch Elm Disease is producing a constant & plentiful supply of small dead hedgerow Elm trees of a small diameter. Larger pieces of wood will prove difficult to split.

low-good

Eucalyptus

Allow to season well since the wood is very wet (sappy) when fresh. Can be difficult to split due to stringy wood fibre. Best method is to slice into rings and allow to season during the summer, the rings will start to split themselves. Burns fast with a pleasant smell and without spitting.

low-good

Hawthorn

Good firewood. Burns well, fast growing and plentiful due to 18th and 19th century agricultural enclosure plantings.

good-high

Hazel

Excellent firewood. Allow to season. Burns fast but without spitting.

high

Holly

Can be burnt green. A good firewood.

good

Hornbeam

Good firewood. Burns well.

good

Horse Chestnut

A low quality firewood

low

Larch

Needs to be seasoned well. Spits excessively while it burns and forms an oily soot within chimney's.

poor

Lime

A low quality firewood.

low

Oak

One of the best firewood's. When seasoned well, it gives off a good, lasting heat. Burns reasonably slowly.

high

Pear

Needs to be seasoned well. Burns well with a pleasant smell and without spitting.

good

Pine

Needs to be seasoned well. Spits while it burns and forms an oily soot within chimneys, unswept this can contribute to chimney fires. Best burnt with other hotter burning woods.

poor

Plane

A usable hardwood.

good

Poplar

Considered a poor firewood.

poor

Rowan

Good firewood. Burns well, slow and hot.

good

Spruce

A low quality firewood.

low

Sweet Chestnut

Burns when seasoned but spits continuously and excessively. Not for use on an open fire and make sure wood-burning stoves have a good door catch.

poor-low

Sycamore (Maples)

Good firewood. Burns well.

good

Walnut

A low quality firewood.

low

Wellingtonia

Poor for use as a firewood.

poor

Willow

Willow has a high water content so only burns well when seasoned well.

low

Yew

A usable firewood. Can be seasoned in a single year.

low-good

source: www.greymetal.co.uk

Alternatively The Firewood poem by Celia Congreve gives similar guidance, first published in 1930 in the Times. The poem's advice about Elder is probably superstition but Elder is a poor firewood.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut's only good they say,
If for logs 'tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E'en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter's cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

Can I burn MDF?

Current DEFRA advice is rather convoluted but yes in both smoke control and non smoke control areas.

http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/guidance.php?a=i&q=0

What is this data plate I've heard installers mention?

This is a building regulations requirement if the hearth is modified or a flue liner is installed. It is a small metal plate containing useful information concerning the specification of the flue liner and hearth intended to be affixed in the meter cupboard for future reference.

How often should I get my chimney swept?

HETAS guidance on sweeping is that in domestic dwellings chimneys are swept at least twice a year if wood is burnt and a minimum of once a year if smokeless fuels are used. Manufacturers may have differing requirements for specific appliances, HETAS guidance is the minimum requirement.

What causes creosote and how is it dangerous?

Flue gas consists of steam, and vaporized but unburned carbon by-products (vaporized creosote). As the flue gas exits the fireplace or wood stove, it moves upward into the relatively cool flue where condensation occurs. Like hot breath on a cold mirror, the cool surface temperature of the flue causes the carbon particles in the warm vapour to solidify. This resulting carbon based condensation is creosote.

It's usually black in appearance. It can be the fine black dust called soot, (1st stage creosote); or porous and crunchy, (2nd stage); or it can be tar-like: drippy and sticky, until it hardens into a shiny glaze, (3rd stage). All forms of creosote can occur in one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities - and ignites inside the chimney flue: the result is a chimney fire.

How can I avoid a chimney fire?

Regular sweeping www.thebrightonchimneysweep.co.uk.

Burn small hot fires rather than large smouldering fires, burn dry, seasoned wood, shelter your woodpile. Don't burn sooty woods such as pine and larch. A chimney liner does not protect you from a chimney fire, without regular sweeping it is just postponing the day.

Help my burner is smoking what can I do?

Burner's that smoke can be classified as having one of three problems or, occasionally, a combination of all three.

1) Sweating or steaming. The burner is burning off the installers oily finger prints, curing the fire cement, high heat silicone and paint. Some steel burners smoke considerably when first fired. This should not persist beyond one or two firings. I use Thermacure paint to touch in burners I service and I find afterwards this paint always smokes when the burner is fired. The CO alarm should remain silent however smoke alarms are often set off during this process, air the room and monitor the situation.

2) Spillage when the burner is refuelled. When the door is opened and more fuel is added sometimes a puff of smoke will be emitted from the burner into the room. If the door is opened more slowly this is generally avoided but not always. The CO alarm may sound as may any smoke alarm. Most appliances are 'closed appliances' and should not be run with the doors open, other than for lighting and refuelling.

