The Clean Air Act 1993 and Smoke Control Areas
Under the Clean Air Act local authorities may declare the whole or part of the district of the authority to be a Smoke Control Area. It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler if located in a designated Smoke Control Area. It is also an offence to acquire an ‘unauthorised fuel’ for use within a Smoke Control Area unless it is used in an ‘exempt’ appliance (‘exempted’ from the controls which generally apply in the Smoke Control Area). These appliances are generally referred to as ‘DEFRA Approved’ or ‘Smoke Exempt’ and must be operated at all times in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, which have also been scrutinised during the authorisation process.
Smoke Control Areas, or Smoke Control Zones as they are sometimes referred to, have been designated by local authorities in many towns and cities in the UK, including virtually all of London, Manchester and Belfast. The North West, Midlands, South Yorkshire and North East of England as well as Central and Southern Scotland, all have large designated Smoke Control Areas.
If you live in a UK Smoke Control Area you must only burn ‘authorised’ smokeless fuels. In such areas burning wood is only ‘authorised’ if you burn it in a Smoke Exempt stove. Even when using a Smoke Exempt stove, you will still be breaking the law if you use wet or unseasoned wood which causes excessive or nuisance smoke.
To find out whether you live in a Smoke Control Area contact your Local Authority (usually the Environmental Health or Protection Department). Contact details for your Local Authority can be found here: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/Localcouncils/index.htm Alternatively, staff in The Stove Yard’s Cheshire and County Down showrooms can usually advise about their local Smoke Control Areas.
Further information on the requirements of the Clean Air Act can be found at: www.smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk.
Only ever use dried, fully seasoned (or kiln-dried) chopped wood logs with a moisture content of less than 20%. Wood which is well seasoned makes a distinctive ‘clack’ rather than a dull ‘thud’ when knocked together. It will also feel much lighter than an unseasoned log. Other indicators of a well-seasoned log include bark peeling away and cracking and splitting around the outside.
Ideally wood should be seasoned outdoors for between 18 to 24 months – the harder the wood then the longer the seasoning. It should be stacked off the ground with plenty of space between the logs to allow air movement and with the top covered to keep rain and snow out. Seasoned wood will give you approximately 50% more heat output than the equivalent unseasoned log.
Most types of hardwood, for instance Ash (generally regarded as the best), Birch, Beech, Oak and Elm can be used. However, avoid woods with a high resin content. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the wood, then the greater the heat output and the longer burn time – the time between refills. All of this is providing it is fully seasoned wood.
Never use wet or unseasoned wood, sometimes referred to as ‘green’ wood, as this will cause nuisance smoke and a very disappointing fire. It could also quickly result in the build up of soot and creosote in your flue system or cowl which, because of the higher temperatures of stove flue gases, could easily cause a flue or chimney fire. In addition, burning wet wood creates other environmental problems, a less efficient fuel economy. It will also reduce the effectiveness of the stove’s Airwash system thus causing staining and blackening of the glass.
Manufactured or finished wood products, such as plywood and chipboard, are not ‘authorised’ and must also be strictly avoided. The high chemical adhesive or varnish content used in their production could also leave harmful residue inside the stove and flue system.
For more information about wood fuel visit the DEFRA funded National Energy Foundation website Logpile at www.nef.org.uk/logpile or Hetas at www.hetas.co.uk.
Smokeless Multi Fuels
Only burn Authorised Smokeless Fuels in a Smoke Control Area. In addition, only use those authorised fuels which are recommended and approved for use in stoves. There are many different brands of high quality smokeless coal nuggets available in the UK and your local fuel merchant, preferably a member of the Approved Coal Merchants Scheme, will be able to advise you on those suitable for multi fuel stoves. A list of Authorised Fuels for use in a Smoke Control Area is available at: http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/fuels.php
Any fuel which is not specifically authorised is prohibited in a Smoke Control Area. Burning prohibited ‘fuels’ is an offence in a Smoke Control Area and could create nuisance smoke (this is also an offence in non-Smoke Control Areas). Burning the following ‘illegal’ materials could also damage your stove and flue system, as well as render the product warranties on the stove and flue system components void.
- Petroleum Coke Never burn petroleum coke as this burns at a very high temperature and its continued use will almost certainly cause irreparable damage to components such as the grate, baffle plate and fire bars.
- Bituminous House Coal is not recommended because it produces excessive soot deposits, which is not good for the environment, and also considerably increases the need for cleaning the stove and flue system.
- Household Rubbish Printed matter (excluding very small amounts of newspaper for starting the fire), plastic, rubber, lacquered or impregnated wood, plywood, chipboard and household rubbish, such as milk cartons, should also be avoided. During combustion some of these materials may develop substances which could be hazardous to your health and be harmful to the environment.
- Flammable Liquids Never use methylated spirits, petrol or other highly inflammable liquids for lighting the fire as these could cause an explosion in the confined spaces of the fire-chamber.
Finally, never treat your stove like an incinerator whether you live in a Smoke Control Area or not.