3) Leakage. This either means the installer did not do a thorough job or the seals have been compromised since the installer was present. The CO alarm is very likely to sound and this is potentially quite a dangerous situation. Contact the installer and minimise use of the appliance until a resolution is found.

The most common problem is sweating or steaming and can affect exposed pipework as well as the burner itself.

 

I want a burner fitted to my canal boat/yacht/camper van where do I look?

Try www.kaieteur.uk.com. Installation of wood burners for small craft are governed by BS 8511:2010.

Why do stoves need a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm fitted?

In short, because the building regulations say that all solid fuel appliance installations since October 2010 need to have one fitted. Installations that occurred prior to this date do not need to have an alarm retrospectively fitted.

The reasoning behind this decision was that deaths from carbon monoxide inhalation have been increasing year on year (about 20 a year) and have overtaken deaths from faulty gas boilers despite the fact that solid fuel heats a tiny percentage of homes compared to natural gas. See www.co-bealarmed.co.uk

What is carbon monoxide and why is it dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas which is lighter than air and toxic to humans and animals. It is produced by burning carbon containing compounds (such as wood). Usually this is evacuated through the chimney and into the environment, should the chimney become blocked or begin to leak it can spill into habitable spaces. A significant danger is that as it is lighter than air it poisons people sleeping in upstairs rooms.

I'm worried about carbon monoxide, perhaps I should have an alarm?

If your worried, perhaps you should. Alarms have to conform to BS EN 50291:2001. I can supply an alarm for £27.50. They  should be fitted in the same room as the solid fuel appliance, preferably opposite and above. They can be mains wired or battery operated. If you are a smoker (or have one available) they can be tested by blowing cigarette smoke at them. Click here to purchase an alarm. Most alarms are triggered at 35ppm (parts per million), this is a high concentration of CO.

Do I need a bird guard?

Generally speaking, no. Having a bird fall into your chimney is a pretty rare event, however it is quite disturbing if it does occur. I have had experience of opening fireplaces up to find a long dead rat carcass amongst the soot and debris. If you require a guard they cost from £65 supplied and installed.

Remember to tell your sweep that a guard is installed to prevent him from dislodging it when sweeping.

Can you fit a gas fire for me?

Sadly no. I don't have the required authorisation (Gas Safe certificate). I can however recommend Spencer Hart who does 07795025790, www.spencerhartbathrooms.com.

I'm looking for a sympathetic plasterer/carpenter etc. can you recommend someone?

Sean Jenkins is an excellent no nonsense plasterer whom I've worked with for many years. 07981 122913.

Jamie Baker makes beautiful wooden mantles and fire surrounds. 07860 200 631. One of Jamie's surrounds is pictured here with Marion Brandis tiles.

Bevis is an excellent architectural carpenter based in Poynings just outside Brighton 07960 362803.

Marion Brandis creates custom made tiles and architectural ceramics www.marionbrandis.co.uk

Stuart at Metal Art Wales makes custom log stands one of which I use myself. www.metalartwales.co.uk

What are all these standards CE, Din, BS EN 13240 etc.?

Solid fuel appliances have been something of a Cinderella product in the UK and only relatively recently have they found the popularity they enjoyed in times gone by. As a result the authorities that regulate the market have been somewhat disorganised and due to the Single European Act and governmental disputes, overlapping.

CE Marking is for products originating from inside or outside the EU and are licensed for sale across the EU AND EFTA (European Free Trade Area). CE marking is a product passport, these products must meet minimum efficiency requirements.

British made products do not need CE marking to be sold in the UK before July 2013. After July 2013 this exemption ends.

The CE Mark is not a quality mark, it does not imply any form of official approval, it is not issued by any official body and there is no such thing as an official 'CE Certificate', though the manufacturer or supplier may supply a "declaration of conformity". The improper application of a CE Mark, or an improper claim of conformity to EN Standards can constitute a criminal offence of deception, which in the UK can carry a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment. Supervision of conformity to EN Standards is a matter for local and national authorities.

In 1988 European Counties agreed on the Construction Products Directive, 89/106/EEC, which lays down that "any product which is produced for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works" must be "fit for its intended use" allowing for "differences ... at national, regional or local level". It also provides for free trade in that "Member States shall not impede the free movement, placing on the market or use in their territory of products which satisfy the provisions of this Directive." and guards against petty local interference by saying that "Member States shall ensure that the use of such products ... shall not be impeded by rules or conditions", and absolutely forbids the establishment of national 'approval lists'.

BS EN standards as related to solid fuel appliances
Standard          Appliance type Minimum efficiency
BS EN 13240 For freestanding room heaters/stoves. 65%
The that the appliance is soundly constructed, has a means of cleaning the internal flue ways, is provided with a glove or tool for handling hot surfaces. Need refuelling no more than every 45 minutes. on wood, 1 hour on mineral fuels (intermittent use)
Be capable of burning unattended for 10 hours on wood, 12 hrs on mineral fuel (if for continuous use). Be marked with a label showing:
  • the maker's name or mark and the model
  • heat output to space and to water (if applicable)
  • CO emissions at 13% oxygen
  • minimum clearance distances from combustible materials, in mm
  • whether or not for use in a shared flue
  • whether for continuous or intermittent operation
BS EN 14785 For wood pellet fired stoves. 75%
The appliance should need refuelling no more than every 3 hours at nominal output, or 6 hours at reduced output.
BS EN 13229 For open and inset fires. 30%
The appliance should need refuelling no more than every 45 minutes on wood, 1 hour on mineral fuels.
BS EN 12815 For solid fuel cookers. 60%
The appliance should have a capability of burning for at least 1 hour between refuels on wood, or 2 hours (3 if automatically controlled) on other fuels. The cooker is required to have demonstrated an ability to oven cook the European Standard shortbread.
BS EN 12809 For solid fuel boilers and 'wetback' stoves. 65%
EN 15250 For slow heat release appliances fired by solid fuel - commonly referred to as 'masonry heaters'. 70%
EN 303-5 Is part of the standard required for DEFRA approval, however having EN 303-5 does not necessarily confer DEFRA approval on a product.
BS 8511:2010 Is a code of practice for installation of stoves and solid fuel appliances into small craft, such as canal boats and camper vans. The code is advisory. Click here for more information.
EU made products often cite these standards as EN 13229 omitting the BS (British Standard) part of the designation.
source: www.soliftec.com


Kitemark is the symbol displayed when a product conforms to the relevant British standards, operated by the British Standards Institute (BSI).

Flamme Verte (green flame) is a French efficiency standard.

Din and Din+ are German standards. Din+ accreditation requires a minimum 75% efficiency.

EPA certified is an American standard which usually lists efficiency levels, grams of smoke per hour emitted and heat output. Strangely the Americans use BTU (British Thermal Units) to measure output rather than kW. Click here for conversions.

HETAS approved is a standard derived from five harmonized European Standards, developed by CEN TC 295, covering solid fuel fired cookers, stoves, roomheaters, open fires, inserts, independent boilers and pellet-fired appliances have been approved by CEN and have been adopted as the new British Standards.

HETAS tests against these European Standards. HETAS are, therefore, now able to approve wood burning and multi-fuel stoves and roomheaters, cookers, boilers and inset open fires and specialist pellet burning appliances that are capable of burning both wood and solid mineral fuels. HETAS publish list of these appliances in their guide.

Despite all these overlapping regulatory bodies and systems there does not seem to be requirement for the manufacturer to declare where the appliance is made. So the National Trust endorse Chesney's Croatian manufactured stoves implying they are a British product. Many other manufacturers similarly blur the definitions of British product.

My stove has been fitted but not to the manufacturers instructions, what can be done?

Solid fuel appliances are regulated by numerous bodies institutions and laws. In England and Wales the top tier of these regulations is Document 'J' of the building regulations. If your stove is fitted in compliance with 'J' it was done properly regardless of what manufacturers instructions state or other bodies recommend.

HETAS recommend some practices with exceed document 'J' if they are practical I follow these recommendations, often they are not and I don't. Some manufacturers recommend practices which are unlawful according to building regulations in which case building regulations take precedence. Building control officers can allow specific violations of building regulations if they believe the violations can be addressed via other means.

In most instances the orange cells in the table below are essential and the white cells are advisory.

Tiered regulations and recommendations

Building control officer's directions
Document 'J' of the building regulations
SAP directions
British/European standards for example BS 8303-1:1994
Specification for the design of installation of domestic heating and cooking appliances burning solid mineral fuels. These are NOT freely available and only constitute 'best practice'
Manufacturer's recommendations Recommendations from bodies such as HETAS and the SFA

There is no obligation on the householder to bring up to current specification a solid fuel appliance that was fitted before the current regulations (October 2010). Sometimes it is advisable, other times entirely unnecessary.

My stove is marked as for "intermittent use", what does this mean?

Intermittent use in this context is a specification laid down in BS EN 13240. It means the appliance needs refuelling no more than every 45 minutes for wood, 1 hour for mineral fuels. An appliance marked for "continuous use" is capable of burning unattended for 10 hours on wood, 12 hrs on mineral fuel.

Is there any use for the ash produced by my burner?

The ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY state that:

"Ash from untreated wood has a slight liming action and can be used to raise soil pH. Where ash contains larger particles, its incorporation also helps to improve soil structure. Ash produced from young sappy prunings contains a useful proportion of potassium and traces of other nutrients while older wood tends to contain lower concentrations of nutrients. Coal ash is best avoided because it has a negligible nutrient content and its fine particle size means it is of little benefit to soil structure."

However in most of Sussex the soil is generally chalky with a high pH already.


HETAS registered solid fuel installer
HETAS registration number 3081

53 hanover terrace, brighton, east sussex. BN2 9SN

 

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